It was a big job, with a lot of drama.
That’s how Barbara Goyette describes the task that mother-of-10 Frances “Fanny” Chase Loockerman undertook in 1811 when she moved into Hammond-Harwood House, a palatial estate on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis.
“It’s a very interesting family that lived here, and they had all these children, but it was a big job economically, trying to keep it up,” said Goyette, who became executive director of Hammond-Harwood House in 2016.
The home was a gift from Fanny’s father, the respected landowner, judge and Continental Congressman Jeremiah Townley Chase, who lived around the corner on King George Street.
Although he was generous, Chase also worried that Richard “Dickey” Loockerman, the St. John’s College student his daughter fell for, had some issues.
“He was a little unstable,” Goyette said. “The parents judged him to not be 100%,” Goyette said. Chase lent money to his son-in-law several times, eventually foreclosing on those loans and forcing Loockerman to sell an Eastern Shore property to settle debts. One surviving letter by a family friend says Loockerman’s death in 1834 occurred after he traveled to Caroline County, “got in a drunken frolic” and was “taken ill.”
“The guy didn’t have a lot of resources, and he was always in debt,” Goyette said. “There was a lot of drama.”
Two centuries later, keeping up Hammond-Harwood House remains a formidable task, and Goyette has a new partner in trying to keep operations drama-free. Lucinda Dukes Edinberg, who most recently served as interim director of the Mitchell Gallery, the on-campus museum at St. John’s College, begins work as Hammond-Harwood House’s new curator Tuesday.
“We did a national search,” Goyette said, “The best candidate was four blocks away.”
For Edinberg, the new job combines a trio of activities she’s been doing in Annapolis for two decades: teaching art at Anne Arundel Community College, curating exhibits and safeguarding a decorative art collection — including Francis Scott Key’s desk — at St. John’s and frequently visiting Hammond-Harwood House as a tourist.
She first came as a tourist in 1978, and after moving to Annapolis, declared the house a must-see.
“Whenever I had friends in town visiting, we always came here,” Edinberg said.
Since the early 2000s, Edinberg has been planning art history lessons around the Hammond-Harwood decorative arts collection, including furniture by 18th-century Annapolis craftsman John Shaw, and portraiture by early American master Charles Willson Peale and his Swedish American tutor, John Hesselius. Students in her world architecture classes learned about the home’s carved wooden cornices, applications of principles like the Euclidean golden meanand architect William Buckland’s obsession with symmetry. The dining room includes both a false door and a door disguised as a window.
“I’ve revisited as an educator, and now I’m here as an educator,” Edinberg said. “The emphasis has shifted a little bit.”
Rachel Lovett, previous curator at Hammond-Harwood House, announced earlier this year that she would be returning to her native New England to serve as executive director of several historical homes on Cape Cod. The current Hammond-Harwood special exhibit, which unites more than two dozen portraits by Peale, was a joint effort: Lovett arranged loans from other collections and hung the paintings; Edinberg arranged the lighting (with only two plugs in the parlor) and wrote an essay for the catalog.
Goyette and Edinberg have a history working together as well, given that both women overlapped at St. John’s, where Goyette previously served as a vice president. Her retirement from the college, Goyette said, “lasted about three weeks.” She came to Hammond-Harwood as a consultant and eventually agreed to take the executive director job.
Now the two women are plotting several major interpretive and infrastructure changes. Like many antebellum historic sites, the Hammond-Harwood house is looking to elevate the lives of enslaved people who once lived there. Records are scant, Goyette said, but they recently learned from newspaper records that Dickey Loockerman auctioned off a boy named Harry on the front steps to pay back taxes. He also “rented out” a woman named Juliet in an attempt to settle debts.
Many pre-Civil War diaries, such as the Pulitizer Prize-winning account by Mary Chestnut, reveal that women resented their husbands for mistreating slaves. Was that the case with Fanny Loockerman? Goyette doesn’t know, but certainly both incidents would have been traumatic for the enslaved people and Loockerman family life, she said.
The corner of Maryland Avenue and King George Street may have been dysfunction junction, but Goyette and Edinberg believe that the Loockerman children did enjoy some happy moments. The house owns a small collection of what Edinberg calls “the forerunners of American girl dolls” and pint-size furniture. The second upstairs bedroom currently houses the four-poster bed where spinster sisters Lucy and Hester Hammond died during the 1920s. For the seven Loockerman children who survived infancy, this was likely a nursery. That’s how they plan to reinterpret the room.
“One of the most common questions we get is, ‘Where did the seven children sleep?’” Goyette said.
After Fanny and Dickey’s granddaughters died, the house was sold to St. John’s, but the college was unable to maintain the mansion during the Great Depression. In 1937, a group of garden club women in Baltimore raised $42,000 to buy the house, and using auction records, successfully bought back much of the Loockerman family furniture. The home has been in the hands of a small, scrappy nonprofit ever since.
Eleven large Georgian homes were built during the Annapolis building boom of the 1760s and early 1770s, including the William Paca House, the James Brice House and two homes owned by the Carroll family. Mathias Hammond, the bachelor lawyer who commissioned the house in 1774, may have been aiming for Georgian grandeur, but historical records show he never lived in the home full time. According to one unconfirmed historical account, Hammond was so obsessed with building plans that his fiancee broke off their engagement, and Hammond opted to live at his country house in Gambrills instead of Annapolis. He leased to several tenants, and Chase rented out part of the home as a law office for several years before he bought the home for his daughter.
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What sets Hammond-Harwood House apart today, Edinberg said, is the choice to interpret the Colonial mansion as a 1820s home that tells a “social history” of Annapolis.
“It’s really getting that vignette of what a working house was like, and not just something symbolic that sits on the curb,” Edinberg said. “That’s why I see part of my job as bringing this house alive and making it more than just genealogy.”
In addition to tours, special programming at the house includes a John Shaw furniture class taught in partnership Smithsonian Associates. Soprano Elissa Edwards serves as artist-in-residence and schedules chamber music in the garden and upstairs ballroom. And of course, the twice-monthly Jane Austen tour remains “extremely popular,” Goyette said.
Edinberg would like to add a Regencycore millinery workshop, allowing visitors to make hats suitable for a Bridgerton ball. (She can be spotted strolling through Annapolis in blue straw floral bonnet.) Other ideas include needlework classes, oyster-shell plaster demonstrations and children’s programming to teach kids about the burning of the Peggy Stuart, the Maryland equivalent of the Boston Tea Party.
“There is such good programming now, it’s easy to build off of what’s being done,” Edinberg said.
But first up for the new curator: orientation. Just like all the other tour guides who are new to Hammond-Harwood this fall, Edinberg needs to brush up on the house’s history.
“Docent training is next week,” Goyette told her colleague. ‘I’ve already signed you up.”