The Benson-Hammond House
In 1809, Thomas Benson, a sixth-generation descendant of the first Benson immigrant to America, purchased 7½ acres of a property called “Addition to Timber Ridge” near current day Linthicum.Tradition tells us that Benson constructed a log cabin on the site and lived there with his wife, Nancy (1781 – 1814), daughters Elizabeth (b. 1807) and Anne (b. ~1811) and sons, Basil (1809-1882) and Joseph (1814 – 1882).
In 1824, Benson added to his property by purchasing another 273 acres of “Addition to Timber Ridge.” Then, in the late 1820s, he constructed a two-story, four-room brick house with a central hallway. This is the original Benson-Hammond House.
The family’s holdings increased again in 1838 when Nancy’s father, Basil Smith, died and left his property to Nancy’s sons, Basil and Joseph. Basil subsequently built his own home, Lockwood, on a tract of land near today’s intersection of Nursery Road and the Baltimore-Washington Pkwy.
Joseph married Mary Susannah Kelly in 1840 and continued adding to his property holdings which he now called “Cedar Farm.” The couple had 12 children, and to accommodate his large family, Joseph added a half story to the original two-story house and another bay of rooms on the north side of the building.
Joseph’s prosperity, unfortunately, did not continue. When he died in 1882, he was deeply in debt; in his will he instructed his wife to sell the farm to pay off his creditors. In 1887, Mary Susannah sold Cedar Farm to Thomas and Rezin Howard Hammond.
Rezin Hammond made his home at Cedar Farm. He married twice, first to Margaret Grienkisses and then to Anna Reinhardt. The two marriages produced a total of eight children. Rezin operated Cedar Farm as a “truck farm” where a variety of produce was grown for sale in the local and Baltimore markets.
As on many farms in the area, Rezin employed immigrants, many of them Polish, as “pickers” to harvest his crops. These workers were paid in manufactured metal tokens called “picker’s checks.” Each farm created its own set of tokens stamped with the farmer’s initials and a number. The shape of the token denoted what crop it was for, and the number indicated how many pints, baskets, quarts, etc. of the crop had been picked. The tokens could be redeemed from the farmer for cash or used in many of the local stores as currency.
The Hammond family continued to live in the house on Cedar Farm until 1947 when the property was purchased for the construction of Friendship Airport. Located at the edge of the airport property, the Hammond farmhouse was the only home on the 3200 acres acquired by the airport to be spared from demolition. While still livable, it was in very deteriorated condition,
In 1975, the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society entered into an agreement with the Maryland Aviation Administration, committing to restore and maintain the house in return for a long-term, $1/year lease. In 1982, the Benson-Hammond House opened to visitors, and in 1990, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, additional outbuildings salvaged from derelict farms in the area were added to the property. A summer kitchen and wash house, a tack house, corn crib, meat house and privy have all been, or are in the process of being, restored to their 1880s appearance.
The Ann Arrundell County Historical Society continues to operate the house as the only remaining example of what was once a thriving business in Northern Anne Arundel County – truck farming. Through the generous donations by descendants of the Benson and Hammond families, the rooms of the house display antique furniture and textiles of the Victorian era. The third floor of the house is a museum displaying implements of farm life in the late 19th century; rotating exhibits on the second floor give visitors an opportunity to see portions of the Society’s large collection of quilts, clothing, cooking utensils and other artifacts. The third floor also houses the Society’s large collection of antique dolls. There is a museum shop on the first floor of the house which offers a wide selection of books on local history as well as antiques and local crafts.
The Benson-Hammond House is open to visitors from March through November on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours of the house and grounds are free for members of the Historical Society; non-members are asked to donate $7.00 per adult ($3.00 for those 6-15) which contributes to the upkeep of this historic home. Group tours can also be arranged by emailing [email protected].