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home of Andrew Jackson, 1804-1845
Located twelve miles east of downtown Nashville, the land on which The Hermitage sits was originally a 640-acre cotton plantation owned by Nathaniel Hays, a close friend of Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel. Hays sold the property to Jackson for $3,400 in July of 1804, and the Jacksons moved into the original two-story log farmhouse that August. Why Jackson decided to call his new plantation The Hermitage was never recorded.
For the next 15 years Andrew and Rachel lived in a cluster of log buildings on the property, while Andrew converted the cotton farm into a prosperous 1,000-acre plantation and supervised the construction of many outbuildings, including a distillery, dairy, carriage shelter, cotton gin and press, and slave cabins. Jackson typically grew two hundred acres of cotton as his cash crop with the remainder of the farm dedicated to producing food for the Jacksons, their slaves, and their livestock. Jackson also used part of The Hermitage for his true passion in life, raising racehorses.
Jackson led the life of a gentleman farmer at The Hermitage until 1813, when the Tennessee militia called him to active service. His military conduct during the Creek War brought him a commission as a Major General in the regular United States Army. After the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, he returned to The Hermitage a national hero.
From 1819 to 1821, skilled carpenters and masons hired by Jackson built a Federal-style, two-story brick dwelling for Jackson and his family. At the same time, Jackson employed William Frost, an English gardener from Philadelphia, to design and layout a formal garden for Rachel, who also decorated the house with scenic wallpapers imported from France that depicted themes from Greek mythology. After brick production began for the mansion, Jackson also had new brick slave dwellings built.
Andrew Jackson was elected President in 1828, after one of the nastiest campaigns in American history, during which incumbent John Quincy Adams frequently referred to Rachel Jackson being an adulteress. That campaign left Rachel in a deep depression, and she died at The Hermitage on December 22, 1828.
Leaving day-to-day management of The Hermitage in the care of friends and managers, Jackson left for Washington, D.C. in 1829. Although he had few opportunities to visit the plantation during his two terms as President, he did make time to arrange an expansion of the house, adding a story to both sides, as well as a dining room, pantry, storage area, library, and plantation office. The tomb in which he and Rachel are interred was also constructed during this period. After a chimney fire seriously damaged the mansion in October of 1834, Jackson hired noted Nashville architects and master builders Joseph Reiff and William Hume to rebuild the mansion in the stately Greek Revival-style. He retired to the newly-completed manion after his term as President ended in 1837.
Andrew Jackson died on June 8, 1845, and The Hermitage became the property of his adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. In 1856, the State of Tennessee purchased 500 acres of the plantation, including the mansion itself, with the intention of turning it over to the Federal Government as the site of a southern branch of the United States Military Academy; that plan was stymied by the Civil War, however.
Andrew Jackson, Jr.'s family remained at The Hermitage as caretakers until 1887, when his wife Sarah died. Her death rekindled debate over the long-term disposition of the property. In 1889, a group of wealthy Nashville women formed the Ladies' Hermitage Association (LHA), directly modeled after the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, which had rescued George Washington's Mount Vernon from ruin. The Tennessee Legislature granted the LHA ownership and control of the mansion and 25 acres of land on behalf of the State in 1890, and The Hermitage was opened to the public the following year. The remaining acreage passed through a series of hands over the ensuing years, but by 2003 the LHA had "reassembled" the original 1,050-acre estate.
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This page was last updated on August 30, 2018.