Belmont Mansion or also known as Acklen Hall is a historic mansion in Nashville, Tennessee. It was originally known as Belle Monte, Belle Mont, or Belmont. This mansion was built between the years 1849 and 1853 by Joseph and Adelicia Acklen to serve as the center of their 180-acre summer estate. Through the years, Belmont Mansion has been the summer home for Nashville socialite Adelicia Acklen and her family.
AdeliciaAcklen was the richest woman in Tennessee. She was a plantation owner in her own right after the death of her first husband, Isaac Franklin in 1846. Isaac Franklin was a successful slave trader and he had used his wealth to buy many plantations, lands, and slaves in Tennessee and Louisiana.
After Isaac Franklin’s death, Adelicia Franklin inherited the Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tennessee. Her inheritance also includes the four cotton plantations in Louisiana, more than fifty thousand acres of undeveloped land in Texas, stocks and bonds, and as well as 750 slaves who had high value in the South. That is the reason why she became the wealthiest woman in Tennessee.
In 1849, Adelicia married Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen. They built the Belmont Mansion together outside of Nashville for use as a summer estate. It’s complete with gardens and a zoo. Adelicia and Joseph had six children. In 1863, Joseph died.
Adelicia, later on, married Dr. William Archer Cheatham, head of the State Insane Asylum and a physician. However, she grew dissatisfied with their marriage and chose to move to Washington, DC and lived at 1776 Massachusetts Avenue.
Acklen Cheatham sold the Belmont Mansion in Nashville in 1887. After that, it was used as a girls’ academy and was eventually developed as Belmont University. In 1880, she leased and then sold the plantations in Louisiana, and the state bought four of them in 1901.
AdeliciaAcklen died on May 4, 1887,at the age of seventy on a shopping trip in New York City. She was buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Belmont During the Civil War
Belmont Mansion was the scene for many preparations for the Battle of Nashville which happened on December 15 and 16, 1864. The outbreak of the Civil War alters the Acklens’ lives forever as Adelicia begins to live at Belmont year round.
The Belmont Mansion was undamaged during the Civil War despite a two-week occupation by Union General Thomas J. Wood prior to the Battle of Nashville. Only its grounds suffered damage because that is where 13,000 union troops spend those first two weeks of December 1864. The occupation by the 4th Corps of the Federal Army leads to the destruction of multiple buildings, landscaped grounds, fences, and stone walls.
Slavery at Belmont Mansion
Slavery is often associated with large plantations but even though Adelicia’s Belmont was not a plantation, it still relied on a large number of enslaved workers to take care of the estate.
Researching the lives of Belmont’s enslaved residents is difficult because of a variety of factors. In 1889, the basement of Belmont that served as the central workspace for many enslaved persons was remodeled with no care given to historic conservation. In 1890, all the slaves’ quarters were destroyed, leaving no physical presence for interpretation.
According to the 1860 slave census, there were a total of 691 slaves in West Feliciana and Belmont, and 32 of them are in Belmont. The age of slaves ranged from 1 to 45.
Visiting Belmont Mansion
Belmont Mansion is one of the most elaborate eighteenth-century homes in the South. It has 36 rooms and stands on 19,000 square feet. The whole Belmont estate boasted such luxuries and lavish gardens, conservatory, aviary, lake, and a zoo. The conservatories kept tropical fruit and flowers together with jasmine, lilies, Camellia japonica, and cacti. The zoo featured animals such as singing birds, alligators, bears, monkeys, peacocks, a white owl, and a deer park. Beside the house, there’s a T-shaped guest house and an art gallery. The south wing of the guest house has guestrooms and a bowling alley.
In the late 19th century, the estate was sold to Lewis T. Baxter for around $54,000 and since 1890, it has been used for educational functions. It was used as a girls’ academy which later on became Belmont College and now Belmont University.
Today, it operates as a house museum and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971. It is being maintained by the Belmont Mansion Association through admissions, event fundraisers, venue rentals, and as well as individual and company donations.
Belmont Mansion is internationally recognized as an exceptional example of Victorian home life. The Belmont Mansion Association aims to ensure that the original beauty of Belmont Mansion and the rich legacy of Adelicia Acklen are alive, relevant, and remarkably presented to visitors from all over the world.
If you want to visit Belmont Mansion, it is located on Belmont Boulevard and Acklen Avenue Nashville, TN. It is open from 10 am to 4 pm every Mondays to Saturdays and from 11 am to 4 pm on Sundays. Tours in Belmont Mansion begin every half hour and the last tour begins at 3:30 pm. Belmont Mansion is one of the most beautiful house museums you can visit in Nashville.