Welcome to Hynson-Ringgold House!

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The Hynson-Ringgold House, the official residence of Washington College’s presidents, was open to the public on First Friday, Sept. 1. The imposing brick home is located at 106 Water Street on the NE corner of Water and Cannon streets. The house is frequently the site for college receptions and dinners as well as garden parties for students, faculty, and guests of the college, but it is rare for the president’s house to be open to the general public.

Teddy Zia, mother of two Washington College graduates, with President Kurt Landgraf and wife, Rita Landgraf.

On Friday, President Kurt Landgraf and his wife, Rita, were at the Water Street entrance to greet the stream of people who took advantage of this rare opportunity to meet the new president and get a glimpse of the elegant 18th-century residence.

Front parlor on the left just inside the front door. Note Washington portrait on the wall.

All the public areas on the first floor, as well as the spacious garden, were open to visitors. For this occasion, the rooms gave a formal impression, as if the house was on its best behavior. Coolers of lemonade and iced tea were available in the room at the foot of the double staircase.

George Washington gazes out over the refreshments in one of the smaller rooms toward the back of the front section of the Hynson-Ringgold House.

The Hynson-Ringgold House has belonged to Washington College since 1944, According to Historic Houses of Kent County, the front portion of the house was built in 1743, with additions and improvements throughout its history.

The name Hynson-Ringgold comes from two early owners of the property – Chestertown Lot #6.  Nathanial Hynson bought the lot in 1735 but did not build on it.  He sold the eastern half of the lot – now the garden – in 1738 and then the western half in 1743 to Dr. William Murphy.  It was Murphy who began building the large brick house that constitutes – much changed and remodeled – the front half of what is now called the Hynson-Ringgold House.  But for whatever reasons, Murphy’s name is not included in the current appellation.  In 1759, Murphy bought the eastern garden half of the property, thus re-uniting the original Lot #6.  Murphy then sold the entire property in 1767 to Thomas Ringgold.  It was Ringgold, a prominent lawyer and businessman, who oversaw the remodeling and expansion that resulted in a house three times larger than the original residence.  It was soon considered the most impressive house in Chestertown.

In the 1930s, the paneling of the East Room was donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art. The building reflects its historical significance with portraits of George Washington in practically all of the downstairs rooms.

A good number of visitors on Friday recalled the house from earlier days, some going as far back as the tenure of President Daniel Z. Gibson(1950-1970), whose young son and two daughters regularly entertained friends in the house. And more than one mentioned the long-standing belief that the house is haunted. In my youth, the story was that a female ghost would accost someone climbing the double staircase and tell them they were going up the wrong side. (I must have gone up the right side since I never saw her.) Other stories told of a  mysterious man’s voice warning them out of certain rooms.

The double staircase from the first to the second floors. It is here that the spectre of the lady “stair monitor” has been reported.

As a bonus, First Friday delivered a cool, clear day — one of the most comfortable of the summer, It undoubtedly encouraged many visitors to walk the extra couple of blocks from the downtown businesses and galleries to get an inside look at one of Chestertown’s most attractive residences.

Photography by Jane Jewell.

View of Chester River from the front porch of Hynson-Ringgold House.

The east side of Hynson-Ringgold as seen from inside the large brick-walled garden. The annual Reception for Seniors at graduation time is held here.

Garden wall at north end of yard

Gate in garden wall

Bench mid-way along brick wall

Cannon Street side of the Hynson-Ringgold house

Front section of Cannon Street side of Hynson-Ringgold house

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Letters to Editor

  1. When Daniel Gibson & Pres. Cater were Presidents the house was constantly the setting for dinner in the garden or, more formally in the dining room. It was a friendly spot.

    Mary Wood ’68

  2. Jane Martin says:

    Well done article and pictures!

  3. Jeanette Sherbondy says:

    Lovely photography and great article on history of the house!

  4. Fletcher R. Hall says:

    Spot on Washington College. Good Show,
    Including the public in viewing this historic house is most appropriate.
    The relationship with Washington College is a significant part of Chestertown and its history.
    I was a WC student during the presidency of Dan Gibson, Hynson-Ringgold was vieed both as a home and a
    historical gem. As it should be.
    Let’s hope that, the house will be open, at least on a quarterly basis. This tradition should continue.
    Fletcher R. Hall
    WC’63

  5. Daniel D. Gibson says:

    Beautiful article! Marvelous photos! I was President Daniel Z. Gibson’s “young son,” who was so fortunate to be able to entertain friends (including Peter Heck!) in such a singular boyhood home as the Hynson-Ringgold House. Thank you, Peter, for bringing back so much!

  6. Jillian Gibson says:

    Thank you so much, Peter, for this article and the lovely photographs. As one of Daniel Z. Gibson’s “two daughters,” I have such indelible memories of living in this spectacular house. Yes, it was and is a very formal house but it was also our childhood home and, oh, what fun we had growing up there. And most of my contemporaries in Chestertown will tell you that there was no better house for throwing parties when we were teenagers!! Thanks, again, for the walk down memory lane.

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