Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham was the force behind the Belmont Mansion. One of the wealthiest women in America, she was born on March 15, 1817 to a prominent Nashville family. She first married at age 22 to Isaac Franklin, a wealthy businessman and plantation owner.
He was 28 years older than her and they had 4 children whom all died before age 7. After 7 years of marriage he died unexpectedly from a stomach virus leaving Adelicia about a million dollars worth of land, stocks, bonds, and slaves in 1846 at the age of 29.
Below is a picture of Adelicia.
On May 8, 1849 Adelicia remarried Joseph Acklen a lawyer from Huntsville, Alabama, and a Mexican War Hero. Together they built the Belmont Mansion.
The Belmont Mansion was completed in 1853 in the style of an Italian villa by Joseph and Adelicia Acklen. The 20,000 square foot mansion was used as a summer home to escape the heat of their seven Louisiana cotton plantations. The original name was Belle Monte meaning beautiful mountain.
A refinery at the estate provided gas to light the property. A two hundred foot long greenhouse and conservatory was separate from the mansion. In behind the greenhouse was the 105 foot water tower used to supply the fountains, greenhouse and the mansion.
Elaborate circular gardens were planted around the mansion. They were maintained by European gardners who lived behind the greenhouse in the gardner's cottage. The estate also had an art gallery, gazebos, bowling alley with billard parlor, a bear house, artificial lake, deer park, and a zoo. At that time no zoos existed so Adelicia Acklen opened the estate to the citizens of Nashville so they could enjoy the zoo.
Above is a picture of the staircase going from first floor to second floor.
Adolphus Heiman, a Prussian born architect working in Nashville was hired to enlarge and remodel the mansion in 1859.
After the expansion the mansion contained 36 rooms and approximately 10,000 square feet of living space with an additional 8,400 square feet of service area in the basement. To finish the expansion, marble statues, fine furniture, and paintings filled the house.
Above is the main dining room next to the Grand Salon.
During the expansion the back porch was closed in and a barrel-vaulted ceiling was built. It was called the Grand Salon which architectural historians call it the most elaborate domestic space built in antebellum Tennessee.
The picture above is a view of the Grand Salon.
The Second Floor Staircase in the picture below leads to the roof observatory. The observatory was a ten foot octagonal cupola that vented the house in the warm months and gave an excellent view of the sky and surrounding area.
During the Civil War, Joseph Acklen was forced to flee the Nashville Mansion to Louisiana in February 1862 when the Union troops occupied Nashville. In 1864, during the Battle of Nashville, the Belmont Mansion was used as Union General Wood's headquarters. It was occupied for two weeks before and during the battle and was undamaged. Thirteen thousand Union troops camped on the grounds. It was located on the Union fortification line, and the 105 foot tall brick water tower was used as a lookout to relay signals.
In 1886, before her death, Adelicia sold Belmont and its property to Lewis T. Baxter. In 1890 two women from Philadelphia purchased Belmont Mansion and opened as a women's Academy. Later the school merged with Ward Seminary and in 1913 was renamed Ward-Belmont.
In 1951, the Tennessee Baptist Convention purchased the school and created a four-year college called Belmont University. It is a coeducational liberal arts school which offers bachelor and graduate degrees.
In 1972, the mansion was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. A private nonprofit restoration and preservation organization was formed at that time to care for and maintain the historical site.
Today the mansion is owned by Belmont University and the Belmont Mansion Association. It is the largest house museum in Tennessee.
The tour of the mansion will take about an hour. The parking is on the street anywhere you can find an open spot. I had to park about 3 blocks away because of the university students needing parking spots.
This Italianate villa is the city's most elegant historic home open to the public, and its Grand Salon is one of the most elaborately decorated rooms in any antebellum home in Tennessee.
Below is a YouTube video about Belmont Mansion.
You should see the Belmont Mansion Tour and the tour guides have a lot of information. Pictures are not allowed on the tour.
The mansion is located on the Belmont University Campus. The Address is 1900 Belmont Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37212, or call 615-460-5459.