Thursday, November 14, 2013

Preservation Sheet On "The Original Hermitage" of President Andrew Jackson

The Original Hermitage 

:Taylor Speer-Sims
 HIST84804 Readings in American History: Historic Preservation
University of Nebraska - Kearney
Master's in History Program:
(I have to be honest here. I did my best, but still didn't have a clue what I was doing. While it is not great, there are some great facts about the Original Hermitage that I do not think aren't anywhere else. So, if you are interested in Andrew Jackson, you will still get some good info if you look past the bad points.)

   July 12, 2013                     


Introduction                                                                                                                       2.
Data Sheet Information                                                                                                       3.
Description of Appearance                                                                                                  5.
Statement of Significance                                                                                                   8.
Conclusion                                                                                                                      13.
Bibliography                                                                                                                    15.       
Appendix                                                                                                                        17.

President Andrew Jackson had many homes, even in Tennessee. The one celebrated currently is the museum mansion, The Hermitage. Many people visit this home for different reasons. Unfortunately many of these guests do not walk the rest of the property, but are only there for the mansion.[1] What they miss, if they do not continue on, is The Original Hermitage. This one-story log cabin is not as exciting as the big house, unless you know about its history. This unassuming structure should be listed on the National Register of Historic properties separately from the mansion, and this paper reflects that argument.

The property currently is in the middle of the plantation property of The Hermitage. The Original Hermitage and one other building, which was the kitchen are the only that remain from the original settlement compound. There were definitely three original buildings, and another possible one that has not been confirmed. What can currently be seen is a little more one-half of the original eighteenth century home. While it is smack dab in the center of the current farm, the initial buildings, surrounding archaeological site, and the other possible location, should be considered to include one-half an acre for preservation purposes.

The following includes the basic information needed for the application for nomination. There is the address, which includes the county and state. There is also information about the house itself, but does not include information about the kitchen, the foundation that was archaeologically proven to have been another slave house in the vicinity. It also does not include information on the location that may have been another building. While there are references to them, they are only there to support the qualifications to The Original Hermitage’s application.

Information is also given on what the log cabin currently looks like, along with basic data on what is the proposed formation of the original house. There are background facts on the date of original purchase and the date of purchase by the Jacksons. The “Data Information Sheet” report is given as a chapter for easy reading. The Significance of the building makes up the majority of the paper. All photographs are within the appendix, many of which were used as primary source reference from this author’s original visit.

History of the house includes Hayes, the Jackson, and the slaves that lived afterward. Significances include not only the fact that a President of the United States lived there, but also other notable local, regional and national legends. It is significant because of Native American movements, wars, and social structure. The Original Hermitage has significance for causations as well as African Americans. It is a very significant home for many time periods. Building construction methods and materials, as well as artifact evidence also makes this building significant. It is also important to the state of North Carolina for the same reasons. This building definitely has many points of interest.

Data Sheet Information
            The Original Hermitage has the same mailing address as that of the manor house. The address is 4580 Rachel’s Lane, Nashville, TN 37076-1344 (the street is obviously named after Rachel Jackson.) The abode resides in Davidson County and meets the requirements of the National Register Criteria. This paper reflects its official nomination.[2] The Original Hermitage meets national, statewide, and also local interest significance. The author certifies that the mansion, The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson, is entered in the Nation Register currently.[3] However, The Original Hermitage is not. The Ladies Hermitage Association privately owns both of these buildings.[4]

The Original Hermitage currently has one other contributing building, a site where another building once stood, and another possible duplex of the same nature. This early Hermitage is late eighteenth century. It has significance for the following: agriculture, architecture, conservation, education, Native Americans, and military. This was the home of President Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel during the War of 1812. It was a very early building in the area. It was noted as having expensive furnishings due to many notable visitors.[5] After the big house was built, it became slave quarters for men and women. These people lived in a home that was not attached compartments, as other local slave houses were. The locally famous Uncle Alfred was born in the building adjacent.[6] The restoration of the building was seen as necessary immediately after the Ladies Hermitage Association bought it in 1889.[7] It is within the second location in the nation designated for restoration, and therefore first in the state of Tennessee.[8] The Original Hermitage has its own significance that is separate from the mansion.

