2012 AHS Convention Optional Tours

Wednesday, June 13th

Optional Tour #1- Gardens of Nashville: Cheekwood, a private garden & The Parthenon

Cheekwood:  The history and origin of Cheekwood are intimately interwoven with the growth of Nashville, the Maxwell House coffee brand and the Cheeks, one of the city's early entrepreneurial families. Christopher T. Cheek moved to Nashville in the 1880's and founded a wholesale grocery business. Subsequently, a family member developed a superior blend of coffee that was marketed through the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville.   (While staying there, Teddy Roosevelt is said to have declared the coffee to be “good to the last drop.”)  In 1928, Postum (General Foods) purchased the coffee’s parent company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $40 million.

Landscape architect, Bryant Fleming, designed, built and furnished the house and also designed the landscaping.  Completed in 1932, the Georgian-style limestone mansion with extensive formal gardens was inspired by the grandeur of 18th C.  English houses.   A large wisteria arbor overlooks the formal plantings and a reflection pool with statues of Thalia and Urania.  The original Cheek gardens included a woodland stream, pools, fountains, and a stone grotto.  Although a green garden when occupied by the Cheeks, it is now planted with localized areas of color. The mansion is currently used as a museum for the permanent collections, which include carvings of William Edmonson, and special exhibitions. Ever changing color is provided year round in the various garden plantings of shrubs, trees and perennials. Daylily enthusiasts will want to visit the Peck Daylily Collection.  Special features include the Herb Study Garden, Japanese Garden and Howe Wildflower Garden, originally started in the 1920’s and moved to Cheekwood, along with its stone tool shed, rock wall and garden ornaments in 1969.  The Woodland Sculpture Trail encompasses 0.9 miles combining contemporary sculptures, eastern red cedar, Osage orange, native shagbark, persimmon, sassafras and other natives. To learn more click.

Home Farm One of the most interesting tours is the Home Farm. Here they grow a huge variety of plants using the hydroponic method. You will learn how to grow vegetables and other plants right in your home. You will also get into all the intricacies of this business. One of the most effective ways to grow food at home is with indoor hydroponics systems.

PrivateGarden:The house and garden were renovated in 1987 with Ben Page, Landscape Architect overseeing the garden.  Engulfing the senses in an experience of garden elegance from sunroom to courtyard, elements of architectural formality were replicated from house to garden to create seamless transitions.  Today, perennial beds surround the pool area, and a mature hedge of Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle’ borders a dividing wall with Keiffer and Bartlett espalier pear trees decorating the opposite side of the wall.  ‘Old Blush’ and ‘New Dawn’ roses climb over the wall and a climbing ‘Cecile Brunner’ graces a pergola.   A white picket fence surrounds the cutting garden behind the pool house.  The fence is adorned by a magnificent ‘Seven Sisters’ climbing rose (the rootstock for many hybridized climbing roses) which was transplanted from the gardens of the owner’s great grandmother. The foundational structure of this garden provides “an airy backdrop of texture, shape, and size against which herbaceous plantings thoughtfully arrive in spring” (Fine Gardening Spring/Summer 2007).   

The Parthenon and Athena Statue: The Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park in Nashville.  The re-created  statue of Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Athens. Originally built for Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the ancient Parthenon serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Greek Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C., the originals of which are housed in the British Museum.  The Nashville Parthenon was rebuilt (1921-1931) as a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon with one large exception. The colossal statue of Athena from ancient times was not in this replica. In 1982, Alan LeQuire was commissioned to build a full-scale replica of Athena Parthenos.  Athena was cast out of gypsum cement in many molds and assembled inside the Parthenon with each section being attached to a steel armature for support. Ten years later, 23.75 karat gold leaf was applied to the statue. Nashville's Athena is 41' 10" tall, making her the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World.  She weighs approximately 12 tons.  The statue of Nike in Athena's right hand stands 6'4" tall.  The Parthenon’s bronze doors are the largest set of matching bronze doors in the world.  To learn more click.


Option Tour #2 - “Civil War Sites in Franklin, TN” - Carnton Plantation and the Carter House. (Franklin Battlefield Trust Properties)

 Most individuals have heard about the Battle of Gettysburg, but few, other than Civil War Historians are aware of the Battle of Franklin, TN.  Fought on a cold November 30, 1864, the battle was devastating for the Confederate forces (over 6,000 men killed) and the citizens of Franklin did not talk of it for years.  Both the Union and Confederate forces relied on Middle Tennessee farms for produce and livestock, a need that prevented either from destroying antebellum properties.  Carnton was built in 1826 by Randal McGavock, and President Andrew Jackson was a frequent visitor.  The garden is thought to have been a design of Andrew Jackson Downing who is known for his design of Central Park in NYC. One of his design traditions was “brick lined gravel paths” and during excavation work at Carnton shards of brick and pebbles were found.  The garden is currently planted as an 1860 period garden with vegetables, herbs and perennials.  

 John and Carrie McGavock were the owners of Carnton at the time of the Civil War.  The Widow of the South, a New York Times best-selling novel by Robert Hicks, presents the battle through the eyes of Carrie McGavock and is a good “read” in preparation for this tour.  The bodies of four Confederate Generals were laid on Carnton’s back porch and the floors still show blood stains from the past.  In 1866, Carrie McGavock oversaw the removal of bodies from the places they fell and reburial near the family cemetery. 

 Through restoration efforts, Carnton has been transformed. Wall paper matched to the original found hanging in the attic is again prominently displayed.   Period furniture, including pieces belonging to the McGavock’s, window treatment and floor coverings transport  today’s visitors back to the grandeur of  the house in 1864.  

 The Carter House was located in the center of the Union position.  The house and outbuildings still show bullet holes from the battle.  Family and neighbors rode out the battle in the basement of the house.  It has been restored and furnished as it would have been in 1864. To lean more click .