After we left Wild Turkey, we took a scenic drive through what looked to us like Deliverance country. It was a one-lane gravel road, lined with garbage, sad to say. We tracked a sofa, its cushions and throw pillows along the road. We really questioned whether we should even be on that road, and hoped we wouldn’t meet another vehicle along the way. Nonetheless, it was part of our adventure.
We stayed in downtown Nashville, across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Bridgestone Arena. We were just a block from Broadway, which is lined with Honky Tonks, and only a couple of blocks from the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman was the former of the Grand Ole Opry and still hosts the show on occasion.
More about the Grand Ole Opry in another post.
We visited Andrew Jack’s home, The Hermitage, several miles east of downtown Nashville. Andrew Jackson was our seventh President, serving from 1829- 1837. Andrew and his wife, Rachel, purchased a 425 acre farm here in 1804, and built the mansion between 1819 and 1821. The home was heavily damaged by fire in 1834, so rebuilt the mansion that stands there now.
The Hermitage was an operating cotton farm during Jackson’s day, worked by slave labor as was normal in the south at the time, a lamentable chapter in our nation’s history. There are a couple of slave cabins on the grounds.
There are extensive gardens at the Hermitage, but we were visiting in February, so there was not much to see. Jackson’s grave and the family cemetery are also located on the grounds.
We next visited Belle Meade Plantation located several miles west of downtown Nashville. John Harding purchased 200 acres of land, and built the brick home in 1820. Harding farmed and raised thoroughbred horses, using slave labor. By 1860, the estate had grown to over 3,500 acres.
Most of today’s thoroughbred race horses can trace their lineage to horses at Belle Meade, including Secretariat and Seattle Slew. It’s said that every horse that has run the Kentucky Derby since 1990 is a descendant of the Belle Meade stables. It was a thriving operation until the early 1900’s when Tennessee banned both gambling and drinking, allowing Kentucky to gain the advantage in raising thoroughbred horses. People no longer went to the race tracks in Tennessee, and Belle Meade went downhill. and by 1906, all of the properties had been auctioned or sold off.
The state of Tennessee purchased the residence and eight outbuildings, on 30 acres, in 1953, then turned the property to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.