Description of Appearance
This description of The Original Hermitage is quite short, due to the simplicity of the building. As seen currently, it is only the top portion of the original two-story farmhouse. The portion that remains is the top floor and the attic. Its first floor was “removed somehow” when the Jacksons moved to the big house, and turned this one into slave housing.[9] The current assumption is that the bottom floor was turned into another slave quarters. This may have been one where there is only the foundation left. However, this theory has not been substantiated. Apparently, the top floor was lowered to the ground becoming what is now considered The Original Hermitage.

When walking up to this home from the mansion, the back of the home is seen. It is a log cabin whose roof is about one and half stories tall, compared with its one story living space. The house is sitting on stones, and there are two windows placed in equal distance with only one shutter per window. One other side of the house is visible from this view. It is the side with the fireplace. Measurements for the entire home are only twenty-four feet by Twenty-six feet, having layers of six squared off logs on each side.[10]

Moving counter-clockwise from where we began, another wall with two windows and their shutters are seen. Here, though, the high peek is visible and is the attic space. Measurement of height cannot be within the attic due to restrictions of the site. When moving close to the building, the chinking of the wood is visible. The original beams are in the same spot from when the original owner placed them there. The mortar is more modern due to renovation in the late nineteenth century.

Moving once again, the view is now the front of the log house. The front of the home has one door with two stone steps. The doorway is about five and a half feet high. Almost everyone must duck to enter! There is a shelf in the front of the building. This shelf is thought to be more modern due to the quality of the beam, and the records do not indicate this at all. Windows were replaced by the front door when it was moved from the top floor to the only floor.[11] Also, here is where the nine rows of shake shingles can be viewed with distinction. Measurements of these shingles could not be taken due to museum rules for ladders.

The last side of this small farmhouse is the most interesting. The six layers of logs make a distinct change to clapping. The stones that the house is sitting on are more noticeable on this side as well. The house looks like it is just temporary due the small number of foundation stones. It appears as if there are only four per side, and the interior stones are not visible. However, what is visible is the bottom part of the chimney, which is of the same stones as the foundation stones. Only four layers of stone exist before the bricking takes over! The other full building of the original farmstead that is still erected has a full stone chimney. Could this mean that the original chimney of the two-story Original Hermitage was full stone? It cannot be determined at this point due to lack of information, but it can be presumed. Another point that is known is that even though the house is currently sitting on groomed grass, it originally had a dirt yard that was continuously swept clean.[12]

Walking into the now vacant home through the front door, the visitors feels that they are in an adequate size room with a very large fireplace. This room is twenty-six feet by twelve feet. When it was on the top floor, it was Rachel and Andrew’s bedroom.[13] It was presumably the main living room of the slaves that lived there after the conversion. Currently, placards about Andrew Jackson cover almost every inch of wall space in this room. There are two rooms equal in size in the remainder of the square. These rooms could not be measured due to the rules of no entry. The room to the left was their adopted son’s room, and the room to the right had the stair to the attic.[14] It is assumed that these were sleeping rooms for the slaves, including the attic space.

The floor still has the original planking. They are of similar width, but not exact. The lengths vary completely. There is an area cut out in a square in the large room. This was the trap door that led to the root cellar. This was not the ground floor originally, and would not have been the entrance to the cellar when the Jacksons lived there, so it was more than likely cut out when the floor was lowered, or it could have been the stairs from the ground floor to upstairs originally.

When the Jacksons were the principle residents of this house, the walls were papered with decorative wallpaper from France. However, currently the walls are planks just like the flooring and are presently white washed. The French paper was removed when the slaves moved in. One area of the wall has been opened up to show how the walls were nailed together. Smaller planks have been laid in at an angle where a plank was removed to keep the wall steady, but it is done this way to show the type of nails that were used in construction. These nails still indicate their being hand hewn. They are different lengths, widths, sizes and shape. These are interesting in and of themselves.

