Chimney HouseCurrent Chimney House

Chimney House is one of only three surviving 18th- century buildings in Port Tobacco (see right). It was built for the merchant Thomas Howe Ridgate in the late 1700s with the purpose of operating as both a house and a store. Its most impressive feature, the double chimney with a three-story pent, is a regional architectural feature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries (see below).

Chimney House in the Tobacco fieldsThomas Ridgate was a prosperous merchant prior to the American Revolution, though his holdings suffered considerably as a result of the war. Ridgate was a partner in the firm Barnes and Ridgate, which established itself in the tobacco business. This trade had been almost exclusively with Great Britain, as was true for most businesses conducted in the colonies. As such, when the Revolutionary War disrupted these trade relationships (Britain wanted to punish their colonies for rising up against the mother country), Ridgate chose to take on significant debts to continue his lifestyle, in the hopes that prosperity would return with the end of the war. This was not the case, and upon his death in 1789 his widow was entitled to little of his dwindling estate. He is buried at Betty's Delight in Port Tobacco.

The photograph above, which dates to the 1930s, tells a great deal about Port Tobacco after removal of the county seat to La Plata. The Chimney House stands by itself in the midst of a tobacco field in what had been the center of a bustling port town for 150 years.