There are countless historical locations anyone — whether history buff or not — can visit throughout the U.S., and one that is often tragically overlooked is the Hermitage, home of our seventh …
There are countless historical locations anyone — whether history buff or not — can visit throughout the U.S., and one that is often tragically overlooked is the Hermitage, home of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson.
Jackson and his wife, Rachel, had lived in a log cabin from 1804 to 1821 and wanted something a bit more presidential, so construction on this new, more updated home ran from 1819 to 1821.
Visitors to the Hermitage are first met with its visitor center and accompanying museum about Jackson, complete with priceless artifacts from the president’s own collections. The museum details the various battles and issues that arose to confront Jackson throughout his military service as well as presidency.
My wife and I had never been to the Hermitage, despite being lifelong Tennesseans. I feel this is true for many residents of the state, because if you don’t live near Nashville, it’s a bit of a drive; however, it’s well worth it.
Jackson, despite being known as a “poor, country boy” in his youth, was a self-taught man of the people, who carried a big stick just like Teddy Roosevelt. Ironically, when not getting into duels or winning battles, some historians say Jackson was known as an incredibly friendly and benevolent person.
To display his education as well as appreciation for classical works, Jackson had the Hermitage built in the Greek Revival style, which was very fashionable at the time. The plantation was entirely made of brick, but the front facade was painted white, and large columns were included so visitors would see this beautiful aesthetic upon entering the grounds. While the front is white, the sides are bare, with the original, exposed bricks still visible.
A grand building, the Hermitage greets visitors with a parlor covered in wallpaper original to the house. Imported from France, the 180-year-old wallpaper depicts scenes from Telemachus’ visit to the island of Calypso; this goes to further express Jackson’s understanding of Greek literature.
The plantation was mostly used for the production of cotton, and due to this, the family had a large number of slaves to aid in its harvesting. While the president is remembered for the tragedy of Indian removal and is viewed negatively by some, it’s interesting to discover that most of his slaves were very fond of him and remained after Emancipation to continue working at the Hermitage. One slave in particular, known as Uncle Alfred, was so fond of the Jacksons that he requested to be buried next to them; after he passed, Alfred’s wish was granted, and he now lies beside “the general.”
Another of the house’s grand sights is Rachel Jackson’s garden. Finding herself home alone frequently as Jackson served in battle and then as a politician, Rachel wanted a place to escape her stressful life which would also give her something to do. As a result, Jackson had an immense garden built for his beloved, complete with countless flower species, trees and herbs, the latter of which were used extensively in medical remedies.
Since the Hermitage also produced fruit through its large orchard, fresh fruit was incorporated in holiday decorations as well as the typical meals and canning.
While Jackson is remembered as a controversial figure, it’s easy to point fingers at people who are often acting upon the social norms of the time. Sadly, things like slavery and Indian Removal existed, but does that tarnish the very reputations of the people who founded this country? Certainly not.
I think the Hermitage gives an impressive perspective on Jackson. He wasn’t just some brutish monster who hated Native Americans. He was a complex man who loved, lost, fought and genuinely loved his country and worried about its preservation. Another fact to note is how his prejudices were no different than those of most Americans of the time period. History isn’t pretty, but much can be learned from it.
Filled with history and a legacy of struggle, Jackson’s home embodies the American spirit. Take a stroll through the garden, read the multitude of plaques that tell about his life and envision yourself in the early 1800s. Life was tough, and it truly took tough men and women to shape this country into what it is today.
Definitely check out the Hermitage, if you haven’t. You’ll spend hours there, as this isn’t a small attraction with only a few sights to see. Take the time to learn about your history, and to learn about one of the most controversial, yet influential people from Tennessee’s past.
For more information, go to www.thehermitage.com or check out its Facebook page. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is located at 4580 Rachels Lane, Nashville TN 37076.
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