Friday, June 12, 2015

Historic Homes of Horses and Presidents

Given that the Triple Crown was just recently won by American Pharoah, I'm glad we had the opportunity to tour the Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville.  Founded in 1807, it started as a log cabin and grew to be one of the largest thoroughbred horse farms in the south.  It is said that every horse that has run in the Kentucky Derby since 2003 can trace their bloodlines back to Belle Meade!

Original house

Belle Meade today

Carriage house circa 1892

The remaining 30 acres of the plantation contain the dairy, slave cabins, mausoleum and gardeners house.

Dairy circa 1884

Greenhouse at the back of the gardener's house

No interior pictures were allowed, but our guides were all dressed in period attire and the house was staged as though the family had just walked out the door.

The grounds were full of 150 year old magnolia trees

The roots of the magnolias were massive

The plantation is used today as an event venue and contains a winery on the grounds.  Our tour included a wine tasting and we bought a few of the wines to enjoy later.  I'm going to try to save a couple of bottles for a tasting when I get back, but I'm making no promises!

We also made the short trip to the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home.  What I like about this plantation is the fact that many of the buildings and/or foundations are in their original locations.  It gives you a much better feel for what it must have been like in its day.
The Hermitage

The rear view.  To me, the rear is just as beautiful as the front.

If you remember, Andrew Jackson caused quite a stir when he married Rachel, who was not yet divorced from her first husband.  Quite a bit of mud was slung during his presidential run and Rachel died, some say from stress, not too long after he was elected.  Since this house was built as his retirement home after leaving the presidency, she did not get to live in this home.

The original homestead of Andrew and Rachael Jackson.  Originally a two story structure, the first floor was removed, the second floor was re-roofed and this became a slave cabin.

The grounds around the plantation house contain not only Jackson's tomb, but the family cemetery, foundations of the slave cabins, the spring house and much more.  You can walk the entire grounds or take a horse drawn wagon ride.  There are interpretive signs on all the pathways and it took us well over an hour to walk from the house to the slave quarters and back.  The usual tourist photos...

Front of the Hermitage

Rear view.  I think it's just as impressive

Andrew and Rachel Jackson's tomb.  We learned that Andrew visited the the tomb every single day.

Family cemetery

But I always like to document here the less common things that we get to see.

Original bricks made by slaves.  They were pointed on one end to stay in the ground as they lined the flower beds.

Interior of a slave cabin

The original driveway to the Hermitage is lined with trees collected from every battleground on which Andrew Jackson fought in the War of 1812.

The plantation also contained other sites besides the Jackson residence.  The Tulip house, where Andrew Jackson's adopted son lived, was only a short drive away, as well as a slave memorial, church and a Confederate cemetery.

Old Soldier's Memorial and Cemetery
The men buried here were residents of the Tennessee Confederate Soldier's Home. The home was originally  established to provide a place for needy veterans to rebuild a sense of self-esteem by working the farm.  However, most were too frail and spent their final days finding comradeship with other men with similar experiences.  When a resident died, the state paid for their funeral and they were buried here.

Slave memorial
A slave cemetery was discovered on the grounds of an adjacent plantation in 2006 during development of the area and the Hermitage agreed to re-inter them here because of their relationship with Rachel Jackson's family.  The art installation, which doesn't look like much in this picture, was commissioned to memorialize the enslaved and provide a place to reflect upon the legacy of slavery.

On the way out we got to see a whole wild turkey family - Mama with her babies and Dad, all puffed up in protection mode!
Mom and the kids 
Dad, making sure I don't get too close

While the Hermitage is probably on most people's bucket lists, Belle Meade was definitely worth the time we spent touring it.  There is so much history that is being preserved in our country and I love learning about it in the homes in which our ancestors lived. I hope you don't get tired of hearing about them because I'm pretty sure there are many more historic homes on the agenda in the next few months as we travel this wonderful country of ours!

Until next time...

1 comment:

Jason Sutliff said...

The Magnolias are magnificent, & the wild turkeys are wild!!