15 Jul Witness Marks – Daniella Castillo Vásquez
This week, I am working on writing a Landscape Profile for Hampton National Historic Site. Located in Maryland, this park was once the 25000-acre property of the wealthy Ridgely family and through its walls, fields, and gardens tells a story of glamour, luxury, and the slowly dwindling fortune of the Ridgelys, as political, social, and economic changes in the United States made it impossible for them to maintain their extravagant lifestyle. This is another example of how the stories of a place, its witness marks, infuse life to places otherwise believed to be just buildings and fields. Researching Hampton, the Ridgelys, the manor staff, the tragedies that took place in that seemingly idyllic landscape has made my week so far incredibly interesting.
I have yet to visit Hampton, but writing this profile has definitely put it on my list. This is ultimately the goal of our profiles and of this work that we are trying to accomplish with the Designing the Parks team at Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. Telling this story has made me want to see it for myself, to place the people I am writing about within the walls of the manor, or within the greenery of the gardens. I would be delighted to see what remains of the Ridgely estate, a constant reminder that fortune and wealth are fragile even for those who look untouchable.
My hope is that the profiles I write inspire readers to go see these places for themselves, and I believe that in order to do this successfully, I must highlight the people. Humans connect with other humans the best and stories serve as great motivators. As I continue to write about Hampton, and highlight people that worked tirelessly to maintain Hampton such as its gardeners, its laborers, and its staff, I will commit to honoring them through my words, and invite the readers to go witness their stories too.