Life on the Plantation
Nashville’s complicated history may just be most evident at the Belle Meade Plantation. In the early 1800s, farmer and businessman John Harding purchased 200 acres of land in Nashville and eventually erected a Greek revival mansion and a fully-operational farm. At the site, he began an extensive thoroughbred boarding and breeding program as well. Harding was also one of the largest slaveholders in the city. His son, William Giles Harding, took over the plantation in 1839, and by 1860 the plantation stretched to 3500 acres, manned by 136 enslaved people. Belle Meade (which means “beautiful meadow”) remains a beautiful site with an ugly past—an ideal location to contemplate the country’s history and contemporary politics.
To get the most out of the experience, consider taking one of the plantation’s organized daily tours. A costumed guide will discuss the history of the mansion as you walk through, and you’ll gain access to the site’s other buildings (a dairy, horse stable, carriage house, mausoleum, gardens, and logo cabin are also on premises). Finally, you’ll be able to unwind at a free wine tasting at Belle Meade’s winery. Founded in 2009 to support the rest of Belle Meade, the winery offers Muscadine and blackberry wines in addition to your more traditional reds and whites. If you’re visiting with a group, you can also arrange special themed tours—culinary, lunch, lemonade, etc.