For a president with aggressive and destructive policies and a past as a famous military general, Andrew Jackson had a surprisingly peaceful home life. His plantation, the Hermitage, is a truly unique reflection of his life and his relationship with his wife, Rachel. Together, they lived in a log cabin on the grounds, while additional structures housed the plantation's many enslaved people.
Built in 1819, Jackson's Hermitage sits on about 1,100 acres of still-working farmland, just outside the city center of Nashville, TN. He named his property the Hermitage because he wanted to create a retreat for himself and his family.
At first, the Hermitage may just look like another example of regal Southern architecture, but it holds plenty of secrets, stories, and - given Jackson's legacy and the reality of plantations - ghosts.
The Hermitage Was Full Of The Adopted Children Of The Jacksons
The Jacksons didn't have any biological children, but they still raised a house full of kids. They officially adopted Andrew Jackson Jr. from Rachel's brother; his twin, Thomas Jefferson Donelson, stayed with his parents. The couple also adopted Andrew Jackson Hutchings, whose parents passed when he was very young.
The practice of guardianship was very common at that time. A guardian was named by a child's parents so that, in the event of the father's passing, someone could care for the children (even if the mother was still alive). Andrew Jackson was the guardian or adopted father of around eleven children who lived at the Hermitage at least part-time.
The Hermitage Was Untouched During The Civil War
While other plantation homes in the Nashville area were left scarred by the Civil War, the Hermitage managed to survive intact. The Belle Meade Plantation on the south side of the downtown area was not raided since its owners raised racehorses and not much-needed crops. Other farms in the area were not so lucky.
It's possible the Hermitage was not touched because it was so far out of the way; it sits miles outside of the Nashville city center, and the Union Army didn't spread too far into the countryside.
The Driveway Was Shaped Like A Guitar Long Before Nashville Was Called Music City
The city of Nashville is known for its country music scene and colorful downtown district. But back in 1804, when Andrew Jackson first purchased the land on which he planned to build his plantation, Nashville was just a small frontier town.
The exact reason for the unusual shape of the driveway isn't known. But one possibility is that Andrew and Rachel wanted a long and elegant entryway for visitors, worthy of such a grand home. The guitar shape simply became a fitting coincidence years later.
- Photo: By Bureau of Engraving and Printing; designed by Charles R. Chickering / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The Location Of The Main House Was Rachel Jackson's Idea
There is something slightly different about the Hermitage compared to other Southern plantations; it's a subtle distinction, one most visitors wouldn't even notice. Andrew Jackson wanted, as most homeowners did, to build his regal estate at the top of one of the sloping hills on the property. He wanted a grand view and a lookout point, but his wife wanted a nice shady spot that was located in a lower area of their land.
In the end, Andrew had the mansion built exactly where Rachel requested, which is where the main house still sits.