The Hermitage (Nashville, Tennessee)

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For the historic hotel, see Hermitage Hotel.
The Hermitage
The Hermitage by Jim Bowen.jpg
The Hermitage
Location 4580 Rachel's Ln
Nashville, TN 37076
Coordinates 36°12′53.9″N 86°36′46.7″W / 36.214972°N 86.612972°W / 36.214972; -86.612972Coordinates: 36°12′53.9″N 86°36′46.7″W / 36.214972°N 86.612972°W / 36.214972; -86.612972
Area 1,120 acres (450 ha)[1]
Built 1835 (current form)
Architect Joseph Reiff and William C. Hume
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 66000722
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL December 19, 1960[2]

The Hermitage is a historical plantation and museum located in Davidson County, Tennessee, United States, 10 miles (16 km) 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[edit]


The Hermitage is built in a secluded meadow that was chosen by Rachel Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson. 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, and 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.

Side view of the house

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 (32 m) from east to west and 54 feet (16 m) 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 façade gives the appearance of a flat roof, the three other elevations reveal that the tin covered roof is pitched. The front façade 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.[3][4][5]


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.[6][a] 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 is the front and back parlors with 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". Carved by one of the veterans of the Battle of New Orleans, he only worked on the mantelpiece on the anniversary of each year until he finished on January 8, 1839. Jackson installed the piece on January 8, 1840.[4] Adjacent to the dining room is a pantry and storage room that leads to an open passageway to the kitchen that is separate from the house to prevent risk of fire as well as to eliminate noise, heat and odors of cooking. To the right of the entrance hall and accessed via a side hall are two bedrooms that were occupied by President Jackson and his son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. In the west wing is a spacious library and office that was used to manage the plantation.

On the second level are four bedrooms that were used by family members and guests, including Sam Houston, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Presidents James K. Polk and Martin Van Buren.[5]


The site today covers 1,120 acres (450 ha), which includes the original 1,050-acre (420 ha) tract of Jackson's plantation, that is overseen by The Andrew Jackson Foundation, formerly called the Ladies' Hermitage Association. The mansion is approached by a cedar lined, 10-foot (3.0 m) wide, guitar shaped carriage drive, designed by Ralph E. W. Earl, that 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 that includes on the north perimeter a brick privy that served as a status symbol and garden feature.[7] Rachel Jackson died in 1828 and Jackson had her buried in the garden she loved. When the house was remodeled in 1831, Jackson also had a classicising "temple & monument" for Rachel's grave constructed. Craftsmen completed the domed limestone tomb with a copper roof in 1832.[8]

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, and stayed on as caretaker following the takeover by the Ladies' Hermitage Association in 1889. Alfred died in 1901 and was buried near the tomb of President & Mrs. Jackson. Two other slave cabins are originally the First Hermitage. After Jackson built the main house, the two-story log structure that Jackson had lived in for 15 years was disassembled and rebuilt as two one-story buildings to be used as slave quarters.[6]

Archaeological work done on the plantation has uncovered the location of an ice house behind the smokehouse, and a brick triplex of slave cabins near the mansion yard. A slave quartering area was established 900 feet (270 m) north of the First Hermitage that archaeologists refer to as the Field Quarter. Remains of three dug-in-ground pits suggest at least two log houses and four brick duplexes.[9] 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 ideally located 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Cumberland and Stones rivers; the land was originally settled by Robert Hays, grandfather to Texas Ranger John Coffee Hays and Confederate General Harry Thompson Hays, in 1780. Hays sold the 420-acre (170 ha) farm to Jackson in 1804.[b] 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 structures, including slave cabins, store rooms, and a smokehouse. Initially Jackson operated the cotton farm with nine African slaves, but this number gradually grew to 44 slaves by 1820 as the farm expanded to 1,000 acres (400 ha), with 200 acres (81 ha) utilized for cotton and the remainder for food production and racehorse breeding. At its peak, the Hermitage held nearly 150 slaves.[10]

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. Elected President in 1828, Jackson enlarged the Hermitage during his first term, though in 1834 a fire destroyed much of the interior of the house. Jackson rebuilt and refurnished it, and it was ready for re-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.

