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Belmont Mansion

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Belmont Mansion, Nashville, Tennessee

Belmont Mansion, Nashville, Tennessee
The Belmont Mansion was built in 1853 as a summer home for Joseph & Adelicia Acklen. It is the largest house museum in Tennessee and one of the few nineteenth century homes whose history revolves around the life of a woman: Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham.

Adelicia was born on March 15, 1817, into a prominent Nashville family. At the age of 22, Adelicia married her first husband, Isaac Franklin, a wealthy businessman and plantation owner who was 28 years her senior. Isaac Franklin and Adelicia had four children together, all of whom died before the age of 11. After seven years of marriage, Isaac Franklin died unexpectedly of a stomach virus while visiting one of his plantations in Louisiana. As a result of his death, Adelicia inherited a huge estate including: 8,700 acres of cotton plantations in Louisiana; Fairvue, a 2,000-acre farm in Tennessee; more than 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in Texas; stocks and bonds; and 750 slaves. In 1846, at the age of 29, Adelicia Franklin was independently wealthy, worth about $1 million. On May 8, 1849, Adelicia remarried, to Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, a Mexican War hero and a lawyer from Huntsville, Alabama. Together they built Belmont Mansion (originally named Belle Monte), completing construction in 1853.

Belmont Mansion was built in the style of an Italian villa and was set amidst elaborate gardens. There were numerous outbuildings, including the water tower, which still stands, that provided irrigation for the gardens and supplied water for the fountains. In front of the water tower stood a two-hundred-foot long greenhouse and a conservatory. Also on the grounds were an art gallery, gazebos (still standing today), a bowling alley, a bear house, and a zoo. Adelicia Acklen opened the estate to the citizens of Nashville to enjoy the zoo, as no public zoos existed at the time.

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