Belmont Mansion

Belmont Mansion is one of Nashville’s most unique and beautiful landmarks. The building has a rich history that is sure to impress visitors.

Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen, widow of the founder of the largest slave trading firm in the US, built this imposing home with her second husband Joseph Acklen as a summer estate. The 177-acre property was designed in Italian villa style and had lush gardens, conservatories, a water tower, a lake, and a zoo. Read this first!


The 20,000-square-foot Belmont Mansion was constructed between 1849 and 1860 using the labor of both enslaved Black people and White contractors. It was the largest house built in Tennessee prior to the Civil War and was designed in Italian villa style with elaborate gardens and grounds. A water tower to irrigate the property was in place along with conservatories, an art gallery, gazebos, and even a zoo.

Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham was a wealthy widow who used her considerable fortune to build a summer home for her and her second husband Joseph Acklen in Nashville, Tennessee. The 177-acre estate was designed as an escape from their Louisiana cotton plantation and included a large lake, aviary, zoo, and original iron gazebos.

During the Civil War, Belmont was occupied for only two weeks by Union soldiers and remained undamaged. However, it was sold shortly after the war, and in 1890 opened as a women’s academy and later merged with Ward’s Seminary to become Belmont College. Today, the mansion is operated by Belmont University and is a historic site open to the public for tours.

Art Collection

With an innate passion for antiques and plenty of fine arts savvy, Mark Brown says he’s living his dream job as the director of Belmont Mansion. Originally named Belle Monte, Italian for “beautiful mountain,” this lavish 180-acre Nashville estate was built between 1849 and 1853 by Adelicia Acklen and her second husband Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen as their summer home.

It was a place to entertain, and it was meant to be as grand as possible. Adelicia was one of the wealthiest Southern women of her time. The widow of a Louisiana planter and slave trader, she inherited large amounts of money, land, and enslaved people upon his death.

Her home featured a variety of interior decor, including the Grand Salon, which was added in 1860 by Prussian-born engineer/architect Adolphus Heiman. It’s considered one of the most elaborate domestic interiors built in antebellum Tennessee. Visit another area in town here.


The large soaring stair dividing the front entry hall, from left to right, rises gracefully to a center landing. The slender white balusters, mahogany rail, and dark oak treads and stringers form a delightful composition.

The stair leads to the upper levels of the home and provides access to a cupola that the family used for observation. It was from this vantage point that William Acklen witnessed the Battle of Nashville during the Civil War.

Adelicia loved to display her art, and her staircase reflects her passion for showing off her wealth, power, and position. She even had a marble sculpture sculpted by Rome-based American sculptor William Henry Rinehart, entitled Sleeping Children, to honor her twin daughters who died in 1855 of scarlet fever. Today the Belmont Mansion — also known as Belle Monte — is a part of the Belmont University campus. Its gardens, aviary, water tower, and the original iron gazebo are open to visitors for tours.

Ruth Gleaning Statue

Adelicia Acklen’s devotion to art and culture is apparent throughout the Belmont Mansion. She even took great pains to decorate her home in a style that reflected her values.

One of the most prominent pieces of statuary is Ruth Gleaning, a statue by Randolph Rogers. It depicts the biblical figure of Ruth as she gleans grain in preparation for Boaz. It is neoclassical in style and features naturalistic elements such as leaves and sheaves of grain at the base.

During Adelicia’s lifetime, visitors entered through the Front Entry Hall and saw the statue of Ruth Gleaning as they made their way inside. It moved from its original position to the bay window of the Grand Salon sometime between 1898 and 1900.

The Belmont Mansion tour doesn’t hide the fact that slavery was a major part of this plantation’s history. However, it isn’t able to show visitors the exact quarters where the 32 enslaved people lived and worked because they were changed or demolished within decades after the Civil War. Next article.



Driving directions from Allegiance to Belmont Mansion

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