I visited the Hermitage last year for the first time. It was my favorite historic site in Nashville. I wanted to share this very special place with Cindy. That in itself is not of particular note but what happen to me on my revisit is.
The house itself has of course remained unchanged. It is locked into a time warp that places it in the last years of Andrew Jackson’s life, after he served his second term in Washington. What came as a big surprise to me was how much I had missed on my first visit.
Begin your visit in the visitor center. You can watch a video that replays every 15 or 20 minutes. This will give you a history lesson on Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage and their times. After the video walk down the hall on your right and head toward the museum. On my previous visit I wasn’t aware that there even was a museum. Along the corridor you will be introduced to a number of the slaves who once lived at the Hermitage. These placards are very interesting as well as informative.
Once inside the museum you will be introduced again to Andrew, his wife Rachel, their adopted son as well as her nephew Andrew Jackson Donnelson. Here you will see artifacts found during archaeological digs on the property, items that belong to the family and a history that takes you beyond the occupation of the house by members of the Jackson family. Allow yourself half hour to forty-five minutes to visit this museum, there is a lot of information there.
After this it’s time to walk up and take your guided tour of the house. This takes about 15 minutes and then you are on your own to explore. I am going to suggest that your first stop be the garden and graveyard. In November needless to say there was nothing blooming but the starkness adds poignancy to the peaceful place.
As we began our tour of the grounds we came upon a trail that led to the Field Quarter Springs and the remains of field quarters that have been discovered. It is a half mile walk and leads to the area where the field hands lived and spent their time off from the fields. The remains of four brick cabins have been found and there are traces of two earlier log cabins in the same area. Some of the items from these excavations have made their way into the museum exhibits at the visitor center. They have shed amazing new light on what the life of the slaves would have been like. One surprising find is that there was little difference between what was found in the field hands cabins and what has been found in the house slaves cabins. All of them have had coins found in their ruins as well as pieces of dishes, marbles, porcelain doll heads and many other items. Life was hard but there was some time for the children to enjoy toys.
On the way back we stopped at the original cabin that Andrew and Rachel lived in. When I was there last year these were not renovated and we could only see them from outside a barrier. All that has been completed and we were able to walk around inside as well as outside.
After you leave the Hermitage turn left and follow the road to the Hermitage Church and Tulip Grove. These are just two additional pieces to the amazing story of Andrew and Rachel Jackson.