Nashville’s Belmont Mansion: a history lesson!

The moving spirit behind the Belmont Mansion is Adelicia Hayes Franklin Cheatham. She was born on March 15th of 1817 into a prominent Nashville family. Adelicia married her first husband, Isaac Franklin, who was a wealthy business man and a plantation owner. She was 22, and he was 50. They had four children together, all of whom died before they turned 11 years old. After they were married for 7 years, Isaac died unexpectedly of a stomach virus while he was visiting one of his plantations in Louisiana. When he died, his estate included but was not limited to 8,700 acres of cotton plantations in Louisiana, Fairview (a 2,000 acre farm in Tennessee), more than 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in Texas, stocks and bonds, and 750 slaves. In 1846, when she was only 29 years old, Adelicia was independently wealthy and had a total worth of about $1 million. On May 8th of 1849, she married Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, who was a Mexican War hero and a lawyer from Hunstsville, Alabama. Together, they built the Belmont Mansion. Construction was completed in 1853. The structure was built in the style of an Italian villa and was set amidst a multitude of elaborate gardens. There were numerous outbuildings, including a water tower that still stands today. The water tower was responsible for providing irrigation for the gardens and supplying water to the fountains. A 200 foot long greenhouse and conservatory stood in front of the water tower. Also on the grounds were an art gallery, a bowling alley, a zoo, a bear house, and gazebos that are still standing today. Adelicia opened the estate to the citizens of Nashville to enjoy the zoo since there were no other public zoos in the city at the time. Joseph died on September 11th of 1863 in the midst of the Civil War while he was managing Adelicia’s land holding of Angola plantation in Louisiana. At the time of his death, there were 2,800 bales of Acklen cotton, worth literally a fortune, in storage. Afraid of losing her fortune to destruction of theft, Adelicia undertook a very risky trip to Louisiana with a female cousin to negotiate the illegal sale of her cotton to a broker in Liverpool, England for $960,000 in gold. In 1867, she married Dr. William Cheatham, a prominent Nashville physician. Their wedding reception took place at Belmont Mansion with about 2,000 guests in attendance. By the 1880s, she began spending more time in Washington, D.C. with Pauline, her only surviving daughter. In 1887, she sold the mansion to a land development company after she moved to Washington, D.C. permanently. She contracted pneumonia on a shopping trip to New York City and died in a Fifth Avenue Hotel later that year. Her body was then returned to Nashville so she could be buried in the family mausoleum at the Mount Oliver Cemetery. The Belmont Mansion was purchased by two women from Philadelphia in 1890 and opened as a girl’s school. Later, after merging with Nashville’s Ward Seminary, the school was renamed Ward-Belmont and became an academy and junior college for women. The school’s ownership changed again in 1952 and became the present-day Belmont University. Nashville’s Belmont Mansion is a must-see attraction for anyone who is interested in Tennessee history, the Civil War, architecture, art, and decorative arts. Adelicia and Joseph Acklen, who were once among the richest citizens of Nashville, built the Italian Villa house in 1853. Belmont was part of a larger country estate created as a summer getaway from the Louisiana Plantations of the family. The Acklens were not immune to the trouble of the war, despite their wealth. In December of 1864, the 4th Corps of the Union Army occupied the house and grounds before the Battle of Nashville. A significant majority of the rooms in the Belmont Mansion have been carefully restored, including but not limited to the display of original furnishings, statuary, and artwork.

  •  Hours:
    • Monday – Saturday (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.)
    • Sunday (12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.)
    • Tours begin every half hour
    • The lat tour begins at 3:30 p.m.
    • Opening at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 29th due to the Music City Marathon
  • Admission:
    • Belmont University Faculty, Staff, and Students: Free with Belmont ID
    • Children (under 6): Free
    • Youth (6 – 12): $3.00
    • Seniors: $11.00
    • Military: $11.00
    • Adults: $12.00
    • Group Rate: $10.00
  • Tours:
    • Start every half hour
    •  Last about an hour each
      • Standard tour:
        • No minimum number of guests
        • No reservations needed
        • $12.00 per person
      • Group Tours:
        • Groups of 15 or more guests
        • Reservations are required
        • $10.00 per person
      • Curator’s Tour:
        • Reservations are required

        • $20.00 per person

      • Art Tour:
        • Reservations are required

        • $20.00 per person

      • Gardens and Grounds Tour:
        • Reservations are required

        • $20.00 per person

      • A Lasting Impression Tour:
        • Reservations are required

        • $20.00 per person

      • Battle of Nashville Tour:
        • Reservations are required

        • $40.00 per person

 

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