There is a very large fireplace on the left side of the wall. The mantel is made of plain planking. The hearth and surround is made of stone. It is about four feet high and five feet wide. It is more than probable that this fireplace is original to the eighteenth century creation.

Statement of Significance
The state of Tennessee began with being the western area of North Carolina. All laws and most of the settlers had their beginnings from that state. Slave laws were definitely North Carolina in origin.[15] The birth place of Andrew Jackson is contradictory. However, Uncle Alfred reported to all visitors that the President was born in South Carolina.[16]

Jackson did not build this farmhouse when he arrived from his home state. In fact, he did not build this cabin at all. Nathaniel Hays built the farmstead around 1783. This is significant since it was built during native wars against settlers in Middle Tennessee. It is also significant in that it remains the oldest home in Hermitage and one of the oldest surviving buildings in Middle Tennessee.[17]

Another point of significance is the construction techniques of early eighteenth century. The hewn wood still exhibits the original cut marks and irregularities after two centuries. Hand made nails remain possibly the oldest in use in Tennessee, west of the Appalachians, due to the date of manufacture. It was also a residence when Tennessee was ratified as the sixteenth state. While there were natives in the area, there is no documentation that there were any that lived on the land. However, Hays originally settled the parcel in 1780 and removed himself east due to Indian attacks.[18] So, it is also significant for Native Americans due to their constant threats to the settlers, along with social movement that were directly due to those threats.

Another point of significance is the social attitudes to slavery and living in what was then the wilderness. The two-story house was built next to at least two other buildings, and more than likely another as well. One was the kitchen the other was strictly for slave residency. Probably the construction of three buildings close together reflects the threat of Indian attacks. It also shows that even this early, slaves lived separately from their owners. There are only two buildings that remain intact from those early days (The Original Hermitage is only partially what it was at that time), but there is one other full outline of a slave duplex. There are two squares of stone in another location that may indicate the possibility of an additional duplex.[19]

Nationally this house is significant in that it was the original home of the Jacksons that held the title of Hermitage. Jackson purchased the property from Hays in 1804. Before the future President and his wife moved in, French wallpaper was added, along with the trim being freshly painted making it more sophisticated than it previously was. This may not have been the earliest home that had French wallpaper on its walls. However, it is significant that it was laid in a log cabin in the wilderness. Jackson then hired men to build fences as they cleared forests for fields of cotton.[20] It is also significant in that only two families ever owned the property. Nathanial Hays purchased it April 17, 1786 from the State of North Carolina, sold to Andrew Jackson on August 23, 1804. It stayed in the family until it was sold to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association in 1856. It is also significant in that the deeds had a hickory tree listed as a marker, and Jackson’s nickname became “Old Hickory”.[21] This nickname may possibly have been due to these trees being significant on the farm. It was more probable that it was due to his comparison to the tree itself by his troops later on.

Jackson was an avid entertainer, even when The Original Hermitage was his domicile. Another significance is that Jefferson Davis, later the President of the Confederate States, visited and stayed with the Jacksons when he was a young man.

When we reached Nashville we went to the Hermitage.. The whole party was so kindly received that we remained several weeks. During that period I had the opportunity a boy has to observe a great man – a standpoint of no small advantage – and I have always remembered with warm affection the kind and tender wife who then presided over his house.[22]

Therefore, the building is significant for the Civil War even though it really had played no part in the conflict. It is more significant in that this was the home of General Jackson, the great leader of the War of 1812. The great man who led troops in combat against enemy forces and won the Battle of New Orleans. He was the leader of forces that conquered Florida for the United States, against President Monroe’s orders. He was both military hero and a traitor that became a hero. He was then appointed governor of Florida. Then, Jackson assumed the role of Senator for the State of Tennessee.[23] All this time, The Original Hermitage had been his home.

With the home and 1,000 acres, Jackson’s star was on the rise. Just like Webster said, “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.”[24] Therefore, Jackson used his slaves to start building on the big house that was finished in 1821. This was not the end of the old house. It now had a new life. The bottom floor was removed and the top floor, along with the attic, was converted into slave quarters. The significance here is that this may have been the first home in Middle Tennessee to have the bottom floor removed keeping the top floor intact. In the least, it is probably the oldest remaining to have this done.