The estate was inherited by Jackson's adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., but due to debt and bad investments he began selling off portions of the estate. In 1856, he sold the remaining 500 acres (200 ha), the mansion and outbuildings to the State of Tennessee, with the Jackson family remaining in residence as caretakers of the estate. The state intended to turn over the property to the Federal Government as the site of a southern branch of the United States Military Academy. This did not occur due to the onset of the American Civil War in 1861.[11]

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

On May 5, 1863, units of the Union Army, specifically those from Indiana, approached the grounds of the Hermitage. Pvt. Joseph C. Taylor wrote of the account in his diary.

The Hermitage Tornado Damage

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, and over time bought back all the land that had been sold previously, with the last parcel turned over to the Association in 2003.[5]

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.[13] Although the trees had once hidden the house from view of passers-by on U.S. Route 70, it is now in plain sight. Using wood from the fallen trees, the Gibson Guitar Corporation produced 200 limited edition "Old Hickory" guitars. The first guitar produced was presented to the Smithsonian, though as of 2015 it is not on display.[14]

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.[2][15][16]

U.S. Postage stamps depicting the Hermitage
2 cent, 1937 issue
4 1/2-cent, 1959 issue

The Hermitage legacy[edit]

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.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

The plantation is prominently featured in one of the opening scenes of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon (1941), when the narrator, Celia, visits it with two other characters. The Hermitage was one of the filming locations and settings for the 1955 Disney film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.


  1. ^ Examples of this wallpaper are more often found in New England; the Hermitage paper must have been imported through New Orleans and shipped up the Mississippi River.
  2. ^ Additional purchases of adjoining tracts increased the plantation to 640 acres (260 ha).


  1. ^ Williams, William (October 28, 2014). "'Presidential sites are extremely meaningful places'". Nashville Post. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "National Historic Landmarks Program - The Hermitage". National Park Service. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  3. ^ Capen, Oliver Bronson (October 1905). Country Homes of Famous Americans. Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 101. OCLC 1200545. 
  4. ^ a b Smith, J. Frazer (1993) [1941]. Plantation Houses and Mansions of the Old South. Dover Publications. p. 33. ISBN 0-486-27848-4. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Hermitage Mansion Story". Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b The Historic Hermitage Properties: A Handbook. Hermitage, TN: Ladies' Hermitage Association. 1972. OCLC 379550. 
  7. ^ Yamin; Metheny, Karen Bescherer, eds. (1996). Landscape Archaeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape. The University of Tennessee Presseditor1-first=Rebecca. p. 74. ISBN 0-87049-920-3. 
  8. ^ "The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson". Nashville Life. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  9. ^ Galle, Jillian E.; Cooper, Leslie; Sawyer, Jesse; Bollwerk, Elizabeth; Bates, Lynsey A. (2012). "Building a chronology for domestic slave sites at The Hermitage" (PDF). The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  10. ^ Warshauer, Matthew (Fall 2006). "Andrew Jackson: Chivalric Slave Master". Tennessee Historical Quarterly 65 (3): 205. JSTOR 42627964. 
  11. ^ "The Hermitage". National Park Service. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Book #6 of Pvt. Joseph C. Taylor". Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  13. ^ "Davidson/Wilson County Tornado". Nashville, Tennessee: National Weather Service. April 10, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Gibson Old Hickory Electric Guitar". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  15. ^ Sarles, Frank B.; Morton, III, W. B.; Rettig, Polly M.; McKithan, Cecil (July 24, 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form - The Hermitage" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  16. ^ Rettig, Polly M. (September 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Property Photograph Form - The Hermitage" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  17. ^ "The Hotel: Hotel History". 2003. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 

External links[edit]