When visiting the city of Nashville, TN, consider taking a day trip to a plantation outside of the city. We chose The Hermitage – the home of the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. We wanted a look into what plantation life was like in the 19th century, and seeing as we could view one of a former president, we settled on the Hermitage.
Being from the Northeast, my family and I had never been to a plantation, so for us, it made for the perfect day trip, and way to understand southern living from a bygone era. The Hermitage is about 10 miles outside of Nashville in beautiful farm country, and takes about 20 minutes to drive to (from downtown Nashville). We had a car rental, and the drive was easy to navigate. If you do not have a car, however, don’t fret – many people take shuttles, Ubers and taxis as well.
About The Hermitage
The Hermitage was the plantation and home of Andrew Jackson from 1804 until his death in 1845. Jackson was president of the U.S. from 1829 – 1837, and is famous for being the “Peoples’ President”, and for forging the way – and fighting for the rights of – the “common man” against a crooked aristocracy. His life saw great triumphs before his role as president as well, serving as general in the U.S. army and winning numerous battles, including the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the Battle of New Orleans, which made him a national hero, and ultimately propelling him to presidential status.
Long before he became president, Jackson married his beloved wife Rachel, with whom he purchased the site of the Hermitage. It was Rachel, in fact, that had eyed the land and thought it would make for the ideal home. Initially they lived in cabins on the farm…it wasn’t until 1821 that the first of the Hermitage versions was built, a Federal-style brick mansion. In 1831 it underwent a major renovation, however in 1834 a devastating chimney fire burned much of the house and it had to be rebuilt. By the time it was reconstructed in 1837, it was one of the most talked-about homes in the state of Tennessee. A modern-day Greek temple with Corinthian columns, it was fashionable and trendy for the time.
Today the Hermitage is one of the best-preserved presidential homes, and you can see original home furnishings, wallpaper and family possessions, as well as the beautiful garden and grounds outside of the home. The Jackson family and descendants were the only occupants for years to come, which means many of the home décor and furnishings are original – rare for a home so old as the Hermitage! Both Andrew and Rachel loved and spent time in the garden, and subsequently both were buried in the garden, first Rachel who tragically died in 1828. It is said that Andrew would visit the garden every evening after her death. He, too, was later buried beside her.
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Slavery was very much a part of the Hermitage, starting with a few slaves at its inception, and ending in over 100 by the time Jackson was president. As Jackson acquired new land, so he did slaves, who worked tirelessly to produce the Hermitage’s cash crop, cotton. Andrew Jackson was a complicated man it seems, or just a man of his times – for he fought for the “common man”, yet believed in slavery. This is, I find, a tough part about visiting a plantation – on the one hand it’s fascinating to learn about and look into the life of the people from an era long ago, yet it also comes with knowing and being reminded that slavery was once a thriving thing in our nation. I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings on our visit to the Hermitage.
Currently there are three slave cabins on the property to view – Alfred’s Cabin, and the first Hermitage Kitchen and Farmhouse cabins. Alfred was a slave who was born on the plantation and continued to live on the property even after he became a free man, and lived there until his death in 1901. It is said he was the first docent/tour guide of the Hermitage when it opened to the public, and asked to be buried next to Andrew and Rachel Jackson, which he was. I find this fascinating and have wondered since about the relationship between him and Andrew Jackson. Was it closeness, or just familiarity? In any case, his house, Alfred’s cabin, is located right in the mansion’s backyard.
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Visiting The Hermitage
The Hermitage is open year round (minus certain holidays) and is accessible by general admission, private and group tours. General admission includes the mansion, grounds, exhibit gallery and store. Note that no matter which ticket you purchase, including general admission, you must take a guided tour of the mansion, led by a costumed tour guide.
My family and I were traveling with a big group of extended family, and decided to do a private tour. I’m not always a tour kind of person, but as it turns out this was one of the best decisions of our trip. There is so much history about the life of Andrew Jackson as well as the plantation itself, that we learned on our tour.
