The Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville was founded by John Harding in 1807. “Belle Meade” means "beautiful meadow" in both French and old English. Originally, the property was only 250 acres with one log cabin. The plantation quickly grew into a thoroughbred horse farm that spans 5,400 acres and includes a Greek Revival Mansion, train station, rock quarry, and deer park.
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Today, the plantation retains thirty-four acres of the original property and many outbuilding, including the original homestead and mansion. Belle Meade Plantation now serves as a resource to educate visitors about the Victorian architecture of Tennessee, equestrian history, and the history of the plantation. In addition to tours, visitors can enjoy dining, wine tastings, shopping, educational outreach programs, and other events.
The Belle Meade Plantation is representative of several architectural styles of the nineteenth century. The first owner of the plantation, General William G. Harding, had a fondness for design and architecture and typically chose the latest trends in architectural design for his estate. The original two-story plantation house was constructed in the 1820's in the Federal style. The house originally had red bricks and was built on a limestone foundation, and flanked by two one-story wings. William Giles Harding later made some additions to the house in the 1840's, updated the building to a Greek-Revival style.
A visit to Belle Meade Plantation features a tour through the beautiful Greek-Revival mansion, led by trained and costumed guides. The ticket to the plantation also includes admission to the several other historic buildings throughout the grounds of the plantation. Among these buildings are a carriage house, log cabin, horse stable, dairy, mausoleum, and gardens. After the plantation tour, visitors can enjoy a free wine tasting at the winery or enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant.
The Belle Meade Plantation also includes a permanent collection of original possessions of the Harding-Jackson family. The collection features priceless family photographs and documents, including photographs of William Taft and the family from his visit in 1908, a note from 1862 to Andrew Johnson from Elizabeth Harding, and engraved paper bookplates created in 1900 by Tiffany and Company. There are also many coin silver pieces once owned by William G. Harding, most of which were won as trophies in the 1850's and 1860's for showing cattle, sheep, cashmere goats, and thoroughbreds. Several of these silver pieces were created by Tennessee silversmiths.
The mansion's main hall is decorated with paintings of thoroughbred horses that depict the most famous horses of General Jackson and General Harding. These paintings were created by a few of the nineteenth century's most talented equine painters, such as Henry Stull, Harry Hall, and Edward Troye. Several of the oldest furniture pieces in the Belle Meade Plantation's mansion were built in Tennessee and the southeast region from 1810 to 1830, including the dining room's 1820 southern sugar chest, and an original cherry bookcase and federal style secretary in the library.
110 Leake Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee, Phone: 615-356-0501