If you’ve ever seen a $20 bill, you’ve seen one of Nashville’s most famous (and infamous) faces: Andrew Jackson. The Hermitage, his stately Southern plantation home, was built in 1788 when Jackson moved to Tennessee and became a prosecuting attorney before becoming our nation’s 7th president. Jackson served as the state’s first congressman and gained public acclaim after the War of 1812 as the general who led American troops in the Battle of New Orleans. It was his role in that battle that helped him win the presidency in 1828 and again in 1832.
All tours of his home start with a video, “Born for a Storm,” which succeeds in adding some much-needed context to Jackson’s legacy—he was, as most of his time were, a proponent of slavery, and the Hermitage does a fair job of telling Jackson’s story with nuance and not painting him as blameless or revered. Though the Hermitage now displays a classic Greek Revival facade, this is its third incarnation. Originally built in the Federal style in 1821, it was expanded and remodeled in 1831 and 1836. Recordings that describe each room and grounds accompany tours through the mansion and around it, and there are options to listen to stories about Jackson, his wife Rachel (the most interesting tidbits for my money), or a kid-friendly tour, in addition to VIP options for serious history lovers who want to ask questions along the way one-on-one. In addition to the main house, you can also visit the kitchen (where interesting period-correct cooking demos take place), the smokehouse, the garden, Jackson’s grave, three slave cabins (including Alfred’s Cabin, named for a formerly enslaved man who lived in it as a free man until his death in 1901), and the springhouse (a storage house built over a spring that utilizes its natural cooling properties). Actor reenactments and “duels” are fun for young kids, and the ghost tours are good enough to engage adventurous teens.
The Hermitage is 15 miles from downtown, so it’s not going to merit a trip for everyone. The house itself is beautiful with sumptuously designed rooms, ornate fixtures, and a hand-painted wallpaper mural depicting themes from Greek mythology that Rachel had imported from France (for interior designers, this will be worth the trip alone). If you do go, go right when it opens to avoid the heat and lines, and make a beeline for the house—they only let in 20 or so people at a time, and the lines stack up quickly, so knock that out early and then wander the grounds. Allow 3 hours.