Excerpt from House on the Hill by Mary Schaller ’61 Page 8-10
The heart of Stone Ridge is the Hamilton House, named for the family who originally owned the estate. George E. Hamilton, Senior was a prominent Washington, DC attorney and the dean of Georgetown Law School for twenty-seven years. He had received his early education at “Georgetown College,” the forerunner of Georgetown Prep. In 1891, George married his law partner’s daughter, Louise Merrick. In time, seven children filled their town home at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and “S” Street in Washington. In later years, George rose to be the senior partner of his family firm, Hamilton & Hamilton, as well as being the chairman of the Capital Traction Company, the Washington counsel for the B & O Railroad, an organizer of the Union Trust Company, the President of the District of Columbia Bar Association and a cabinet official under President Woodrow Wilson. By 1893, George Hamilton was also involved with many social and civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the District Board of Education and the Corcoran Art Gallery. He and his family were devout Catholics.
In 1900, George Hamilton paid $6,000 for twenty acres of farmland along the dusty, unpaved Rockville Pike. In 1904, he added thirty more acres to his property and built a white clapboard summer home in the colonial revival style. The Hamiltons called their home “Stone Ridge.” In 1911, a large open porch overlooking the farm was built along the rear of the house, where the 1949 wing is now. This porch was a favorite place for the Hamiltons and their guests to gather. Several years later, the wooden clapboards were bricked over and electricity was installed. In 1919, the second-story portico was removed, creating the present day second-story balcony over the front door. Outbuildings were added, including a tenant house, cow barn, garage and the octagonal wooden gazebo that still graces the top of the ridge. By the 1920’s, the Hamiltons had transformed their summer home into a “Georgian mansion” and the estate had increased to 360 acres of farmland. The house had now become the permanent home for George, Louise and their seven children.
The Hamiltons loved to entertain their friends and guests at Stone Ridge and their hospitality was legendary. Originally, the large parlor was called the library and was lined with built-in half bookcases. The small parlor was the family’s dining room. The two French doors leading into the present-day chapel were originally doors to two separate rooms. The door to the right, facing the front drive, opened into a small “Music Room,” while the door to the left led into the “Big Room.” During the weekdays, the Big Room was the family’s living room, but on Sundays this space was transformed into a private chapel. There was a large tapestry that hid the altar alcove and on Sundays the tapestry was rolled up for Mass. Father Arthur O’Leary, President of Georgetown University, usually said Sunday Mass for the Hamiltons. At Christmas time, the family would put their decorated tree in the Big Room.
According to reports, mint juleps were indeed served at Stone Ridge during the hot summer months and the recipe, incorporating a special “Bull Run mint,” was a closely guarded family secret. Downstairs in the sub-basement, there was a card room where “low stakes but deadly serious poker games often held forth.” [“The Hamilton House”, 40th Anniversary, 1988, Archives]. The younger Hamiltons particularly remembered the “Strawberry Parties” in the summer. The children were sent out to the farm to pick strawberries [in the general vicinity of the present-day gyms]. The sweet reward was the juicy red fruit served with powdered sugar and Devonshire cream in silver bowls. Every October, the Hamiltons hosted an “Oyster Roast,” cooking and serving the “succulent bi-valves” over stone ovens. [See “Hamilton House”, 40th anniversary 1988, Archives]
In 1943, George Hamilton, Sr. retired as dean of the Georgetown Law School and his son, George, Jr. became senior partner in the family’s law firm. In 1945, at the age of 92, George Hamilton died at Stone Ridge. Less than a year later, his beloved wife joined him.
In a series of unlikely events that could only have been orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, the Religious of the Sacred Heart purchased Stone Ridge on October 25, 1946 and the rest, as they say, is history.