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Hampton National Historic Site


The front of the Hampton mansion

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The front of the Hampton mansion. The exterior design conforms to the Georgian formula for classical detail and balanced effect: rigid symmetry, five-part composition, axial entrances, geometric proportions, pedimented gable ends, and sash windows. The external appearance of the house is generally more suited to a public building or a monument than to an American residence of the period.

The exterior of the mansion is constructed of rough gneiss schist stone quarried in the area. The stone walls are covered with stucco: a mixture of sand lime, animal hair, and water. The color, pinkish terracotta, is not paint, but a reflection of the local iron bearing sand used to mix the stucco. The grey base, which shows indications of white paint lines, was colored by grinding charcoal into the stucco mixture. Originally, the white lines were used over the entire exterior to make the mansion appear to be built of ashlar or precisely cut stones. "Rustication", a decorative treatment using raised wooden blocks shaped to look like cut stone, was also applied.

The original roof was covered with "fish scale" shaped wood shingles. The house was reroofed with slate in the latter half of the 19th century. The roof is crowned with a series of wooden urns of classical form, which define the projecting pediments and outside corners of the main block and cupola base.

The cupola is of massive proportions and gives Hampton its special distinction. It provides a sizeable chamber with an excellent view of the land in all directions. The large sash windows are the key to an ingenious and notably successful ventilation system. When the windows are raised, the cupola draws the hot air in the house up and out of the lower stories.

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