[Graphic Header] National Register of Historic Places Preservation Month May 2005, Restore America: Communities at a Crossroads
Hermitage, TN


[photo]
Hermitage
Photograph courtesy of NHL Collection

The Hermitage Plantation, located 12 miles east of Nashville at Hermitage, Tennessee, was the home of Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States and victor of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), from 1804 until his death in 1845. The Hermitage mansion, a two-story Greek Revival building of brick with front and rear galleries of wood, was completed in 1819, enlarged by the addition of wings in 1831, and rebuilt following a fire in 1834. The building has remained essentially unaltered since that time. Associated with the mansion are a number of dependencies including a kitchen, smokehouse, stable, springhouse, and slave cabin. Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson, are interred in a tomb at the southeast corner of the Hermitage garden. The Ladies Hermitage Association, chartered by the State of Tennessee in 1889, owns and administers the Hermitage, which is open to the public throughout the year.

In 1804 Andrew Jackson sold his 640-acre Hunter's Hill plantation in order to pay off debts arising from the financial panic of 1798-99 and moved to an adjacent tract of land which he named the Hermitage. For the next 15 years Jackson and his wife lived in a cluster of log buildings already on the on the property at the time of its purchase. Here they entertained notable visitors including President James Monroe and Aaron Burr (one-term Vice President under Thomas Jefferson and famous for the duel in which he shot and slew Alexander Hamilton in 1804.) Jackson led the life of a gentleman farmer at the Hermitage until 1813 when he was called to active service with the militia by the outbreak of the Creek War.

[photo] Portrait of Andrew Jackson
Public Domain image from wikimedia

Andrew Jackson, born in 1767 in the British Colony of South Carolina, had seen war when he joined the American forces as a courier during the Revolutionary War. Captured by the British, he suffered great privations. After the Revolutionary War he moved to Tennessee , where he became a lawyer and entered politics, becoming Tennessee 's first Congressman, and later a Senator and a judge on the Supreme Court of the State. His military conduct during the Creek War brought him a commission as a major general in the United States Army. After the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, where he commanded the American forces that halted a British invasion of New Orleans , he returned to the Hermitage a national hero. Later, after the US acquired Florida from the Spanish, he became the first Territorial Governor of Florida.

With the profits from a three-year boom in cotton prices, Jackson built the central portion of the present Hermitage mansion in 1818-19 on a site chosen by his wife. The square, two-story brick building followed a four-room, center-hall plan with parlor, dining room (both west), and two bedrooms divided by a cross-hall (east) on the first floor and four additional bedrooms on the second.

Jackson ran for President in 1824 but was defeated by John Quincy Adams when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Embittered by what he considered a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Henry Clay, Jackson began immediately planning for the election of 1828, which he won. His political triumph was clouded by the death of Rachel Jackson in January 1829, only a short time before his departure from the Hermitage for his inauguration. During his presidency, Jackson closed the Second Bank of the United States, stood firm on the nullification crisis when South Carolina threatened to leave the Union over high tariffs, removed thousands of American Indians to the west of the Mississippi (the Cherokee Trail of Tears) despite the legal rulings of the Supreme Court in favor of the Cherokee, and endured the first assassination attempt made on an American President.

In 1837, Jackson returned to a vastly-changed house. In 1831, he arranged from Washington D.C. for changes to the original 1819 building when his adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., married Sarah York of Philadelphia and brought her to live at the Hermitage. One-story, gable-roofed brick wings were added to either side of the house; that on the west containing a dining room, pantry, and storage area, that on the east Jackson's library and a plantation office, later converted to a nursery. The wings projected beyond the front (south) elevation of the mansion and were connected by a one-story wooden porch. A two-story gallery was added to the rear elevation. Finally a separate kitchen and smokehouse, each one story, of brick, with a gabled roof, were constructed at the rear of the northwest corner of the house; the kitchen was connected to the dining room wing by a covered passageway.

Fire gutted the central and eastern sections of the mansion in 1834, leaving only the foundation and exterior walls intact, but by May, 1835, it had been rebuilt with alternations. Ceiling heights were increased on both floors and windows were enlarged and rearranged. The covered entry between the library and office in the east wing was bricked in and made into a hall. The present two-story wooden galleries with fluted classical columns were added to the front and rear elevations, and the front elevation was painted white to hide smoke damage to the brick. Decorative features of the reconstructed interior include carved marble mantels, classical door and window surrounds, and a circular flying staircase. The scenic wallpaper in the main hall, called the “Telemachus paper” because it depicts four of the adventures of Telemachus in search of his father, the Greek hero Odysseus.

Andrew Jackson died on June 8, 1845, and his body was laid next to that of his wife in the tomb at the southeast corner of the Hermitage garden. The Hermitage was bequeathed to Andrew Jackson, Jr., who in 1856 sold the mansion, outbuildings, and 500 acres of land to the state of Tennessee. Andrew Johnson, then governor of the state, attempted to donate the property to the Federal Government as the site of a southern branch of the United States Military Academy. The Senate Committee on Military Affairs endorsed the plan but with the growing threat of war between the North and South Johnson's offer was eventually rejected. With the exception of the brief period 1858-60, Andrew Jackson Jr. or members of his immediate family continued to live at the Hermitage as custodians until 1887. In 1889 the Tennessee Legislature granted a charter to the Ladies Hermitage Association, authorizing that organization to administer the mansion and 25 acres of land on behalf of the state. In 1934 title to the entire 500-acre tract was transferred to the Association by the Legislature under a deed of trust.

The Hermitage was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

The Hermitage is celebrating Preservation Month by showing the "Spirit of Nashville Exhibit" Anderson Thomas Design created the popular Spirit of Nashville art collection as a series of posters, inspired by the "Golden Age of Poster Art" in the 1920's-1950's. For more information visit the the Hermitage online.

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