The Hammond-Harwood House Museum is fortunate to have an excellent collection of fine and decorative arts housed in one of America’s greatest architectural treasures.
The Hammond-Harwood House has a team of over 30 active docents who are dedicated to preserving our history and serving our mission to educate the public on the architecture and collection. Our close-knit team takes part in regular training opportunities and two field trips a year. We are invested in creating an enriching experience for our guests to enjoy and appreciate our unique historic site. Two intensive training sessions are run in the spring and fall each year for new docents. This year we hope to run a fall training class, and we welcome new docents to the team.
I hope you will enjoy learning about some of our favorite things, and we look forward to showing you them in person the next time you are at the Hammond-Harwood House Museum.
Rachel Lovett, Curator & Assistant Director
My favorite artifact is the Peggy Stewart Bowl. I love the story it tells about an important part of Maryland and Annapolis history. When I take fourth graders on tour, many of them know about the Annapolis Tea Party and their eyes just light up when they hear about the Peggy Stewart bowl. It is a great way to connect our young citizens to the need to stand up for freedom and to carry out consequences with mercy.
My favorite item in the house collection is the punch bowl that came off the Peggy Stewart. I like it because it has the most interesting story about how that happened. The “Burning of the Peggy Stewart” by Francis Mayer (1827-1899), though written in the 19th century, is a great summary of the story of the bowl.
My favorite piece in the house is the Peggy Stewart bowl. Growing up in New England I learned about the Boston tea party but was unaware that similar acts of rebellion had taken place in Maryland. I was interested in learning about the tea party in Chestertown and then the burning of the Peggy Stewart here in Annapolis. Having an item that was once part of that ship’s cargo is amazing.
Mary Anne Marchese:
One of my favorite things—the silver butter dish in the breakfast room. I love the cow carvings on the lid. I enjoyed holding it in my gloved hands when we polished silver last year and seeing it close up. It’s a practical and whimsical piece.
My favorite HHH piece is the John Shaw secretary-bookcase in the study. There are 5 others similar including one in the White House and another at MESDA in North Carolina… (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) so you can see the importance of the piece.
The Shaw secretary in the study chamber is certainly one of my favorites, for a couple of reasons. I love the detail in the top section, which illustrates the intricacy and quality that came from the Shaw shop. The harmony throughout the entire piece, the way the various sections come together, is most satisfying. Finally, the size of the piece is such that it perfectly fills the wall space, as if it was custom made for this particular location.
I love the marble topped table in the dining room and the story about the meaningful inlays. The table is so skillfully and beautifully made. The symbolic inlay on the front– the sad English lion and Britannia falling down, with the victorious American Lady Liberty after the Revolution–represents this history in such an interesting and politically fun way. It must have sparked some lively conversations for those who noticed it. I was also interested in the way the marble top was used for items, like desserts, requiring a waterproof surface.
My favorite painting at Hammond-Harwood House is Hester Baldwin Chase by Charles Willson Peale.
Her portrait hangs next to the portrait of her husband, Jeremiah Townley Chase, in the central passage. On tours, this is the part of the home where I introduce our guests to the Chase / Lookerman family and tell of their part in the history at the Hammond- Harwood House.
Having a keen sense of observation, Charles Willson Peale was a master of portraiture. He was known for capturing the essence of his sitter – which I believe he demonstrates in his portrait of Mrs. Chase. Delicate and feminine, her complexion has a rosy glow – she seems to be lit from within. Peale masterfully renders the fine fabric of her fashionable blue gown and the delicate translucent lace trim. At a time in history when women, regardless of their status, had very little say over their circumstances and future, she appears to be content – perhaps having reached an age to possess both comfort and wisdom in her role as the wife of a wealthy judge and mother to his children.
My one of my very favorite pieces at HHH is the handkerchief table in the game room upstairs in the mansion. It is tucked in the back corner with one corner turned down. It is a great occasional table, very simple of design. Many of my group people remark that they love it too and want one for themselves. It is a great spin on the gate leg table design. It’s not the most outstanding of all our jewels but it is another one of the precious collections of art and design in the mansion that is Hammond Harwood House!
I’ve always been intrigued by the books in the collection. I always make a point of pointing out the “History of Greenland” from 1765 in the Shaw cabinet in the study to folks and everyone gets a chuckle trying to imagine how much history there could have been to tell 250 years ago.
If I had to pick one of my favorites I would say it is the portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale in the Gentlemen’s Study. George Washington was considered the Father of our country and I think the portrait is representative of strength and intelligence as he sits upon one of his favorite horses.
It is difficult to choose a favorite, but the silver baby rattle with the bells and whistle and a coral piece on one end has always been one of my special objects. Even though I think it is from an earlier time period – I don’t know the date – it is fun to talk about.
It is a very small object, but it helps to remind our visitors that the house was more than the beautiful furniture and paintings that we see today. It was a family’s home with little children running about and babies who needed to be comforted.
Note: This item is on loan from the Society of Mareen Duvall Descendants.
My favorite piece at HHH is Thomas Jefferson’s Campeche chair in the Study. I like it because it tells me something personal about him. He suffered from back problems but when he sat in this style of chair, he said that it felt very comfortable.
Watch the extended video on Dottie Byerly a volunteer at the Hammond-Harwood House, where her mom happened to be raised as a baby.
By Four Rivers Heritage Area