Belmont Mansion: A Country Estate
Image of Belmont taken during the Civil War, ca. 1864
Joseph and Adelicia Acklen required only one thing from the estate they began to develop just south of Nashville in 1849; that it be the most elegant country seat in in the state of Tennessee. Adelicia envisioned a house and estate different from any other as she and Joseph began planning and building Belmont, primarily as a summer residence. The Acklens did not consider Belmont a plantation. Plantations to both Joseph and Adelicia were engines of profit, producing goods and crops to be sold, steadily increasing their wealth. The Acklen plantations, inherited from Adelicia’s first husband Isaac Franklin, were located further south in Louisiana
Belmont, or Belle Monte as named by the Acklens, sits upon one of the highest hills in Nashville. Their placement of the house is paramount to its design. Today cooling summer breezes still blow across the top of this hill and into the house just as they intended. As a young widow living in downtown Nashville, Adelicia Franklin and everyone else of means, yearned to escape to the country. Belmont is sited two miles from the center of the ante bellum city. Atop this hill, the sights, smells and noises of Nashville would have seemed a world away. Multiple porches invited occupants and guests to linger while refreshing themselves in the country air.
Modern map of Belmont/Hillsboro neighborhood around Belmont Mansion includes an approximate overlay of the Belmont and Montvale estates owned by Adelicia and her sister’s (Corrine Lawrence) adjoining property. Click on image to view larger.
Belmont was akin to a modern resort, where people gather to relax far from the heat and cares of urban life. Designed for comfort and to impress, Belmont need not produce an income in order to be maintained, as plantations were required to do. Adelicia was fabulously wealthy, thereby enjoying a substantial yearly income. She used that income to produce, along with her husband Joseph, one of the most elaborate estates in pre-civil War America.
No cotton fields surrounded Belmont, only lavishly landscaped gardens in a style favored by European princes. White clam shell paths and drives filled the spaces between colorful geometric planting beds. A small working farm, Montvale Estate, was attached to Belmont, but that primarily provided foodstuffs for family and domestic staff. No cash crops were grown on Belmont’s 177 acres. The sizable work force required for the function of plantations, was never needed for the support or maintenance of Belmont. In modern terms Belmont was designed and functioned as a “party palace.”