Oakland opened its doors in October 1989, under the Columbia Association’s management and since 2002 the Town Center Community Association’s (TCCA) management. TCCA is a non-profit whose mission is to encourage and support the highest quality of life possible for Town Center residents. Our offices are located in downtown Columbia at Historic Oakland and our Federalist mansion is the perfect setting for meetings and special occasions.
Oakland is graciously situated in a beautiful park like setting. The landscaping features many traditional favorites such as southern magnolia, boxwood, and rhododendron which compliment the building’s character.
Oakland’s gardens were designed by Charles Shaw, to reflect plantings common at the time that Oakland was built.Designated originally as a greenhouse, the renovated Bishop’s Garden is located outside the east wing of Oakland.
Today, Oakland has the grace and beauty of a “Step Back in Time”. A lovely site for weddings, special occasions, business meetings, and it also serves as the community center for the residents of Columbia Town Center. In this way, Oakland has been adapted for modern uses while preserving the heritage of its past.
When Jim Rouse was planning Columbia, he took special care to preserve some of Columbia’s historic buildings such as Dorsey Manor, the stone house at Wilde Lake, the Barn at Oakland Mills, Oliver’s Carriage House, and Oakland, one of the oldest buildings in Howard County. Rouse wanted to make sure that the people of Columbia understood that the city had roots that must be cherished and protected.
The area surrounding Oakland was originally surveyed by the Honourable John Dorsey in 1688. Before Howard County was formed, the 1100 acre tract of land known as Felicity was part of UpperAnne Arundel County. Two houses stood on the property, one of log and stone, and the other of log.
Mrs. John (Deborah) Sterrett, a widow, inherited the land from her father’s family, the Ridgelys. When Mrs. Sterrett died, Felicity went to her son, Charles, who changed his surname to Ridgely in 1790 to inherit the estate from his uncle.
In 1811, then a Speaker of Maryland’s House of Delegates, Charles Sterrett Ridgely constructed Oakland as a country home to supplement his town home in Baltimore. Originally built in the federal style by Abraham Lerew, a Baltimore housewright, Oakland is now a blend of the Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival periods.
Two years before his death, Charles Sterrett Ridgely sold Oakland for $47,000 to Robert Oliver, a wealthy merchant from Baltimore. The estate was given to Robert’s son, Thomas, to use as a summer home. At this time, the estate comprised 567 acres, about half of its original size. The Olivers purchased nearby tracts to increase the holdings to 775 acres.
The Oliver family owned Oakland for about thirteen years. George Riggs Gaither bought it in November for $50,459.95. Gaither raised and trained a squadron of cavalry at Oakland and held the rank of major in the Maryland militia. He used Oakland as his country estate until he sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Philip Tabb in 1864.
Avid horse racing fans, the Tabbs constructed a half mile track and bred a number of famous race horses during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1906, the Tabb family sold Oakland, then consisting of 421 acres to John V.L. Finley. Finley, in turn, offered the property for sale in 1923, and advertised that the mansion with fifteen rooms and three baths was lighted by electricity.
Dramatic changes were made to Oakland by the next owners, Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Ryan of Washington, D.C. In the mid-1930’s, the original stucco and the south porch were removed, and a terrace was created instead. A greenhouse at the east end of the house was demolished to make way for a rose garden. Interior work included a great deal of wall demolition to create a more open area.
Several more owners moved through Oakland after the Second World War before the Rouse Company acquired it in 1965. In the ensuing years, it served as the Rouse Company’s first headquarters for the Columbia project, as Dag Hammerskjold College and Antioch College, and finally, as the county offices of the American Red Cross.
Civil War History
During the war, the Oakland farm was home to participants on each side. George R. Gaither, a prosperous Baltimore merchant, purchased the property including the house (completed 1811) in 1838. His son, George R. Gaither, Jr., served as captain of a local militia unit, the Howard Dragoons (mounted infantrymen). Most of the Dragoons were local landed gentry and slave owners. They trained here to learn the intricate movements of mounted combat and sometimes staged parades for the public.
After the Baltimore Riot of April 19, 1861, the Howard Dragoons helped keep the peace there, but Gaither and most of his men decided to join the Confederate army. In May they rode to Leesburg, Virginia. The unit was periodically reassigned as Co. K, 1st Virginia Cavalry; Co. M, 1st Maryland Cavalry; and Co. K, 2nd Maryland Cavalry. Gaither was captured at Manassas Junction on August 27, 1862, and exchanged. He resigned in 1863, suffering from hemorrhoids, a common affliction among cavalrymen. On July 15, 1865, he signed the oath of allegiance. Brothers Moses, William, and Joseph Shipley were slaves who labored here and on neighboring farms.
In 1863, they enlisted in the 9th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), a regiment recruited in Maryland. William Shipley was killed at Deep Bottom near Richmond, Virginia, in August 1864. Moses Shipley survived the war. Joseph Shipley survived but suffered—like many thousands of veterans—from what is today called post-traumatic stress disorder. Increasingly confused and disoriented, he sometimes shouted, “Grant says blow ‘em up.” Family members committed him to successive mental institutions from late in the 1860s until his death in 1928.