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.

Based on nearly two decades of archeological excavations of slave quarters and historical research, in 2005 the museum mounted an exhibit in the visitors center about the lives of enslaved African Americans at the plantation, both in the Big House and in the Field Quarter.[3]

Mansion and grounds[edit]


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.[4]

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.

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.[5][6][7]


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.[8][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 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.[6] 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.[7]


The site today covers 1,120 acres (450 ha), which includes the original 1,050-acre (420 ha) 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 (3.0 m) 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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[8]

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.[8]

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 (270 m) 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.[4] 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 (3.2 km) 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 grandfather to Texas Ranger John Coffee Hays and Confederate General Harry Thompson Hays. 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 outbuildings, including slave cabins, store rooms, and a smokehouse. This complex is known historically as the First Hermitage.[4] 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.[3]

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 (6 by 6 m) 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.[4]

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 (400 ha), with 200 acres (81 ha) 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.[11]

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 (200 ha), 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.[12]

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:

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.[7]

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.[14] 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.[15]

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][16][17]

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.[3]

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.[18]

In popular culture[edit]

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


  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. ^ a b c Mark R. Cheathem, "Hannah, Andrew Jackson's Slave", Humanities, March/April 2014, Vol. 35 No. 2, accessed 9 November 2015
  4. ^ a b c d 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. 
  5. ^ Capen, Oliver Bronson (October 1905). Country Homes of Famous Americans. Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 101. OCLC 1200545. 
  6. ^ a b Smith, J. Frazer (1993) [1941]. Plantation Houses and Mansions of the Old South. Dover Publications. p. 33. ISBN 0-486-27848-4. 
  7. ^ a b c "The Hermitage Mansion Story". Retrieved January 28, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c The Historic Hermitage Properties: A Handbook. Hermitage, TN: Ladies' Hermitage Association. 1972. OCLC 379550. 
  9. ^ Yamin, Rebecca; Metheny, Karen Bescherer, eds. (1996). Landscape Archaeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape. The University of Tennessee Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-87049-920-3. 
  10. ^ "The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson". Nashville Life. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ Warshauer, Matthew (Fall 2006). "Andrew Jackson: Chivalric Slave Master". Tennessee Historical Quarterly 65 (3): 205. JSTOR 42627964. 
  12. ^ "The Hermitage". National Park Service. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Book #6 of Pvt. Joseph C. Taylor". Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Davidson/Wilson County Tornado". Nashville, Tennessee: National Weather Service. April 10, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Gibson Old Hickory Electric Guitar". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Rettig, Polly M. (September 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Property Photograph Form - The Hermitage" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  18. ^ "The Hotel: Hotel History". 2003. Retrieved December 30, 2008. 

External links[edit]