Jackson owned twenty-two slaves by this time.[25] One of those was the son of the cook, later to be known as Uncle Alfred. Alfred was born in the kitchen building within the compound, and worked consistently in The Original Hermitage as a house slave. He also worked in almost any position that the General needed. Uncle Alfred was a significant local individual because he was the personal slave of the President, he was the first curator/tour guide of the mansion, and he had a huge personality.

Alfred may never have lived in The Original Hermitage house, but other slaves did. The slaves took occupancy of The Original Hermitage only after the mansion was completed. It is generally thought that twelve people lived and shared the house at the same time. A possible resident was Gracy, who was purchased  January 29, 1823 from William Hobb for one hundred dollars.[26] She was a trade slave, and since this now became homes for the trade class, it certainly is possible. House slaves had new quarters near the new mansion, and Uncle Alfred had his own building. This is most probably the only house in America lived in by a President of the United States, and then to have become a slave cabin. Also, it was halfway between the house slaves homes and the field slave quarters, about three hundred yards both ways making these people physically understand their place in the plantation’s society. This house is unusual because it, and the others in the original compound were not in an attached row, which was how other slave quarters of the time were. At the height of the plantation, President Andrew Jackson owned 150 slaves, when other locals owned only three or four at a time. This is significant in showing the wealth of the owner of the plantation against the wealth of others in Middle Tennessee.

After the Civil War many of the people that had previously been enslaved left the property. Others stayed on, which was also common. It is thought that freedmen did not live in The Original Hermitage “was so derelict upon purchase that it was literally falling down. When the Ladies’ Hermitage Association took possession of the Hermitage it found the property in a state of extreme dilapidation.”[27] It was revived before the restoration of the mansion was completed. Therefore, it could be technically the second home in the nation to have been restored. This, in itself, is very significant to the nation.

The Original Hermitage had an archaeological dig that exhumed many artifacts from when the Jacksons lived there. There were also significant finds of artifacts that could be attested to slaves as well. Silver and expensive china were found. There were many pieces of Cantonware that were dug up that dated from the time of Jackson’s Presidency.[28] This may indicate that these plates were borrowed from the big house by the slaves. Other items that were found were a brass shoe buckle and a brass watch fob, doorknobs, a Jew Harp and a pinwheel. The pinwheel was found in the kitchen.[29] This could have belonged to Uncle Alfred! There have been very little of eighteenth century artifacts found in Middle Tennessee. So, these would be very significant to the site, to the community and also to the region.

Another significance based upon archaeological information includes illumination of the diets of the slaves at The Original Hermitage. Indeed, this gives information for many of the other slaves within the Hermitage Estate itself. The digs found that their diets were based highly on “pork and corn meal… they had a little bit of beef and a little bit of mutton.”[30] This evidence is significant because it shows what the majority of inhabitants of Hermitage and the rest of Middle Tennessee ate. Remember, that Jackson owned more slaves than most other people in Middle Tennessee, and the majority of inhabitants in Hermitage, Tennessee at that time were slaves.


The Original Hermitage is a house of great importance. The president Andrew Jackson lived there when Tennessee was still the wilderness of North Carolina. Nathaniel Hays built it in the eighteenth century after his return to the area. He purchased the land from North Carolina and sold it to Jackson, still before Tennessee was a state. While it was not the Jackson’s first house, it was the first house they called the Hermitage.

Jackson lived there as a general in the war of 1812. He lived there when he won the battle of New Orleans. This was his home when he invaded Florida to save it from Spain. He was governor of Florida, but The Original Hermitage was still his home at that time. It was also his home when he was a Senator for Tennessee. It lived up to its name given by him; his home, his hermitage away from it all. It was a small farm with a lot of acreage that turned into a large plantation. This was the actual place where Jackson made history. He bounded from one ambitious glory to another, eventually to become the President. Jackson did not live in the mansion when he was on the rise, but in the humble two-story log cabin.

