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NRHS 2017 Convention Nashville Heritage Tour 6/23/2017

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I met and we worked on the Summerville trip some more before we went to McDonald's and headed to the Nashville Airport Hotel where we went into the lounge for a couple of special pictures.

Me and Carrie Underwood.

Elizabeth and Garth Brooks. We waited for John Goodman and met our other two bus hosts, Larry and his wife from Quincy, Illinois, out of the St. Louis Chapter NRHS. John arrived and we discussed the plan for today plus he gave me the phone numbers of both of our contacts for today. We then went down and loaded our Bus 1 for the much shorter bus trip to the Andrew Jackson Hermitage site.

The Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

The Hermitage is a historical plantation and museum located in Davidson County, Tennessee, United States, 10 miles east of downtown Nashville. The plantation was owned by Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, from 1804 until his death at the Hermitage in 1845. Jackson only lived at the property occasionally until he retired from public life in 1837. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Mansion and grounds Architecture

The Hermitage is built in a secluded meadow that was chosen as a house site by Rachel Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson. From 1804 to 1821, Jackson and his wife lived in a log cabin, with slaves occupying two additional log structures; together the complex formed the First Hermitage and the structures were known as the West, East and Southeast cabins.

Jackson commissioned construction of a more refined house; the original mansion was a two-story Federal-style building, built with bricks manufactured on-site with skilled slave labor, and completed between 1819 and 1821. It had four rooms on the ground floor and four rooms on the second level, each having a fireplace and chimney. The large central hallways opened in warm weather from front to back to form a breezeway. A simple portico was added later. In 1831, while Jackson was away in the White House, he had the mansion remodeled under the direction of architect David Morrison, with flanking one-story wings, a one-story entrance portico with 10 columns, and a small rear portico giving the house a Classical appearance.

In 1834, a chimney fire seriously damaged the house, with the exception of the dining room wing. This prompted Jackson to have the current 13-room Greek Revival structure built on the same foundation as the former house, which was completed two years later. The architects for the house were Joseph Reiff and William C. Hume, who were building Tulip Grove across the road.

The mansion is built in a rectangular layout, approximately 104 feet from east to west and 54 feet from north to south. The south front is the location of the main entrance, and includes a central block with a five bay two-story structure, with a portico supported by six modified Corinthian style, wooden columns with a simple entablature resting on the capitals. Within the portico is a second-story balcony with simple square balusters. One-story wings, with single fenestrations, flank the mansion and extend beyond the mansion to the front of the portico, so that it is enclosed on three sides. While the southern facade gives the appearance of a flat roof, the three other elevations reveal that the tin-covered roof is pitched. The front facade was painted a light tan and sand coating was added onto the columns and trim to simulate the appearance of stone. A near replica of the front portico is found on the north end of the house, though featuring Doric-style columns and capped with a pediment.


The layout of the main block of the house is four large rooms separated by a center hall. The entry hall with plank flooring painted dark is decorated with block-printed wallpaper by Joseph Dufour et Cie of Paris, depicting scenes from Telemachus' visit to the island of Calypso. At the far end of the hall is the elliptical cantilevered staircase, with mahogany handrail, that leads to the second level. To the left of the hall are the front and back parlors, featuring crystal chandeliers and Italian marble mantels. Leading from the front parlor is the dining room in the east wing.

Decorated with a high-gloss paint to reflect as much light as possible, the fireplace features a rustic mantelpiece called the "Eighth of January". It was carved by a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans; he worked on the mantelpiece on each annual anniversary of the battle until he finished on January 8, 1839. Jackson installed the piece on January 8, 1840. Adjacent to the dining room is a pantry and storage room that leads to an open passageway to the kitchen. This was built separate from the house to prevent risk of fire to the main house, as well as to exclude the noise, heat and odors of cooking. To the right of the entrance hall, and accessed via a side hall, are two bedrooms; these were occupied by President Jackson and his son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. In the west wing is a spacious library and office used by Jackson and others to manage the plantation.

On the second level are four bedrooms used by family members and guests; the latter included Sam Houston, the Marquis de Lafayette, and presidents James K. Polk and Martin Van Buren.


The site today covers 1,120 acres (450 ha), which includes the original 1,050-acre tract of Jackson's plantation. It is overseen and managed by The Andrew Jackson Foundation, formerly called the Ladies' Hermitage Association. The mansion is approached by a cedar-lined, 10-foot wide, guitar-shaped carriage drive, designed by Ralph E. W. Earl. The design made it easier to maneuver carriages in the narrow space. To the east of the house was a 1-acre (0.40 ha) formal garden designed by Philadelphia-based gardener William Frost in 1819. Laid out in the English four-square kitchen garden style, it consists of four quadrants and a circular center bed contained by unusually long, beveled bricks and pebbled pathways. Originally the garden was used to produce food for the mansion and secondarily as an ornamental pleasure garden. The garden is surrounded by a white picket fence. On the north perimeter stands a brick privy that served as a status symbol and garden feature.

