We’re off on our big ol’ cross country road trip! You can follow along on the travel blog for weekly updates and in depth posts about the non-house/architecture stuff we see, but here I’m going to do some posts about historic houses and assorted other cool old buildings along the way.
We had a quick overnight stop in Nashville with one afternoon to fill, and we decided to spend it at Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage. We are, as I might have mentioned, big fans of presidents’ houses. We’re not, however, particularly big fans of Andrew Jackson himself. What with that Trail of Tears and all.
I was in fact, a little worried that the more…passionate about justice of my kids might have trouble containing their outrage during our visit. But it worked out okay.
The Hermitage is the third most visited president’s house, trailing only Monticello and Mount Vernon, probably owing at least partly to its very accessible Nashville location. The property is extensive, and there’s tons to see aside from the actual house tour. We stayed maybe three hours and definitely didn’t see everything. If you’re especially fascinated by Andrew Jackson and/or you don’t have young kids with you, you could devote most of a day to a visit.
Regular admission is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors, $15 for students (13-18), $10 for kids (6-12), and free for kids 5 and under. They also offer a family pass for $54 for 2 adults and 2 kids 18 and under, which is a nice feature for families like ours with older kids. So we were able to get that plus one extra kids ticket and keep the price reasonable ($64 vs. $80 if we had paid for everyone individually). I wish more sites would do the same thing. There are a number of other special tours available as well–carriage tours, VIP tours, ghost tours, etc.
The admission cost includes the museum and film, house tour, all the grounds and outbuildings, plus an audio tour. This was a nice feature for Abe, because they have a special kids’ version of the audio tour, which kept him fairly well entertained.
The older kids and I watched the film while Dave stayed in the car with a napping Abe and made a video, because Dave is the official videographer for this trip:
The film was well done, with some actors doing historical reenactment stuff interspersed with interviews with historians. Overall, I felt like the site as a whole glossed over the darker parts of Jackson’s legacy, but the film grappled with them a bit more. The part that struck me the most was when one of the historians interviewed claimed that Jackson never really thought about whether slavery was wrong or not. Rich Southerners had slaves, and he wanted to be a rich Southerner, so he had slaves. The contrast with Monticello is stark; the impression there is of a Jefferson who constantly wrestled with the issue of slavery. He consistently came to the wrong conclusion about it, but it certainly wasn’t because he didn’t think about it.
Later, a few days after our Hermitage visit, we listened to the episode of the Presidential podcast about Andrew Jackson, trying to get some more insight. I’ve tried to get the kids to think about Jackson as a complex figure who is more than the Indian Removal Act….but I have to say, the more I learn about him the less I like him. He had an unequivocally tough childhood, losing his father before he was born and his mother and brothers by early adolescence. These early tragedies seem to have left him constantly spoiling for a fight for its own sake; violent and rash and lacking empathy. Word is he participated in over 100 duels during his life, which I guess some people might find appealing on some level, but I’m not one of them. So…I tried, Andrew Jackson, but you’re just not my kind of guy.
Your house, on the other hand, is lovely.
The house is built in the Neoclassical style that was very popular at the time; the audio tour gives you a lot of information about this and about the construction process. There’s no photography allowed inside the house (which isn’t too much of a loss; our tour was a large group of people and moved quickly, so that it wouldn’t have been easy to get good photos), so let’s admire the outside of the house a bit more:
Things didn’t feel especially crowded overall the day we were there, but there was a significant line for the house tour; we probably waited 20 or 30 minutes for our turn. The tour itself moves quickly through the downstairs and upstairs of the house, with costumed interpreters along the way to give you more information about what you’re seeing.
After the house tour, we wandered around for awhile looking at the grounds and outbuildings, including several slave cabins (among them Jackson’s original house on the property, which he turned into slave quarters when he built the big house), and the spring house:
We saw some people pass by who were doing the carriage tour:
We saw some groundhogs run under this building. The kids spent a long time hoping they would come back out:
Ari practiced his photography with the new DSLR he got for his birthday:
And then we stopped by the restaurant for ice cream and shakes and pretended to be on the $20 bill (I’m not sure if it’s bad form to talk about the Harriet Tubman replacement plan at the Hermitage or not):
And that’s all for The Hermitage! I’ll be back with more historic home tours and other architectural excitement from our trip later (and maybe even a post about the deck building process) soon!