Fencepost @ The Hermitage
A few weekends ago, when The Coach’s football season came to a crashing halt thanks to a nine-point loss in the first round of the state playoffs, we knew it was time to get the heck out of Sorta’ Cosmopolitan. With the exception of my up and back trip to a state conference, it had been months since we had managed to get out of town. In fact, the last time we were away from home was back in July when we embarked on our “Great American Road Trip” through Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and the southeastern corner of Montana.
It was definitely time to get away.
Of course, somewhere along the line, we had managed to acquire the Tenure Puppy. Since she was too little to board, we knew that an overnighter was out of the question. Instead, we popped the puppy in the bathroom with her puppy pad, water, and lots of toys, loaded up the Mustang and drove south to the sunnier Southern city of Nashville. Our mission? To visit The Hermitage and do a little Christmas shopping at Opry Mills.
We had been meaning to visit The Hermitage for a while now, but other locations in Nashville had distracted us on previous visits: the Country Music Hall of Fame, a concert at the Ryman, a football bowl game, a boat ride on the General Jackson Showboat. Heck, we even took a trip out to the Stones River National Battlefield. This time, however, we made a pact: We’d start out at The Hermitage and work our way back to our shopping and dinner locations. That way, we’d be sure to a decent amount of time at the historic site, seeing how it was going to cost us $15 each (AAA discount) to get into the mansion.
Talk about Timing
Renovations underway at The Hermitage
Like all of our family trips, we had a bit of a surprise when we got to Nashville. It wasn’t as bad as having our car die in Bonnaroo traffic (which happened on our way back from Florida) or getting rerouted around a nasty car wreck near Mammoth Cave (which happened during one of the hottest days of the summer when I had two cats and a dog in the car with me and the car conditioning pooped out on me). It wasn’t even as bad as the summer my folks tried to take us to the Statue of Liberty, only to find out that it was closed for renovations. No, this was relatively minor by comparison. You see, we managed to arrive at The Hermitage when it was under renovation! Of course, the people running the site put a positive spin on it, posting the following sign:
During the fall and winter you’ll have the unique opportunity to see restoration work underway at the Hermitage mansion and at three historic log buildings. Our historical interpreters will tell you all about the work and the history of these buildings. At times, access to areas around these buildings will be limited for your safety. We appreciate your understanding as we strive to better preserve the home of President Andrew Jackson.”
Aside from making it impossible to get a scaffolding-free picture of the front of the mansion, we didn’t have too many problems. Plus, as you can tell from the picture to the left, the site could use a little TLC. That the problem with wood in the humid south — it tends to rot and it’s a pain in the behind to keep paint on it.
We arrived at the mansion and ended up getting a great deal of personal attention because there were only two other people on the tour. The house is amazing inside: the wallpaper – a massive mural that depicted themes from Greek mythology – made it worth the trip. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Plus, unlike many other sites, pretty much everything in the mansion had actually belonged to Andrew Jackson. The only downside was that you couldn’t take pictures inside the building and you could only look through Plexiglas into the climate-controlled rooms.
The View from the Back Porch
You can tell the fall leaves were past their peak.
Sadly, no one on the tour – except The Coach – understood my Big Block of Cheese Day references. Maybe they didn’t watch West Wing when it was on the air? Maybe the cheese reference would have worked better in the actual White House? Maybe I am just too smart for my own good? Who knows?
After walking through the mansion, we popped out the back door and headed out to the work yard to see the smokehouse, the kitchen, and the storeroom. We even got to see the poo-poo scraper sitting by the back steps. You know, I could have used one of those, but it looked too heavy to stuff in my purse. (LOL) Eventually, we walked out the gate by the bell, passed the “Lady’s Necessity,” and through the formal English garden to the Tomb of Andrew and Rachel. [I have a picture of this on Flickr, but can’t post it here because The Coach was in the photo. Ah, anonymity!] Geez, I feel like I have spent a great deal of time viewing the graves of dead presidents — Kennedy, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and now Jackson. Does that make me creepy?
One last note: Can we really say that Andrew Jackson was a great man? Granted, he did a lot for the “common man” (read: white man), but he was still a slave owner in the South. Granted, he was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (Does the War of 1812 ring any bells?), but he was also the same man who supported the forcible removal of the Native Americans.
Maybe he was a great man, but a good man? Probably not.
Of course, the last thing we saw at The Hermitage was the sign designating it a “certified historic site” on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Ah, Sarah Vowell, we could have used your commentary while standing there, mouths open, laughing at the irony of it all.
Originally Published: November 27, 2009