One of Nashville’s more historical places to visit is home to President Andrew Jackson fondly named The Hermitage.
President Jackson was a natural born leader. From serving on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War at the age of 13, he went on to climb to the status of an army general. He then turned his attention to politics where he served as a lawyer and then served in both houses of the US congress before becoming America’s 7th president. He was a man of iron clad principles and values and this unwavering approach earned him the first nickname given to a president of ‘Old Hickory’. He was immovable and dominating in his opinions and was either loved or hated for it with no one in-between.
We began our tour at the visitor center where we purchased our tickets that would allow for a tour of the mansion house as well as the extensive grounds. Tickets are $24 for the mansion and the grounds pass, but if you don’t care to tour the mansion the grounds only pass is $18, and tickets are good for the entire day. We then walked up the sweeping green lawn towards the mansion house and came up to the beautiful neo classical mansion with its tall white pillars and deep green shutters where a guide in period attire met us for the tour of the different rooms throughout the house.
Before building the Hermitage, the Jackson family lived in a log cabin that is still located on the grounds. But with his earnings from his military promotions and with the profits of the successful cotton plantation, the family built their dream home and lovingly called it the Hermitage.
Located next to the house is a large garden where peaceful footpaths lead around the many green spaces perfect for a stroll. This garden area is larger than the house and was one of the many displays of wealth that the Hermitage showcased. During that time having a front yard or a garden was only seen in the homes of the wealthy because to have space that was not used for crops or livestock was a luxury that few people enjoyed. We loved seeing all of the pathways and the inviting benches in the shades of the trees and thought it would be something we would love to have if ever we had the space or the means to create our own lovely garden like this one.
In the corner of the garden is the family cemetery where President Jackson, his wife Rachel, and their children and grandchildren have been laid to rest. The elaborate gazebo was built in honor of Jackson’s wife Rachel and later where he would join her. His wife Rachel would see him win the election, but would never see him serve as president. Just 6 weeks after winning the election Rachel Jackson passed away from heart problems. The newly made president left for the white house soon after that where he hung her picture in front of his bed so that she would be the first and last image he would see every day while he was in the white house.
Jackson has often been referred to as the People’s President because of his determined focus on creating policies that helped and protected the common man. He fought for better opportunities for those of working classes and those that he felt were being treated unfairly by the wealthy aristocrats that were in office. With this in mind however, he was also a man of the time and his views of rights and privileges did not extend to include women, slaves or the Native Americans. Jackson has been criticized for not only being a slave owner but also for being part of relocation projects of Native Americans.
After walking through the beautiful grounds of the Hermitage, we then took the dirt path along the creek to where the slave cabins would have been located. Because these crude cabins were made of wood, none of them have survived. So visitors look out over where they would have been and have to imagine what it may have looked like.
President Jackson seems to have been more gracious to the slaves in his care than others at that time as evidenced by the many slaves who chose to stay with the family even after the emancipation. Most notably of these slaves was Alfred. Alfred was born and raised there at the Hermitage and served under President Jackson and then his son. When the son took over the plantation on President Jackson’s death, his terrible business management almost cost him everything. To protect the slaves from becoming property of the many debt collectors that were coming after him, they were all deeded to his wife. They lost ownership of the house itself and became the care takers of it instead but all the workers remained. Alfred’s home was right outside the mansion and when the Hermitage was being threatened to be sold because of the son’s poor management of it, Alfred bought a number of President Jackson’s articles so that they would remain at the Hermitage and not be sold to pay the collectors. When they began to offer tours of the house, Alfred was the first guide taking visitors around the mansion and around the ground. At the end of the tour he would give visitors a picture of himself. Alfred was so much part of the family that when he passed away he was buried in the garden right next to President Jackson and his wife Rachel.
Visiting the Hermitage is a fascinating look at American history at a time when the country’s independence was still new and the government was still working on creating itself amid all the change. And President Jackson was there in the thick of it with his determined opinions on changes that needed to be made. He would serve as president for two terms and then return to finish out his life here in Tennessee. He still stepped in to offer political opinions after his time as president, but what he really loved was being here at home looking after his home and family. Visitors to the Hermitage come for a look into that time and to learn more about ‘Old Hickory’ and the impact that he made while he was president.
If you would like to read more on places connected to US presidents, you may enjoy reading these other posts:
Thanks for coming along with me on this tour of Tennessee’s great historical places and learning some on President Jackson!