HISTORIC 18th CENTURY HOME OF GENERAL EDWARD HAND
Welcome to Historic Rock Ford Plantation, the 18th
Century home of Revolutionary War General Edward Hand. Rock Ford is
a unique example of architectural survival. Over 90% of the historic
fabric of the original house, including shutters, woodwork, glass
and floors, is intact.
Today, Rock Ford Plantation is comprised of 33 acres
at the southeastern edge of Lancaster City surrounded by Lancaster
County Central Park. However, the Rock Ford Foundation is a private,
non-profit foundation which is not affiliated with the Lancaster
County Park system. The house is on the National Register of
Historic Places and is recorded in the Historic American Building
Survey. Rock Ford is widely considered to be one of the most
important examples of Georgian domestic architecture surviving in
Pennsylvania and the most intact building predating 1800 in
Lancaster County. The mansion remains remarkably preserved and
essentially unchanged architecturally from the 18th Century. Rock
Ford Plantation offers visitors an authentic example of refined
country living as it existed during the early years of the Republic.
GENERAL EDWARD HAND
Edward Hand was born on December 31, 1744 in Clydruff,
King’s County, Ireland. Following
training at Trinity College, Dublin, he was enlisted as Surgeon's
Mate with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot and sent to garrison
Fort Pitt in America. He resigned from British service in 1774 and
came to Lancaster to practice medicine. In 1775, Edward Hand married
Katherine (“Kitty”) Ewing (the niece of Jasper Yeates). Edward and
Katherine Hand had eight children: Sara b. 1775, Dorothy b. 1777,
Katherine b. 1779, John b. 1782, Jasper b. 1784, Mary b. 1786,
Margaret b. 1789 and Edward b. 1792. Hand joined the Continental
Army as Lt. Colonel of the 1st Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen in
July of 1775. He led troops at Boston, Long Island, White Plains and
Trenton, becoming Adjutant General to Washington in 1781. At War's
end, Hand returned to Lancaster and entered politics as a
Federalist. He served Congress, State General Assembly, and was
elected Burgess of Lancaster. Edward Hand and his family moved to
Rock Ford in 1794, and he died there on September 3, 1802.
THE HOUSE AND PLANTATION
Edward Hand purchased the "plantation tract of land"
upon which he would later build Rock Ford in two transactions: 160
acres in 1785 and 17 additional acres in 1792. The old term for a
farm under cultivation was "plantation." Rock Ford stands on the
banks of the Conestoga River, one mile south of downtown Lancaster.
In the 18th Century, no bridges spanned the Conestoga River.
Therefore, one forded the river at a spot with rock outcroppings.
This location is most likely the origin of the name “Rock Ford.”
While owned by the Hand family, the property was a
working farm with fields, livestock, and extensive orchards. Edward
Hand is remembered for introducing a type of plum, which
subsequently bore his name. By the late 1790's, in addition to the
mansion, the plantation boasted a tenant house, springhouse, two
barns, and numerous outbuildings.
On July 4, 1791, General and Mrs. Hand entertained
George Washington for tea during the President's visit to Lancaster.
Although the precise location of this tea was not contemporaneously
documented, it was traditionally believed to have taken place at
Rock Ford Plantation.
After being sold from the Hand estate in 1810, the
property was operated as a tenant farm into the mid-20th century.
The tenant farmers living here for about 150 years made almost no
changes to the house. By the 1950's, it was owned by the Lancaster
Area Refuse Authority, and the mansion was threatened by demolition
and was slated to be the home of a trash incineration plant and
landfill. In 1957, the house with adjacent acreage was bought by the
Junior League of Lancaster. In May 1958, the Rock Ford Foundation,
Inc., was established to restore and maintain the property. The
house was opened to the public in 1960, and the restoration of the
wooden piazzas was completed in 1964. General Hand's own estate
inventory was instrumental both in locating specific articles from
his residency and in furnishing the rooms. Archaeological
excavations in the surrounding grounds have unearthed well preserved
artifacts, in addition to foundations of outbuildings mentioned in
The floors of levels of Rock Ford conform to the same
plan — a center hall with four corner rooms. The interior paint
colors are based upon paint analysis used to determine the original
paint colors. The furnishings and interior arrangement now shown at
Rock Ford seek to convey the lifestyle of the Hand family as they
lived here circa 1794 to 1802. The chief guide for the furnishings
has been the detailed inventory taken of the “Goods and Chattels” of
Edward Hand after his death in 1802.
THE BARN AT ROCK FORD
The current barn is not original to the property.
stands on the original location of General Hand’s barn, stockyard
and hog pen. This barn was built in Manor Township in the 1780’s.
The barn was purchased from PP&L in 1973, dismantled, and moved to
Rock Ford. Currently, the barn houses the Museum Education Center,
used during school tours, on the second floor. The Barn and grounds
at Rock Ford are available to rent for weddings receptions, office
meetings and parties, and other special events. If you are
interested in holding your special event on 32 picturesque acres
surrounded by gardens, woodlands, the Conestoga River, and General
Hand's mansion estate, please contact our Rental Coordinator at
717-799-8751 or email
for rates and information.
Plantation is open to the public from
April through October.
Wednesday - Sunday
11:00 am to 3:00 pm
(Last tour begins at 3:00 pm)
Rock Ford Plantation is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Admission Rates are as follows:
$6.00 Seniors (65 and over)
$5.00 for Children 6-12
Children under 6 are free
may be available for Group Tours.
Please check the “Group
Tours” page of our
for further details.
Special events are
held at Rock Ford Plantation throughout the year.
Please check the
“Special Events” page
of our website
for further details.