For those who would like a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous of the late 1700's, a trip to the Montpelier Mansion is just the thing.
Built between 1774 and 1783, the Mansion is located on what was then the main road between New York and Philadelphia, which made it a perfect stop-off point for people traveling to and from both cities. (At that point in history, these places were the major centers of culture in the United States.) Some of the luminaries that stopped here included Abigail Adams (wife of John Adams, 2nd President of the United States) and George Washington, who stopped here both to and from the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Construction began on the Mansion shortly after the marriage between Ann Ridgely and Major Thomas Snowden, each members of very well-to-do families. (Major Snowdens land holdings at the time included more than 9,000 acres of land.)
The Mansion stayed in the Snowden family until about 1890. After that it passed through a number of owners and gradually fell into disrepair. In 1961, it was donated to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Renovation began in the early 1980's thanks to a state grant and it has been open to the public as a tourist attraction since 1985. (The mansion, a historic landmark, was also opened to the public in 1976 during the US Bicentennial celebrations.)
Located on 70 acres of National Park Land, the Mansion has been restored to look like an 1830 country house, based on records from the Snowden family. The mansion is filled with furnishings from the late 1700's and early 1800's, some authentic, some reproductions of that time period.
Montpelier is a fine example of Georgian architecture and has one of the most beautiful views in the state: atop a high bluff overlooking the Patuxent River, which makes this a worthy stop on any tourist's map. The manor house isn't the only reason to come visit. Also located on the Mansion grounds is the Montpelier Arts Center, home to many local and national artists with exhibits ranging from painting to pottery.
The Mansion is open to the public Sundays & Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. from March through November. Tour guides, dressed in period costumes, take you through the house, giving you the history of a bygone era. (Special weekday tours are available for groups of ten or more.) The Mansion is also available for weddings receptions, luncheons and business meetings. (There's also a gift shop on the Mansion grounds which is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays & Saturdays.) For further information, call (301) 953-1376.
Montpelier Mansion is located at Rt. 197 and Muirkirk Road in Laurel. Phone 301-953-1376; TTY 301-699-2544. Drop-in tours are offered every Sunday -- in January and February between 1:15 and 2:15 p.m., from March to December between 12 noon and 3:15 p.m. Admission ranges from $1.00 to $3.00 per person.
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