The Transformation of the Grand Salon
Beginning in earnest in January 2019 the restoration of the Grand Salon of Belmont Mansion has returned the room to its 1860s appearance - one element at a time. The first major project was the floor - an effort that required closing the house to the public for six weeks. Next followed the replication of marbelized walls, adjustments to the column bases, graining of all the wood trim, a restored paint scheme for the cornice, replacing a long-gone door between the Billiard Room and the Grand Salon and - the capstone - restoring the decorative painted ceiling to its original open-sky appearance that gives the entire space the feeling of a Roman courtyard.
The Grand Salon of Belmont Mansion - A Southern Original
Large spacious rooms were the expected norm in American antebellum houses. Belmont Mansion’s Grand Salon is a better example of this genre than most. Boasting over 2,000 square feet, this expansive space unites all first-floor rooms, becoming the visual and architectural focus of the entire house. Placed between two pre-existing parallel wings jutting from the rear of the main house, this room unites each portion of the earliest built part of the house, first occupied in 1853.
With construction of the Grand Salon in 1859-60, aspirations and expectations held by the Acklens for Belmont Mansion (then called Belle Monte) changed dramatically. The original house functioned primarily as a summerhouse for four months of the year. Multiple plantations in Louisiana, worked by hundreds of enslaved people, provided an enormous income which financed the construction of Belle Monte.
The Acklens chose Adolphus Heiman, a local architect, to design and enlarge their hilltop home. He brought a refined classical knowledge to Belle Monte joined with the then popular Italianate style to create the Grand Salon. Heiman’s impressive design resulted in the largest room in any Tennessee home before the Civil War.
This newest addition (the second in less than five years) to their Tennessee home, appears to have been about presenting themselves as leaders of Nashville society. For what purpose would a columned chamber, larger than most houses in the city, be utilized for other than to impress?
Filled with natural light one would have felt they were stepping upon a marbled terrace overlooking a park, for outside the inventive window wall, tree covered hills fell away to the city below. Adding to the illusion of space and wonderment, the vision of an open sky was dramatically painted upon a barrel-vaulted ceiling 20’ above. The sound of trickling water became an integral element of the experience, as a 6’ tall cast iron fountain stood in the center of a large projecting bay, with floor to ceiling windows. All surfaces of the Salon originally had decorative painted finishes, walls, floor, ceiling and woodwork – now all expertly recreated.
Fully restored, after completion of a multi-year project, Belmont Mansion’s Grand Salon is now on view, waiting for your arrival.