Presidential Residences

 

Many years ago, our family relocated from Fort Worth to Chapel Hill. I drove Interstate 40 across the beautiful state of Tennessee three times. While staying halfway in Nashville, I noticed signs for the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, just east of the city. So this time, I vowed to stop…And I was glad I did.

Jackson was a self-made man who found a calling within the Tennessee National Guard. He then gained noteriety as the commanding General at the Battle Of New Orleans. His movement into politics culminated with election as the seventh U. S. President. Jackson was known as the President of the common people, and anyone who was a fan of The West Wing remembers the stories of Jackson’s “ block of cheese,” that prompted people to visit the White House and mingle with their elected officials.

Jackson’s home was a working plantation. Prior to his presidency, the home was a simple two-story block of a home. Upon his return, wings on either side and the pillar facade were added. Similarly to other presidential estates, Jackson built a library to host important guests, read current newspapers, and write correspondence. These guests entered only by invitation and through their own door into the office. The other wing was used for the business of running the plantation.

Andrew Jackson remained a man of the people in retirement…He and his wife had constant visitors and rarely dined alone. The dining room had a table for 12, but could easily be expanded to 25. “The General,” the title he preferred, dined at the middle of the table, so I can sit next to women on both sides. But I thought this was another example of Jackson’s fondness for being surrounded by “ the people.”

There is much discussion during the tour about the slaves that worked the plantation. Jackson was a staunch Unionist, and deflected all discussion of secession during his tenure…However, hundreds of slaves worked the plantation in very difficult life conditions. One of the pics above is the grave of the General’s house slave, who was later freed and worked about 40 acres of the plantation until his death. He asked to be buried adjacent to General Jackson and was granted his wish.

This tour, as was also the case at Monticello, not only allows the visitor to tour a residence, but also provides glimpses of the man who guided the growth of our country for a brief historical span… A Visit well worth the time if you are passing through Tennesse.

After leaving Nashville, I continued down I-40 to Greensboro, NC and north to DC. There, I picked up my granddaughter, Amelia, and visited Mount Vernon, the estate of our first President, George Washington. Mount Vernon was actually the estate of Grorge’s brother, Lawrence. General Washington acquired it in 1754, after his service in the French & Indian War. We all know he was pressed back into service, and Mount Vernon became his retirement home, once again, in 1797. Similar to Jackson, the Washingtons expanded the home and oversaw a working plantation. In fact, Mount Vernon was one of four agricultural farms under their ownership. The plantations were worked by slaves, the majority freed at Martha’s death. A couple of interesting points: George maintained a lawn at the entrance…While commonplace today, lawns in the 1700s were a serious status symbol…George didn’t have any power mowers.  The other really cool feature of Mount Vernon is it’s location…The pic above shows the view out the back porch of the Patomic River…Absolutely stunning!!!  The Washingtons strove for self sufficiency…Martha believed that the greatest thing about living in the country was the growing of vegetables. They didn’t quite make it to full independence as George’s three attempts at starting a winery failed.  One more interesting tidbit, the film telling the story of their romance showed Martha continuously beating George at Chess.

Mount Vernon is a little more understated than the Hermitage or Monticello, but the Visitor’s Center requires hours to do it right

So two Presidential residences in three days…It’s good to be retired!!!

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