Andrew Jackson’s plantation and home 16 miles east of Nashville  is the area’s best historical tourist attraction. The Hermitage (4580 Rachel’s Ln., 615/889-2941, www.thehermitage.com , daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $7–15, family pass $40) is where Jackson retired following his two terms as president of the United States, and it is where he and his beloved wife, Rachel, are buried.
Jackson bought the property in 1809; he and Rachel initially lived in a rustic log cabin, which has since been restored. Jackson first named the home and property Rural Retreat, and later he chose the more poetic name the Hermitage. Jackson ran a successful cotton plantation on the property, owning as many as 150 slaves. In 1819 he and Rachel started construction of what is now the mansion. They moved in in 1821.
In 1831, two years after he became the nation’s seventh president, Jackson expanded the mansion so it was more suitable for presidential entertaining. While Jackson was in Washington, his adopted son, Andrew Jackson Jr., managed the property, and when a chimney fire damaged the house in 1834, Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sarah, saw to its restoration. At the end of Jackson’s second term in office in 1837, he retired to the Hermitage and lived here happily until his death in 1845.
Following President Jackson’s death, the Hermitage remained in family hands until 1853, when it was sold to the State of Tennessee to pay off the family’s debts. It opened as a museum in 1889 and was restored largely due to the persistence of the Ladies Hermitage Association. Because the property never left family hands before it was sold to the State, many of the furnishings are original and even the wallpaper in several rooms dates back to the years when Andrew Jackson called it home.
One major strength of the present-day Hermitage tour and museum is that it focuses not only on Jackson and the construction and decoration of the mansion, but also the African-American slaves who worked at the Hermitage plantation. Curators and archaeologists have studied the Hermitage to learn about the hundreds of men and women who made the Hermitage profitable and successful for so many years.
The tour of the grounds takes visitors to Alfred’s Cabin, a slave cabin occupied until 1901 by former Hermitage slave Alfred Jackson. You also learn about the agriculture that took place on the Hermitage, and can see cotton being cultivated during the summer months. To learn even more about the Hermitage’s slaves, take an add-on wagon tour, offered from April to October.
Visitors to the Hermitage begin with a video about Andrew Jackson and the Hermitage, and can continue on to a museum. You take an audio tour of the grounds, and guided tours are offered of the mansion. You wind up in the gift shop and café. Plan on spending at least three hours here to make the most of your visit. Try to come when the weather is good.