Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hermitage

Brian and I have enjoyed seeing Presidential homes on our vacations. We've visited Mount Vernon (George Washington's home) and Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's home) during 2 trips to Virginia. When we discovered that Andrew Jackson's home (The Hermitage) was just outside of Nashville, Tennessee we couldn't resist. However, this time we had the kids with us.

However, apparently we weren't the first parents to bring their kids, and they had walkmans and "stations" for the kids so they could also listen about the history of The Hermitage and President Andrew Jackson's life as well.

Luckily it was one of the warmer days of our stay in Nashville so it was easy for the kids to walk and run around, even though we did get rained on for about 10 minutes or so. On the way up they said that the landscape today was different compared to when Jackson was alive, because the front drive and surrounding area would mostly have consisted of cotton fields instead of the nice lawn and all the trees. Later trees were added from various areas where Jackson fought his battles against the British (both during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812) as well as various skirmishes with Native American tribes.

 The Hermitage I would say was similiar in size to Mount Vernon and Monticello with a library, bedrooms, parlors, and dining area in the main house. No photography was allowed inside the home. However, inside was Jacksons' sword from the War of 1812, a painting of his wife Rachel which he kept with him in the White House, bound copies of newspapers from his time in the executive office, and many original furnishings.

As for the exterior there was a fire to the Hermitage in one of the years after Jackson returned from serving as President. Rather than repaint the whole house after the repairs were finished, he only painted the front of the home, since that was only what guests would see. The above pictures is taken from the front of the house; below the back and sides.

Outside buildings include an icehouse, the kitchen of course, the water well, the pantry, and smokehouse to name a few.

On the side of the house, was a garden designed by his wife Rachel.

Apparently she loved her garden so much that when she died, Jackson buried her in a corner of the garden. And beside his wife, Andrew Jackson himself is also buried beside her in the Hermitage Gardens. I'd be curious to know more about their love story.

Jackson was a proud slave owner, although some sources show that he felt that his slaves were part of his "black family". And when you have a lot of slaves, you need to have lots of places to house those slaves. The "field slaves" who worked in the cotton fields (about 80 families) were near the Spring House far from the home and view of the house.

While the Jackson's were building the Hermitage, they lived in a log cabin on the property grounds (similar to what Thomas Jefferson and his wife did at Monticello). After their home was complete, their original/previous home was converted and used for their slaves.

These buildings had very low doorways, as you can tell. Sophie informed me they were "kid size".

Below archeologist found many artifacts to decipher what a Hermitage's slaves life was like during Jackson's era. My particular favorite was the bone toothbrush.

One slave- Arthur was born at the Hermitage in 1812 and after becoming emancipated after the Civil War decided to remain on the plantation and assist the US government in making the Hermitage a historical sight... even giving tours of the Hermitage up until his death in the early 1900s. He insisted on remaining in his home near the Hermitage, which was another "slave" home for the household slaves.

Later he would request and be granted burial near the Jackson family in the corner of the garden.

While the front lawn was converted to trees and meadows, in the small area near the slave quarters was a small cotton field. The kids got to touch the cotton plants and get an understanding of what it was like to "pick cotton". This was fascinating for me and the kiddos, particularly since being from Kansas and now Dallas, Texas we have limited experience in cotton. 

The kids behaved quite well for most of the trip and enjoyed running through the leaves on the way to the field and slave quarters.

Out of the 3 Presidential Homes we've seen so far- Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Hermitage we ranked them as 3-Good, 2- Better, 1- Best. Brian's vote was #1- Mount Vernon, #2- Monticello, #3 Hermitage. My vote was for #1 Monticello, #2 Mount Vernon, #3 Hermitage. However, I doubt the Hermitage will remain on the bottom as we continue to view prior presidential homes because it really was quite impressive. We definitely recommend seeing the Hermitage if you are near Nashville, with or without kids.

To learn more about the Hermitage, click HERE.

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