Belle Meade was closest, so we started there. I had read a little bit about it, and was intrigued that it had been a thoroughbred business, and had not succumbed to the Civil War. That's about all I knew before we went to "check it out". It was also touted as one of the "oldest and largest"(5400 acres) in the area, so that too was a draw.
It turned out to be quite an interesting history lesson. It seems that John Harding started the thoroughbred business when he founded Belle Meade back in 1807. The Civil War interrupted breeding and racing in the southern US. However, General Harding was able to keep all of his horses because they aren't good for that kind of work! To fragile and they spook to easily. How lucky for him. After the war, his business continued and in 1867-1868, General Harding won more purses with his own horses than any man living at that time in the US. He was also the first man to use the auction system and became the most successful thoroughbred breeding farm and distributor in Tennessee. Harding passed the operation of the farm down to his son-in-law, who brought Belle Meade international fame by purchasing Iroquois in 1886 to stand at stud. In 1881 Iroquois had been the first American breed and born horse to win the English Derby. This fame led Jackson to demand a remarkable $2,500 stud fee for Iroquois service by 1892. When Iroquois died at Belle Meade on December 17, 1899 he was still considered the most famous Thoroughbred of the time. They made of movie about that, because that blood line passed down all the way to Sea Biscuit!
To say the least, the place was beautiful, inside and out. They don't let you take pictures inside (darn!). The docent did a fabulous job sharing the history and all the details about the furnishings and about the family and the times. The Carriage House was full of beautiful old carriages and even had their own Dairy Barn & Winery.
|The Front of Belle Meade Plantation House
|The back of Belle Meade Plantation House
|The Carriage House
From there we went over to President Andrew Jackson's home and Plantation, The Hermitage. It started out in 1804 as a 425 acres frontier farm that grew into 1000 acre cotton plantation by the time of his death in 1845. 200 Additional acres were added by the state for the museum, parking lot, walking trails, picnic area, etc. This is a large area and quite lovely. It was a hot day, and a lot to take in, in one day!
The tours are timed, and again, no pictures inside. Costumed docents greet you and give you a wonderful tour of each room (not a thorough as the Belle Meade tho, I thought). Once you are though with the home, you have head phones for the rest of the property and the museum to tour on your own (and much appreciated, as there is so much information!) Once again, another great history lesson, so much more than ones we learned in school, certainly more interesting, anyway! You really got to see "both sides" of the man...his love of his wife & family, his military abilities, but also his use of slavery and the Indian removal and his issues against women's rights. I don't think I would have voted for the man...oh, wait a minute...I couldn't vote then, I'm a woman!
|The Front of The Hermitage
|The Back ("no sense in wasting paint, no one will see it") of The Hermitage
|Mrs & President Jackson's "formal attire (she was nearly a foot shorter than he...just like Jack & I)
|Alfred's Cabin, he was a slave that stayed with him even after his emancipation. A family a 4 to 10 would be on one side, in one room with a fireplace
|Mrs & President Jackson's grave site
...kicking back in Nashville, Marie
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/