Located on the campus of Belmont University, the house museum is a historic Italianate villa-style mansion constructed in the mid-1800s by Adelicia Hayes Franklin. It is the work of architect William Strickland, who also designed the Tennessee State Capitol. The residence served as the headquarters for Union General Thomas Wood before the Battle of Nashville in 1864. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the mansion is the largest house museum in the Volunteer State. The ornate home features a collection of Venetian glass, period furnishings, paintings and statuary as well as elaborately landscaped gardens.
Ultimate Guide to the Belmont Mansion
For a piece of Civil War history and a study in antebellum architecture, Nashville’s Belmont Mansion is a fascinating attraction. Completed in 1853 by Adelicia Hayes and her second husband Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, the 20,000 square-foot mansion rests on 177 acres of land designed in an Italian villa style with elaborate gardens and grounds.
Adelicia Hayes was born in 1817 into a prominent Nashville family. She was once one of the wealthiest women in Tennessee. Through the years, she was married three times to acquire the full name of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham. When her first husband Isaac Franklin died, he left her a cotton plantation in Louisiana, a farm in Tennessee and undeveloped land in Texas, as well as 750 slaves and stocks and bonds. She built Belmont Mansion as a summer estate and resort for relaxation and enjoyment.
She sold Belmont Mansion to a land development company in 1887 after she moved to Washington D.C. with her daughter Pauline and her third husband William Cheatham. In 1890, a girl’s school was opened on the property by two women from Philadelphia. Eventually, it became present-day Belmont University.
During its heyday, the mansion boasted a greenhouse, conservatory, art gallery, gazebo, water tower, bowling alley and a zoo, which Adelicia opened to the public. Today, the Belmont Mansion is part of the National Register of Historic Places and much of it has been restored to its original glory.
The Mansion – The Belmont Mansion with its grand symmetrical portico and façade is divided amongst the Fidelity Hall, Freeman Hall, Barbara Massey Hall and the Black & White Dining Room. From taking in the views from the front porch steps to scaling the cupola for a bird’s eye perch, the mansion holds a wealth of antique furniture, decorative arts and pieces from Adelicia’s private art collection.
The Garden & Grounds – With fragrant rose gardens, geometric planting beds, clamshell paths and elaborate fountains, the grounds of Belmont Mansion are beautifully maintained today. Take a stroll through the fragrant gardens and enjoy some shade beneath one of the mansion’s original gazebos.
The Art – Adelicia was an avid art collector with her second husband Joseph and they even donated pieces of their collection to prominent art fairs like the 1880 Nashville Centennial and the 1884 New Orleans World Fair. You can arrange a tour with the museum’s curator of collections to view Adelicia’s art and gain further insight into the works and their historic importance.
One of the best ways to visit Belmont Mansion, which is located just south of Nashville’s Music Row and Vanderbilt University, is aboard Old Town Trolley’s Belmont Mansion Package. You’ll enjoy unlimited hop on hop off re-boarding at all Old Town Trolley Stops throughout Nashville with a fully narrated tour. This is positioned in proximity to over 100 points of interest across the city. The Trolley and Belmont Mansion Package also includes admission to the Belmont Mansion.
The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Guided tours begin every half hour.