NPS Hampton NHS
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  • Stop 3: Ash House

    Built around 1850, the Ash House is constructed of rubble stone. On a farm, nothing is wasted; even the ashes had uses. Ashes would be collected from fireplaces and smoke houses and stored in the Ash House to be gathered, placed in water and soaked, usually for three days, and then turned into lye. Lye, mixed with animal fats, was used to make soap, candles, and lime for fertilizer. The soap might be used to wash people or clothing.

    A second Ash House can be seen in late 19th century photos behind the Lower House, just south of the Slave Quarters. This small structure no longer survives.

    Enslaved men who worked in the fields would typically be given one outfit twice a year (usually in May and November), consisting of two shirts and two pairs of pants for summer and heavier items in winter such as jackets. Female farm workers received two dresses and two shifts for summer, plus a heavy dress, stockings and flannel petticoats or blankets for winter.

    Enslaved persons who worked in the mansion often received much more lavish attire, also twice a year, but with extra items as needed, to blend in with the opulence and display so important to the Ridgelys. While the majority of enslaved persons on the Ridgely plantation would have lived in one of many slave quarters, there is some evidence that a few enslaved persons who worked in the mansion also lived there.

    Move ahead to the Stone Slave Quarters to learn more about the work and home lives of enslaved persons at Hampton.