The Grassmere Historic Home in Nashville!

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IMG_0829 (1)The Grassmere Historic Home was built by Colonel Michael C. Dunn and was completed somewhere around 1810, making it the second oldest residence in Davidson County that is actually open to the public. When it was built, it did not have the ornate front and back porches that it has now. Lee Shute, Dunn’s son-in-law, purchased the farm for $10,000.00 in 1846. Multiple years later, Shute sold the 346 acre property to his son, William Dickson Shute, for a grand total of $5.00 as a “loving gift” to William and his new bride, Lavinia. William and Lavinia renovated the home after the Civil War, adding the porches between 1876 and 1881. They also added the smokehouse, kitchen, and three-tiered garden. They grew many crops, including sweet potatoes, hay, wheat, and corn. They raised swine and cattle and sold flowers and apples from their garden. William and Lavinia had four daughters: Leila, Maggie, Venie, and Kate. Kate married William Croft at Grassmere in 1888. They had two daughters, Margaret, who was born in 1889, and Elise, who was born in 1894. Croft moved his family to Cuba in 1902 for business. However, Margaret and Elise returned to Grassmere every summer to stay with their grandparents and aunts. They returned to Grassmere in 1931 and stayed there until their deaths. Margaret died in 1974, and Elise died in 1985. In 1964, long before they died, the Croft sisters entered into an agreement with the Children’s Museum of Nashville, which is now the Adventure Science Center. The agreement stated that the museum would pay property taxes and assist with the upkeep of the Grassmere home while the sisters lived the remainder of their lives there. Following their deaths, the museum would undertake ownership of the property and buildings. The sisters placed one stipulation in their agreement: they wanted their property to be maintained as a “nature study center,” preserved to educate the people of Nashville about animals and the environment. In 1990, the museum opened the Grassmere Wildlife Park, which displayed primarily North American animals, offered educational programs, and provided nature trails for hiking. The park was closed in 1995 due to financial complications and therefore became Nashville Metro property by default. The city of Nashville was bound by the will of the sisters to preserve the property as a nature center, so the Nashville Zoo was invited to relocate to the Grassmere site. The Nashville Zoo began management of the Grassmere property in December of 1996. In 1998, the Zoo partnered with the Metro Historical Commission and the Metro Parks Department to restore the home. In the spring of 1998, the Grassmere Historic Home opened to visitors from the public for the first time. The Grassmere Historic Farm opened in 1999, including a barn for livestock, a coop for chickens, and shed for machinery and equipment, and multiple pastures. The Nashville Zoo now offers a cookbook that gives a glimpse into Middle Tennessee life throughout the 1800s through food and cooking – Attic Heirlooms: Recipes from Grassmere,which is available for $15.00 in the Zoo’s Gift Shop. The cookbook includes photos of past Grassmere residents, helpful cooking tips, and more. Revenue from your purchase will go to help support the Grassmere Historic Home and Farm.

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The dining room, where the family would sit and eat together.

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A sitting, or “living,” room.

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A bedroom, used specifically for young children.

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Another bedroom, used specifically for older children.

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The smokehouse behind the main house. Slaughtered hogs were hung and smoked here.

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The slave house behind the main house.

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A shed/barn-like structure outside behind the house, used for storing things like farming equipment, buggies that are pulled behind horses, and saddles.

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A small grave yard behind the house, holding the bodies of the twenty unknown individuals that worked or lived on the property within its stone walls.

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A grave yard, significantly larger than the previous one, that holds the bodies of the individuals who were extremely important to this home and the property that it sits on, including but not limited to Michael C. Dunn, William Dickson Shute, and Lavinia.

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