There are many presidential residences to explore throughout the United States, each one honoring a person who made a difference in our nation’s history. These residences stand as memorials, with the purpose of preserving the memories of the historic figure who once dwelt there. The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, Tennessee, is one such place, showcasing the contributions of the “People’s President” for millions of annual visitors. The country estate is an exciting destination for locals and tourists alike, as The Hermitage is one of those unique museums where history comes alive.
History Comes Alive at The Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee
The Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee, is unlike any historical property I’ve seen before. The property is expansive, with 35 historic buildings and structures throughout its 1,120 acres, so bring a good pair of walking shoes. I didn’t know a lot about President Andrew Jackson before visiting The Hermitage, but I happened to arrive the week they announced he was being moved to the back of the $20 bill. You can imagine that was quite a popular topic of conversation, but the more I learned about the man, the more I realized everyone should visit The Hermitage and learn exactly what President Andrew Jackson was all about.
The Hermitage is one of the oldest and largest historical home sites in the United States. The huge estate is quite imposing as you drive up to the property. Parking is plentiful in the main lot and tickets are available from the Visitor’s Center (or on-line in advance). I would recommend heading to the “Born for A Storm” exhibit upon arrival before heading out to tour the mansion and grounds. The exhibit tells the story of Andrew Jackson’s rise from humble beginnings, becoming an orphan at age 14, to eventually becoming the President. The exhibit is extremely interactive and features many personal artifacts that belonged to President Jackson, including his sword, clothing, and coach. President Jackson lived during a very complicated time period in our nation’s history. The museum does a very balanced job of explaining President Jackson’s role in various events and how he really pushed the boundaries for a man living during that time.
The Mansion and Grounds
In 1804 Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel bought the farm that was to become “The Hermitage” from his neighbor Nathaniel Hays. There was a small farmhouse they lived in until the mansion was completed in 1821. The original structure was a was a brick, Federal-style house, but a fire heavily damaged it in 1834. When they redesigned the mansion, they transformed the façade to appear as a Greek temple by adding six, two-story columns across the front porch. Andrew Jackson presided from The Hermitage for the duration of his presidency and you can see his office on the tour.
Unfortunately his wife Rachel passed away within a month of his taking office in 1828. They never had children, but had raised Rachel’s nephew as their own. His name was Andrew Jackson, Jr. Within five years of Jackson’s death in 1845, his son has spent the family fortune, so the state stepped in and purchased The Hermitage in 1855. The Hermitage was given to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association (LHA) in 1889 and these women opened it to the public for tours later that year. The Hermitage is still maintained by the LHA today and is considered by many to be the best preserved early U.S. Presidential home. Over 95% of the home’s contents are original to the home and Jackson family. Since it opened in 1889, The Hermitage has welcomed approximately 20 million visitors from around the world.
In addition to the mansion, visitors can tour Rachel’s garden, Jackson’s tomb, the slave quarters, and many other buildings on the property. There are audio tours available for adults and a special version for kids. Horse drawn wagons also make tours of the grounds and interpreters lead tours of the mansion.
The Hermitage is unique in that it offers many living history events throughout the year. One of the ones I found interesting was the Junior Docent Program, where Tennessee students dress in period costume, learn facts abut the history of the property and interact with visitors. There are various tours including sunset wagon tours, architecture tours, and ghost tours, which are quite popular. The Hermitage also hosts Vintage Base ball games, Fall Fest, and holiday tours which I know would be a hit with my kids.
American Heritage Chocolate Experience
The Hermitage also hosts occasional events such as the American Heritage Chocolate Experience.
American Heritage Chocolate has partnered with many historical properties around the country to share the history of chocolate with visitors and I was able to experience a demonstration at The Hermitage. During the demonstration we learned about the harvesting of cacao plants, the roasting of the beans, and the grinding of the nibs on the heated metate. Everything was hands on and the Chocolate History Research Manager (yes, such a job exists) gave a complete demonstration of the pods, beans, and tools. I think my kids would find this fascinating.
Chocolate was brought to the United States in the early 1700s and primarily enjoyed as a drink during colonial times. The demonstration included samples of the chocolate drink and it has a very unique flavor. The American Heritage Chocolate is made from a 1750s recipe and includes spices that would have been used during the time Andrew Jackson would have lived. Flavors of citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of red pepper tickle the tongue and are delicious. Made of 63% cacao, American Heritage Chocolate is made with all natural ingredients and no preservatives. This chocolate tasted quite unlike the milk and dark chocolate samples that were provided. I actually don’t think I can eat milk chocolate again because I now find it too sweet.
These chocolate demonstrations take place at historic properties across the country and for a limited time you can buy the American Heritage Chocolate at your local Cracker Barrel. The chocolate can be eaten by itself, as a drink, or used in many different recipes as a replacement for semi-sweet chocolate. Experiencing the demonstration at The Hermitage really put the history of chocolate into perspective and I could envision President Jackson sipping warm chocolate on his front porch.
The Hermitage is the perfect place for families to experience hands on history. From the interactive exhibits, to seeing President Jackson’s possessions in their original home, to tours that make learning fun. No visitor will be bored on their first visit to The Hermitage, they will only wonder when they can return again.
Looking for more Nashville fun? Check out 5 Fun Things to Do in Nashville and Movies & Travel: Live Your Fantasy Through Set-Jetting