After Rachel Jackson died in 1828, Jackson had her buried in the garden she loved. When he had the house remodeled in 1831, Jackson also had a classicizing "temple & monument" constructed for Rachel's grave. Craftsmen completed the domed limestone tomb with a copper roof in 1832.

Alfred's Cabin

Behind the mansion the property includes a smokehouse and three log slave cabins that date to the early 19th century. The large brick smokehouse at the rear of the kitchen was built in 1831 and cured 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) of pork a year. Nearby is a slave cabin known as Uncle Alfred's Cabin. Alfred Jackson was born into slavery at the Hermitage around 1812. He worked there as a freedman after Emancipation and stayed on as caretaker following the purchase of the estate in 1889 by the Ladies' Hermitage Association. Jackson died in 1901 and was buried near the tomb of the president and Mrs. Jackson.

Two other slave cabins were built from materials of the First Hermitage. After Jackson built the main house, the two-story log structure which he had lived in for 15 years was disassembled. It was rebuilt as two one-story buildings to be used as slave quarters.

From 1988 to 2005, teams conducted extensive archaeological work at the plantation. Their work revealed the location of an ice house behind the smokehouse, and hundreds of thousands of artifacts related to the lives of the nearly 190 slaves in total who had worked here during Jackson's lifetime. A brick triplex of slave cabins was discovered near the mansion yard and was likely used by domestic slaves and artisans. A slave quartering area was established 900 feet north of the First Hermitage, which archaeologists refer to as the Field Quarter. Remains of three dug-in-ground pits suggest there were at least two log houses and four brick duplexes. The cotton gin and press were located in one of the cotton fields just beyond the First Hermitage.


The plantation that Jackson named Hermitage was located 2 miles from the Cumberland and Stones rivers; after Native Americans had been pushed out of the region. The land was originally settled in 1780 by Robert Hays. (He was grand uncle to Texas Ranger John Coffee Hays and Confederate General Harry Thompson Hays.) Hays sold the 420-acre farm to Jackson in 1804.

Jackson and his wife moved into the existing two-story log blockhouse, built to resist Indian attacks. Jackson added a lean-to on the back of the cabin and to the rear erected a group of log outbuildings, including slave cabins, store rooms, and a smokehouse. This complex is known historically as the First Hermitage. Jackson started operations of his cotton farm with nine African slaves, but he continued to buy more laborers and owned 44 slaves by 1820. This scale of operation made him rank as a major planter and slaveholder in middle Tennessee, where most farmers owned fewer than 10 slaves, and 20 slaves marked a major planter. Some slave cabins for domestic servants and artisans were located near the main house; the majority, occupied by laborers, were located closer to the fields and were known as the Field Quarter.

In 1818-19, prior to his appointment as provisional Governor of the Florida Territory, Jackson built a brick house to replace the log structure he had lived in since purchasing the plantation. He also added six brick structures, containing a total of thirteen 20-by-20-foot dwelling units to house enslaved workers. These included a three-unit building known as the Triplex, built behind the mansion. A two-unit duplex was built at the First Hermitage, known as the South Cabin. Four brick duplexes were built at the Field Quarter, and were known as Cabins 1, 2, 3 and 4. At least one Field Cabin was still standing as late as the 1920s.

Elected President in 1828, Jackson enlarged the Hermitage during his first term. After an 1834 fire destroyed much of the interior of the house, Jackson rebuilt and refurnished it, taking occupancy in May 1835. At the end of his second term in 1837, Jackson retired to the Hermitage, where he died in 1845. Andrew Jackson was buried in the garden next to his wife.

He expanded the plantation to an operation of 1,000 acres, with 200 acres used for cotton, the commodity crop, and the remainder for food production and breeding and training racehorses. At the peak of his operations, Jackson held nearly 150 slaves in total at the Hermitage and another plantation in Mississippi.

The estate was inherited by Jackson's adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. Due to debt and bad investments, he began selling off portions of the estate. In 1856, he sold the remaining 500 acres, the mansion and outbuildings to the State of Tennessee, with a provision that the Jackson family could remain in residence as caretakers of the estate. The state intended to turn over the property to the Federal Government for use as a southern branch of the United States Military Academy but the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 disrupted this plan.

The tomb of Andrew and Rachel Jackson is located in the Hermitage garden.

On May 5, 1863, units of the Union Army, from Indiana, approached the Hermitage. Pvt. Joseph C. Taylor wrote an account in his diary: "At 2 this morning Co.'s according to previous agreement, saddled up and started for a big scout. About daylight we arrived at Stone River. Colonel McCook was with us. We used great caution while crossing the river. We formed a line of battle and crossed a Company at a time, forming a line on the opposite side. We all crossed in safety, and proceeded to the Hermitage of General A. Jackson, where we halted for a while. Thin by orders of the Colonel went to see the hermitage also the tomb of General A. Jackson. I will describe the place as well as I can. There is a nise gravel road from the Main road to the house. On each side of this mall there is a nise row of large cedar trees, which almost darken the passage as the branches meet overhead. When in 20 steps of the front door, this road forks and directly in front is a space in the shape of a heart. Around this the road runs, which enables the carriage to come up to the door. This heart is enclosed by a similar row of cedars. The inside of this heart, and also on each side of the carriage way is thickly set with pines, cedars and other shrubbery of long standing, which almost excludes the sun shining on the ground. There is nise gravel walks leading to every place that a person want to go. From appearances those walks are but little used, as the grass is growing in the walks to some extent. We then went in the garden which is situated on the East of the house. Which is between the house and the Lebanon Pike, and is full of shrubbery and flowers of all kinds. Also walks running in all directions which beautifies the place and also give it a cold look to me, as I never saw a garden arrainged in this fashion. In the South East corner of this garden stands the monument of General Andrew Jackson. General Jackson lies on the South side of the tomb. His head in the direction of West, his feet to the East. His wife lies on the North and 2 infant children lie on the South of the tomb. It is all together a dark and secluded spot and looks to me as though it was very old fassion." Pvt. Joseph C. Taylor, Co. I, 2nd Indiana Cavalry.

