Cheekwood Blooms in Spring Splendor
The musical cascade of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu reverberates in the Cheekwood Mansion Drawing Room. Fingers dance across the keys of the Steinway, transporting us back to days of past grandeur. Celebrating spring at Cheekwood is filled with myriad surprises!
On this sunny, spring day families stroll the 55-acre estate ablaze with tens of thousands of tulips, woodland flowers, azaleas and dogwoods. Hanging from ropes in a grove of trees like a troop of monkeys, youngsters experience a “trees-eye-view” in a special canopy climb experience. Nearby, folk gather in the Herb Garden enjoying the outdoor serenade of a jazz ensemble, while laughter and squeals escape from children playing tag in a rustic tree house. The gardens are bursting with life, color and music.
Cheekwood is one of the last Grand Country Era Estates built in the United States, ranking with the lavish homes of the Vanderbilts, Fords and Duponts. Known as The House that Coffee Built, it was established on the Maxwell House Coffee fortune and completed in 1933.
The Cheekwood Story: Good to the Last Drop
The story goes back to the late 1800’s when Leslie Cheek joined his father in the family’s wholesale grocery business in Nashville and married Mabel Wood from Clarksville. By the time he was president of the company, his cousin Joel had developed a superior blend of coffee supplied exclusively to the prestigious Maxwell House Hotel, and thus the Maxwell House brand was born. President Roosevelt innocently coined its catchphrase, declaring the coffee to be “good to the last drop” while staying in the Maxwell House Hotel on a visit to Nashville. The family’s investment paid off handsomely when Joel Cheek sold his coffee business to Postum (now General Foods) for over $40 million in 1928.
Leslie and Mabel poured some of their newly acquired fortune into building their dream home. By 1933, New York architect Bryan Fleming had transformed 100 acres of woodland in West Nashville into a country estate with limestone mansion and extensive formal garden. Regrettably, Leslie only lived two years in the home before dying of heart failure.
In 1957, descendants donated the property to the State of Tennessee as a site for a botanical garden and art museum. Cheekwood is now on the National Register of Historic Places and the 30,000 sq. ft. Georgian-style mansion is a living museum decked with art collections founded on the permanent collections from the former Nashville Museum of Art.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art is a Destination of Choice, declares Fodor’s. Every season overflows with special events for the whole family. The highlights of spring at Cheekwood are gardens blooming with 55,000 tulips, chamber music from Vanderbilt Blair School of Music every Sunday, small concerts scattered across the grounds and free Drop-In ‘Art’tivity workshops for kids.
Bruce Munro Comes to Cheekwood
Opening May 24 through November 10, Cheekwood will host the second-ever North American exhibit of Light, transforming the gardens into an enchanting dream-like landscape of glowing fiber optics by acclaimed British artist Bruce Munro. Throughout this season, Cheekwood will extend its hours past 4:30pm to 10pm Wednesday-Friday for visitors to enjoy this magical wonderland under the night sky.
During June and July you can focus on fitness by showing up 7am Friday morning for Yoga in the Garden, or hike the Woodland Sculpture Trail at your leisure. Thursday evenings will feature programs ranging from puppet shows to musical performances for family enjoyment.
Cheekwood is a delight to visit at any time of the year. Stop at the Pineapple Room for lunch with a friend, browse the eclectic gift shop, pack a picnic and relax in the botanical gardens, sign up for an art class, register your kids for morning or afternoon summer camp, or mix history with art and music as you take a guided tour through the mansion.
And if you’re looking for an excuse to spend more time on this beautiful estate, you can book Cheekwood for weddings and special events, or become a Friend of Cheekwood and volunteer!
What are you most looking forward to at Cheekwood this year?