Once a thriving plantation, Pemberton Hall was built on the Wicomico River near Salisbury in 1741 by Isaac Handy, one of the city's founders. It is an outstanding example of 18th century Eastern Shore regional architecture. The gambrel-roofed brick structure is the only original 18th century house open to the public on the lower Eastern Shore.
Samuel Handy arrived on the Eastern Shore in the late 17th century as an indentured servant. Upon his death in 1721, he owned over 2,000 acres as well as ships within the coastal trade. With his wife Mary, they raised 15 children. The 13th child, Isaac, purchased 960 acres of undeveloped land from Joseph Pemberton in 1726. The new property sat opposite of the "Tondotank Indian Town," at the southern bank of what is today known as the Wicomico River. Isaac and his wife Anne would eventually build Pemberton Hall on this land.
Isaac went on to become a planter and a ships' Master. Through his hard work and advantageous marriage, he soon made a name for himself. He went on to become one of the city's founders and was appointed in 1732 to work with four others in laying out "Salisbury Town."
In 1741, Isaac completed construction of Pemberton Hall. With the exception of the window glass and iron hardware, all materials for the brick plantation home were made on site. The construction was a major undertaking at the time, and the new home served as a status-symbol for Isaac. It was dramatically larger than the 16x20 home he originally built on the land, where he and Anne raised 9 of their 11 children. The Great Room, painted in a dramatic and expensive "Prussian Blue" color, stood two times larger than the average home size in the Chesapeake Bay region.
At the time of his death in 1762, Isaac ranked among the wealthiest top 5-6% of the community. He owned 1500 acres of land as well as 16 slaves.
Fast forwarding over 200 years from Isaac Handy's death in 1762, Pemberton Hall had fallen from a thriving plantation home into a saddened derelict property on the verge of destruction. With the goal to save the home and restore it to its former glory, the Pemberton Hall Foundation, Inc. was formed.
Having fully restored the home, the Foundation continues to maintain the Hall and two acres upon which it sits. The home's furnishings reflect life in pre-Revolutionary times, and have been produced based on three 18th century probate inventories of the plantation. Paint colors have also been replicated as a result of spectral and chemical analysis.
Using plantation tax records, archaeological investigations and architectural research, the Foundation has restored or discovered other structures on the property as well. Although it is no longer visible, a unique wharf structure, known as "Mulberry's Landing Wharf" remains hidden under the silted in river mud of the Wicomico River. The wharf, which was discovered through underwater archeology and dendrochronology, is the oldest documented wharf of its kind in the United States.
Attached to the Hall, the 1786 kitchen has been reconstructed on its original foundation, as has a standalone Milk House, wooden-lined well and well sweep. Surrounded by a split rail fence, the property was home to other dependent structures and features as well. The Foundation is striving to reproduce and interpret all of the remaining structures, including the 16-ft. log slaves' quarter.
Fast forward 250 years: