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Belmont Mansion Grounds Painting  3-9-17   2792.jpg

History

Estate painting

Construction of Belmont Mansion 

Construction of Belmont Mansion (originally named Belle Monte or Beautiful Mountain) began in 1850 and continued in phases through 1860 using the labor of both enslaved Black people and White contractors.

By the time it was complete, the Italian villa style mansion included 36 rooms and was the largest home built in Tennessee prior to the Civil War. The estate surrounding the mansion encompassed around 175 acres including a water tower (still standing) to irrigate the gardens,  a two-hundred-foot long greenhouse and conservatory, an art gallery, gazebos (still standing), a bowling alley, a bath house, and a zoo. 

Cheatham Family (2).jpg

People

 

Many lives intersected here at Belmont Mansion. From the Acklen and Cheatham families who lived in the mansion, to the African Americans who were enslaved here, to the the European immigrants who supported the  estate's operation. This house stands as testament to their lives and is the place where their stories are recorded and shared.

Belmont Mansion -  Gen. Wood's Field Off

Union Occupation

 

Tennessee sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The city of Nashville fell to the Union Army early in 1862 and was occupied through the end of the War. However, in 1864 the Confederates made one last effort to retake the city of Nashville, which resulted in the Battle of Franklin, and the occupation of Belmont by General Thomas Wood of the 4th Corps of the Union Army. The  decisive Battle of Nashville that followed effectively ended the Civil War in the Western Theater.

4 Historic Front of the Mansion.jpg

Post-War Period

 

The Belmont estate would employ over 30 people, Black and White, between 1865 and 1887. During this period, the gardens here were renowned, mainly because some of Nashville’s most acclaimed gardeners worked here at different times. Their plants won awards with the state agricultural society and at least four of them, Henry Gray, Leon Geny (and possibly his brother Jean-Baptiste), John Harriman, and David McGredy (all European immigrants) went on to open their own greenhouse businesses.

In January of 1887, the family sold Belmont to a land development company.  The mansion would soon become the anchor for one of Nashville's earliest planned neighborhoods.

Miss Heron and Miss Hood

The Beginning of Higher Education at Belmont

 

Late in the nineteenth century, two women from Philadelphia purchased Belmont Mansion from the land development company and in the fall of 1890, they opened a school for young women called Belmont College. In 1913 that school merged with the Nashville school, Ward Seminary, was renamed Ward-Belmont and became an academy and junior college for women. In 1951, the school changed ownership, becoming present-day Belmont University. Today, Belmont University is a coeducational, liberal arts school offering bachelor and graduate degrees.

The Restoration of Belmont Mansion Begins

 

Belmont Mansion Association, a private nonprofit, was formed in 1972 with the purpose of caring for, restoring and maintaining this historic site. It continues to run the museum and owns the collection. Today, restoration and operation of Belmont Mansion is funded by admissions, membership, fundraising events, corporate and private donations, and venue rental services.

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