Belle Meade Passes 200-Year Mark
Horses have been associated with Belle Meade throughout its 200-year history.*
By Susan J. Young
Belle Meade Plantation, 5025 Harding Rd., Nashville, commemorated its 200th birthday in 2007 and is starting on its third century this year.
It all began in 1807 when Virginian John Harding (portrait below) bought a log cabin and 250 acres along the Natchez Trace, a foot trail originally created by Native Americans.
John Harding, the plantation's founder (at left) and the 200th Anniversary logo (at right).*
Over the years, the Harding homestead expanded into a 5,400-acre plantation and thoroughbred horse farm. In fact, Belle Meade’s horse-breeding operation dates to 1816.
Even President Andrew Jackson boarded his horses at Belle Meade. Horseracing fans will appreciate that such thoroughbred legends as Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Barbaro boasted bloodlines traceable to Belle Meade’s breeding stock. In addition, Iroquois (shown below), the first American horse to win the English Darby, was bred at Belle Meade.
Iroquois, winner of the English Darby, was bred at Belle Meade.*
Mansion and More
The current plantation mansion was built by General Williams Giles Harding in 1853. During the Battle of Nashville in 1864, Union and Confederate troops skirmished in its front yard. Today’s visitors can still find evidence of the many bullets that riddled the mansion’s stone columns.
The family moved off property at the beginning of the 20th century due to difficult economic conditions. In 1953, the Belle Meade mansion and its outbuildings were deeded to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. Today, the site is managed by that association’s Nashville chapter.
Visitors can explore the 30-acre property and tour the antebellum mansion, frontier log cabin and multiple outbuildings year-round. Regular admission is $11 for adults, $10 for those 65 and older, $5 for kids 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under.
Fall Fest and New Walking Tour
During the fall, the plantation hosts an antique and crafts show. Visitors may learn more about antiques at on-site seminars. They’ll also view fine relics, quality crafts and antique cars.
Last year, Belle Meade debuted a 45-minute guided walking tour entitled “Landscape & Horticulture of Belle Meade Plantation.”
The excursion, offered three times a day each Thursday, Friday and Saturday, focuses on the plantation’s indigenous plants and trees. Admission, including the mansion tour, costs $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $6 for kids 6 to 12. Younger kids are admitted free.
For More Information
Interested in Belle Meade? Then call 615-356-0501 or check out the virtual tour at www.bellemeadeplantation.com. Online surfers can get a sense of the mansion, dairy, slave cabin, mausoleum, gardens and carriage house.
*The photos above are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau or Belle Meade Plantation. All rights reserved. Please do not link to these photos nor copy them. Thank you.