Turn Back Time By Touring These Tennessee Antebellum Homes
I absolutely love Civil War history, so when I moved to Tennessee several years ago, the state’s significant involvement fed that interest. Reading books and browsing through old photographs are interesting and spark my imagination, but nothing stirs emotion quite like visiting a Civil War home site. Tennessee is rich with Antebellum homes – 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. During the continuing Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration, I plan to visit as many of these beautiful historic homes as possible. Needless to say, I’ve made a list of Tennessee Antebellum homes I am just dying to visit, many hosting holiday tours during this festive season.
The Brabson’s Ferry Plantation in Sevierville was first owned by Andrew Evans. He built a ferry near the beginning of Boyd’s Creek in 1792. John Brabson bought it from Evans in 1798 and added more to the home, including two plantation homes. He turned the land into a business, selling corn, cattle and wheat. He even had mercantile stores and blacksmith shops on his property. The family continues to privately run the farm today. The original log house, barn and tenant house are preserved.
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 as 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. Welcome Christmas at the Blount Mansion during its open house Dec. 8 as the mansion will be decked out in holly boughs and evergreen. Admission for tours is $7.
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. A historic home candlelight tour will get you in the Christmas spirit as the house will be decorated with live greenery and candlelight. Admission for tours is $7.
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. The plantation is getting holly and jolly this Christmas with “It Was A Civil War Christmas”, a living history event on Dec. 1. Tickets are $5. Daily admission is $8.50 to tour the plantation, museum and grounds. Tickets are $5 for the museum only.
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 tours throughout the year including a Culinary Tour and Lemonade Tour. During the holidays, the Holiday Wassail Tours begin where you can have a taste of the wassail drink of pineapple, cinnamon, clove and orange. General admission to the plantation is $16.
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 but later sold to Jackson. 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 $19.
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. Make plans to attend the annual Christmas Open House Dec. 16 when the home will be decorated in traditional, Christmas décor.
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 more tour info, call 731-607-1208.
What’s your favorite Tennessee Antebellum-era home?