Our guide was absolutely fabulous. She was engaging, fun and knew how to grab the attention of the kids, all the while educating us all about Andrew Jackson and his Hermitage. She clearly was very passionate about the Hermitage and her job there, and this passion was contagious. Even the kids enjoyed, god forbid, the private tour! The other key thing was that, with the private tour, we did not have to wait in line for the mansion tour. We did see long lines to get into the mansion – how long the wait was I cannot say, but just as a heads up.
I’m so glad we decided to do a plantation tour during our trip to Nashville and would recommend the Hermitage to anyone – it’s beautiful, educational and an interesting look into southern life from a bygone era.
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So enjoy the way your wrote this Corey.
Thanks so much Jean – means a lot coming from you 😉
I just discovered this a few weeks ago and so excited to read more about it! The more I learn about it the more I want to visit the next time I’m back in Kentucky! I feel a day trip coming! #FarawayFiles
Ha – hope you make it some day!
I am really looking forward to exploring Nashville someday. It was never on my list until recent years. A plantation home I hope to visit later this year, if my US trip materialises 🙂 Andrew Jackson is not at the top of my mind, even though he was POTUS, I am not American 🙂 #farawayfiles
Hope your U.S. trip materializes!
It actually looks like it 😀 Not too happy because of the exchange rate ;), but happy because I haven’t been for a long while. But now which places have been thrown up in the air again…
Decisions decisions! So hard with a country like the U.S. because it’s so darn big!
I know. A few years back I was looking into a trip to include all I wanted to do. Soon realised I had to cut the country in(to) two (trips) 😀
I love the massive porch!! If I ever get to build my own home, it would have something just like that. A huge plantation in the backyard would work too 😉
I want a porch too! Wrap around!
I’ve always wanted to visit a plantation. I grew up in the north and still live in the north so it would be interesting to see.
That’s how I felt
Looks like a great day out. Also fun to see history coming to life. #FarawayFiles
Yes, I love learning about history so this was particularly interesting.
This looks like such an interesting plantation to visit. I’ve never visited the American South (apart from the city of New Orleans) so it’s always fascinated me. I think a tour can be a really good way to engage the whole family sometimes although we also enjoy going round on our own too. #FarawayFiles
I’m actually not usually a tour person, but I’ve found more and more when I do them I’m quite pleasantly surprised. It’s nice to just listen and have someone else teach you instead of reading sometimes!
History is such a complicated thing isn’t it? On the one hand you want to admire the architecture and imagine what it might have been like to live in such a time and place, but on the other knowing that it was built on the backs of slaves takes something away… I hope to get to Nashville one day, and this looks like a worthwhile and fascinating day out! #farawayfiles
You said it better than I could Hilary – exactly what I was feeling. I do love an old Southern plantation house, those wrap around porches! But the history the accompanying reality does sully them a bit for me as well. Beautifully presented post Corey. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles.
That’s exactly it. Facing mistakes isn’t easy, but it’s important to learn about the past so that the bad is never repeated.
That is so beautiful! And I’m glad you mentioned the shuttles and that it’s easy to get to via uber because I don’t regularly hire cars when I travel. And now I know a bit more about Andrew Jackson. I’m slowly learning about American history and its leaders. #FarawayFiles
I can understand your mixed feelings on the visit to the Hermitage. A difficult part of history but maybe by visiting such places it helps us understand it more. The house is beautiful and I loved the detail you included about the relationship between Andrew and Rachel Jackson. #FarawayFiles
Thanks Angie! I think it’s important to learn about the past so that mistakes aren’t made again. And being able to have a peak into another era is always fascinating.
I’ve read a lot about this period of American history, so I would like to visit a plantation estate someday. Thanks for sharing the details. #farawayfiles
Thanks so much for reading 🙂
I love historical places. The stories they have to tell! Thank you for sharing this wonderful house xx
My cousins are currently on holiday in Nashville right now! lol. I’m forwardin them this in case they have a chance to visit… #FarawayFiles
Oh awesome! Thanks!!
