Nothing stirs emotion quite like visiting a Civil War-era home and Tennessee is rich with Antebellum ones – where generals planned strategies, Confederate women prepared meals for Union leaders, and soldiers, mortally wounded, breathed their final breaths.
Tennessee's Antebellum homes allow us all a brief moment of time travel, as if you can just feel the stories unfold as you walk through these homes. Here are a few to take in and next month, I'll have another selection of homes for you to put on your trip itinerary, including Maury County, the "Antebellum Homes Capitol of Tennessee."
Blount Mansion in Knoxville was built by William Blount, North Carolina's House of Commons member and delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The house is made of sawn lumber per the request of his wife, Mary Blount. She wanted a "proper" wood home. The kitchen, though recreated, is on the original site. The governor's office is a replica of a typical 1790s office. Admission for tours is $7 for adults and $5 for children.
The Ramsey House Plantation is set on 101.5 acres in Knoxville. It was built by Thomas Hope for Francis Alexander Ramsey, a member of one of the first families to settle in Knoxville, in 1797. Admire the woodwork details found throughout the home, a preserved piano forte and period-piece dolls. Admission for tours is $7 for adults and $5 for kids six-12 (under six is free).
Smyrna is famous for the Sam Davis House, the original 1850s home settled on a 160-acre farm that continues to grow cotton. Sam Davis was from an upper middle class family. He enlisted in the Civil War and became one of "Coleman's Scouts", working behind enemy lines, retrieving Union information and disrupting communication between Union troops. He was captured and charged by the Union as a spy where, ultimately, he was hanged. The Sam Davis Plantation is its original 1850s structure. Get a glimpse of authentic craftsmanship from the floors, woodwork and doors. Tickets are $12 for adults (Age 13+), $6 for children six-12, $6 for college students with ID and free for children under six.
Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation has a cherry wood, cantilevered staircase, limestone pillars and ruby glass transom above the front door all thanks to Williams Giles Harding who redesigned John Harding's 1820 home. Harding stripped the house to its basic structure and built it back up with grandeur in a Greek-Revival design which is excellently preserved. Harding also had a thriving Thoroughbred stud farm and nursery with equine bloodlines still connected to famous racers today. The Belle Meade Plantation offers a variety of themed tours throughout the year.
One of Nashville's well-known plantations is The Hermitage, Pres. Andrew Jackson's home. Before it became Jackson's, the land was bought by Nathaniel Hays in 1780 then later sold to the future president. Jackson, his wife and family transformed the property into a 1,000-acre plantation, building a Federal-style home from 1819-1821. The Hermitage contains a library, farm office, copper gutters and a two-story entrance portico with Doric columns. General admission is $20 for adults, $15 for students (13-18) and $10 for youth (six-12).
Though Davies Manor Plantation may seem modest compared to the others on this list, it is still worth touring. It is unknown who originally built the log cabin. However, Joel W. Royster made additions when he bought the land in 1831 – 1837. He added a breezeway, two-story bedroom area and a dining room was added in the 1860s. A well house, slave cabins and commissary are available for tours on the grounds. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for children under six.
Cherry Mansion in Savannah was originally built by David Robinson as a wedding gift to his daughter and her husband, W.H. Cherry in 1830. When the Civil War broke out, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant used the mansion as his headquarters. It's said that Grant received information the Battle of Shiloh had begun as he was sitting down to breakfast. He rushed outside and could hear gunfire from the back porch of Cherry Mansion. Admission to this gorgeous home is $10, for tour reservations please call 731-607-1208.
What's your favorite Tennessee Antebellum-era home?