Historic Grassmere Farm and plantation house is located south of Nashville and is the home of the Nashville Zoo.
The Grassmere farm house was a Federal style two story house that was built around 1810 by Col. Michael C. Dunn. The farm was sold to his son-in-law Lee Shute in 1846. A few years later, Lee gave it to his son William Dickson Shute and his new wife Lavinia.
After the Civil War, the federal styled plantation house was changed to Italianate style. Between 1876 and 1881 the porches, smokehouse, kitchen, and the three tiered garden was added to the property.
William and Lavina had four daughters that survived to adulthood. Their names were Leila, Maggie, Venie, and Kate. Kate married William Croft in 1888. They had two daughters, Margaret, born 1889 and Elise, born 1894.
William Croft and family moved to Cuba in 1902 for business reasons. The two girls would come and visit their grandfather and aunts every summer at Grassmere. In 1931, the girls moved back to Grassmere Farm and stayed to their deaths. Margaret died in 1974, and Elise died in 1985.
The crops raised on the farm were sweet potatoes, corn, wheat and hay. Hogs and cattle were raised on the farm. Flowers and apples were raised as a cash crop.
On the first floor there was a front and back parlor, central hall, dining room, and a food preparation room. The second floor had 4 bedrooms where the back two bedrooms had access to the back 2nd floor porch.
A lattice cistern was on the east side of the house. A kitchen was behind the house. Most of the time the older houses didn't have the kitchen attached to the house. Kitchen fires were frequent and would often burn the house down.
A Smoke house was built behind the plantation house. This is where meats were cured in salt and smoke to preserve them. Since there was no refrigeration, meats couldn't be kept very long unless they were preserved.
Pork was the primary meat source, because it didn't take as much land to raise and they could be raised for market in four to six months. Once preserved the meat could be used for future food or used to trade. This was a common method for financial transactions.
A cedar log cabin was used for housing the Grassmere Farm help. This cabin wasn't built on site. Two separate buildings were brought in from other locations. The porch was built to join the buildings together.
A cemetery was located behind the log cabin where 4 of the 5 generations of the residents were buried.
The garden is located about 200 feet behind the house. This was a main food source for the farm residents. All farms during this time period raised almost all their food and traded the excess to nearby stores.
The barn was the place that the horses and mules were kept. Cattle had access to the barn but were mostly kept outside. Sheep were also kept in this area and was primarily used for wool and food. The barn loft was storage for hay and straw. Hay was a food source for the animals and the straw was for bedding.
A chicken coop was located on the farm and supplied the residence with fresh eggs. Some of the eggs were allowed to be hatched to resupply the chicken population. Chicken was also used as a food source, and were good for keeping down the bugs, ticks, and spider population.
A Carriage house was located in front of the chicken coop, and this was where all the wagons and buggies were stored.
An implement shed was located beside the garden which was across from the chicken coop. All horse drawn equipment used for field work was stored here. Other tools and supplies that were needed to maintain the farm were also stored there.
In 1964 Margaret and Elise Croft deeded the Grassmere Farm to the people of Nashville. The home is also known as the Croft House. In 1990 the property was open as Grassmere Wildlife Park.