We have friends near Nashville so I shall bookmark this – I think it sounds like a fascinating place. Don’t get too used to those private tours 😉 #farawayflies
I’m actually usually not really a tour person – but they do come in handy sometimes!
We loved Tennessee! And fell in love with these beautiful plantation buildings #farawayfiles
So much beauty to the land and its southern buildings.
This looks like such a beautiful property to explore. How interesting that so many of the original furnishings and aspects of the home have been preserved. So often properties like this have been renovated or refurbished to look like they used to and little remains original. I would love to visit Nashville and this seems like a great place to absorb some history. #farawayfiles
I was thinking the same thing, especially after my visit to Charleston a few weeks later when I took a house tour and practically nothing was original. I think that’s what separates the Hermitage from anywhere else..such a cool thing to see.
This is a region of the US I really want to tour around, its history and cultures are so interesting. We would definitely visit a plantation and reading this post on The Hermitage it is certainly one I’ll consider. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks! The American South is definitely a world unto its own..I find it fascinating. I hope you’re able to visit some day.
A very helpful post on how to visit The Hermitage and lovely pictures to boot! I think it is very good and useful to acknowledge the complicated feelings you had when you visited. I studied US History through graduate school, and there is a lot of debate and discussion among US, Southern, African-American AND Native American historians about how and why these places are preserved and presented to the public. My take on Andrew Jackson is quite negative, as he was the president who enforced the removal of Native Americans from the southeast, which ensued with the Trail of Tears (my senior thesis related to this event). But I believe it is important to learn about our history – good and bad – and I also believe in preserving properties like The Hermitage as it touches on many facets of our complex past. I would like to visit it one day…. Sounds like a great add-on for a Nashville stay. Thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles
Thank you so much for your comment! I learned that too, about his removal of Native Americans, and was quite dissapointed as well (and of course him owning over 100 slaves). I can’t help but wonder how much of it is personality vs. generational, and would he be a different type of person today. Like you I think it’s important to be able to tour these places in order to learn about our past, the good and the bad.
I love a Presidential house #FarawayFiles
I think that I too would have mixed feelings visiting The Hermitage. Never easy to take an honest look back at our history, but knowledge is power. You do better when you know better.
I think it’s important to visit these types of places and learn our history, the good and the bad. Mistakes can be learned from.
I would have gone for a tour to see the plantation too if I was travelling in Nashville as I would like to gain some insights into how life was back then. Indeed, slavery was part of the history and it’s good for us, the present generation (and future) to see this history so that we will never repeat mistakes of the past. I understand what you mean by mixed feelings. Sounds like a good tour and great pics 🙂 #FarawayFiles.
Thanks so much, Kat. I agree – it’s important for everyone to learn about the atrocities of the past so that they are never repeated.
I’m not surprised you found this visit so thought-provoking. So many questions – especially the one about why they were all buried next to each other. I’d love to go! #FarawayFiles
Thanks Nell. Hope you make it to the South some day!
This is a fascinating post – great writing and beautiful photos that make me feel like I was there with you. As soon as I read the name Andrew Jackson, I had mixed feelings too. I briefly studied American civilisation in college (in France with a lecturer from Berkeley), and I remember Jackson as quite a nasty character, even for the times he lived in. That said, visiting the Hermitage looks like a great way of (re)discovering a complex period of history.
Thanks for the comment – I guess it’s important to understand and reflect back on our history – even during the bad times – so we can pave a better way going forward. I’m sure there will be lots of reflection in future years on current times if you know what I mean!
Thank you for sharing your review. I was researching plantation visits and was quite frankly appalled by another plantation’s advertising…as if it were a theme park. Can’t imagine one of the nazi concentration camps adding a winery and gift shop! Aren’t we all capable of giving our full respect to the atrocities of the past? Thank you for acknowledging the solemn respect we owe those that were enslaved.
Thanks so much for your comment, Kim. I know, it would be nice if everyone were on the same page, but unfortunately in many ways times have not changed :(.