Andrew Jackson's grandson, Andrew Jackson III, and his family were the last to occupy the Hermitage. The family moved out in 1893 when it ceased being a family residence. The Hermitage was opened to the public by the Ladies' Hermitage Association, who had been deeded the property by the State of Tennessee, as a museum of both Jackson's life and the antebellum South in general. The Association restored the mansion to its appearance in 1837. Over time it bought back all the land that had been sold, taking ownership of the last parcel in 2003 to restore the plantation boundaries.

The Hermitage, 1998 tornado damage

The Hermitage escaped a near-disaster during the 1998 Nashville tornado outbreak. An F-3 tornado crossed the property at approximately 4:00 p.m. CDT on April 16, 1998, missing the house and grave site, but toppling 1,000 trees on the estate, many that had reportedly been planted by Jackson himself nearly 200 years earlier. Although the trees had once hidden the house from view of passers-by on U.S. Route 70, the loss of so many from the tornado have left the mansion in plain sight.

Using wood from the fallen trees, the Gibson Guitar Corporation was authorized to produce 200 limited edition "Old Hickory" guitars. The first guitar produced was presented to the Smithsonian, though as of 2015 it is not on display.

The mansion is the most accurately preserved early presidential home in the country. Each year, the home receives more than a quarter million visitors, making it the fourth most-visited presidential residence in the country (after the White House, Mount Vernon, and Monticello). The property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Based on the archeological excavations and other research, in 2005 the Hermitage mounted an exhibition on slave life at the plantation. It is installed in the Visitor Center and provides much more focus on the lives of enslaved African-American families at the plantation, ranging from the domestic staff to field laborers.


The area of Davidson County surrounding the Hermitage is known as Hermitage, Tennessee. A hotel named the Hermitage Hotel, located in downtown Nashville, opened in 1910 and is still operating. Many celebrities and U.S. presidents have spent time there.

My visit

We took the Interstate out to the Hermitage Center, crossing the Music City Star route as well as a branchline of the Tennessee Central. We pulled up to the Andrew Jackson Hermitage Center.

We first passed the sign to the Andrew Jackson Hermitage Center.

Rolled hay on the Hermitage grounds, as the grounds have been a working plantation for over 235 years.

Trees on a non-Tropical Cindy morning.

Driving into the visitor's center. The bus stopped and I went in to get the tickets for our group and basically all I got was a receipt which they said would get everyone in.

The banners that greet visitors to the Hermitage Center.

The ticket office where I obtained the receipt. We lined everyone up and then divided them into three groups. Group 1 would first see the movie then go to the grounds and finally visit the mansion. Group 2 would go to the mansion, then the movie followed by the grounds. Our group, number three, would go to the grounds, then the mansion and finally, the movie. At least that was the plan.

Views on the way to the garden.

A walkway that leads to a beautiful flower garden.

Beautiful flowers in the garden.

Next we get our first look at the mansion.

Then a second view of the mansion.

This path takes you along aromatic flowers.

The gravesite shrine comes into view.

But there are still more flowers to see on the way there.

Uncle Alfred's grave, who was the faithful servant of Andrew Jackson.

The Andrew Jackson grave shrine.

Gravestones of other family members.

The Andrew Jackson grave shrine from the north side.

General Andrew Jackson's gravesite.

Rachel Donelson's gravesite.

There are many beautiful trees on the grounds of the Hermitage.

The north view of the mansion. Our group walked around and the docent who let the people in only allowed fourteen people at a time. I told him we were pressed for time and he agreed to take fourteen people from our group. I took the first tour and the rules were explained that no flash or standard photography is allowed inside. But you all know me too well so during my tour.

Here is Andrew Jackson's study. Once my tour of the mansion was complete, some of my group decided to watch the duelling while a few others joined me for the movie.

As you can tell, the movie would start in 33 seconds. It was an excellent movie with Robert Redford playing the part of Andrew Jackson. I learned so much about this man and walking out, I had gotten a true education about him. After that, it was time for a bathroom break so I went to the museum store and cafe to use the bathroom. Next it was now time for our group to start to return to the bus. This is always very interesting to see if people follow directions. Everybody did that and soon we were all off to our next stop of the trip, the General Jackson Showboat.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!