Two and a half stories originally, Jackson removed the first floor turning his home into slave quarters. It is not certain what happened to the first floor. However, even with the floor removed, it was still lived in as a home to Jackson’s slaves. The location most probably was the home of the slaves in trade, but there is no documentation for confirmation. However, the three rooms that remained housed approximately twelve people at the same time, making it quite cramped. Due to the dilapidation at the time of purchase by the Ladies’ Hermitage Association, it is assumed that no freedman lived there after the war. This was the first building renovated on the estate, making it possibly the second house in the nation to be restored.

Significances include those for local, regional, State of Tennessee, State of North Carolina, as well as national importance. The Original Hermitage has significance for societal reasons, such as settlers and slaves. There is significance for Native Americans, causations, and African Americans. Others include archaeological finds and construction materials. Influential residents and visitors were people that were locally, regionally, and nationally important. The most obvious person was the second owner, President Andrew Jackson. The Original Hermitage is representatively significant alone, and should be recognized and registered separately from the mansion.


Primary Sources

Davis, Jefferson. Autobiography of Jefferson Davis. 1890 Kindle Edition n.d.

Dores, Mary. Preservation of The Hermitage 1889-1915: Annals, History, and Stories.
Nashville: Ladies’ hermitage Association, 1933.

---- “Uncle Alfred Jackson” Personal account of conversation with Uncle Alfred,
n.d. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

“Farm Ledger List”. 1821. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection,
Hermitage, Tennessee.

Jackson, Andrew. Letter to Mr. Steel. N.d. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew
Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

---- Personal check written to William Hobb, January 29, 1823. The Hermitage: Home of 
President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

McKee, Larry. quoted in David R. Logsdon, “Volunteers unearth relics of Slavery at
Hermitage”, The Tennesseean. (1995)

Webster, Daniel. quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Age of Jackson. Boston: Little,
Brown and Co., 1953,

Secondary Sources

Artifact description. N.d. at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson, The
Original Hermitage.

Caldwell, Mary French. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: The Story of a Home in the Tennessee
Blue-Grass Region, Which, from Pioneer Log Cabin to Ante-bellum Mansion, Furnished the Background of ‘Old Hickory’s’ Dramatic and Colorful Career. Nashville: Ladies’ hermitage Association, 1933

“Farmhouse Kitchen, The: 1806-1821,” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President
Andrew Jackson. N.D.

“First Hermitage Model” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson.

Hermitage, The: Home of President Andrew Jackson. N.d.
(accessed July 11, 2013).

Hurley, Andrew. Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

“Original Hermitage, The” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson.

Speer-Sims, Taylor “Site Review Number Two,” Paper for class. Kearney: University of
Nebraska – Kearney, March 31, 2013.

---- “Museum Review”, Paper for class Kearney: University of Nebraska – Kearney, June
23, 2013.

[1] Taylor Speer-Sims, “Site Review Number Two,” Paper for class. (Kearney: University of Nebraska – Kearney, March 31, 2013.)

[2] Ashley Bouknight, personal communication with author, June, 2013.

[3] The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson. N.d. (accessed July 11, 2013).

[4] Bouknight.

[5] Uncle Alfred, quoted in Preservation of The Hermitage 1889-1915: Annals, History, and Stories. (Nashville: Ladies’ hermitage Association, 1933), 117.

[6] “The Farmhouse Kitchen, 1806-1821,” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson. N.D.

[7] “The Original Hermitage,” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson. N.D.

[8] Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities. ( Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010), 3.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “First Hermitage Model” Placard at The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson. N.D.

[11] Bouknight.

[12] “The Original Hermitage,” Placard.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.
[15] Andrew Jackson, N.d. Letter to Mr. Steel. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

[16] Mary Dores, “Uncle Alfred Jackson” Personal account of conversation with Uncle Alfred, n.d. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

[17] The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Taylor Speer-Sims, “Museum Review”, Paper for class (Kearney: University of Nebraska – Kearney, June 23, 2013.)

[20] The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson.

[21] Mary French Caldwell, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: The Story of a Home in the Tennessee Blue-Grass Region, Which, from Pioneer Log Cabin to Ante-bellum Mansion, Furnished the Background of ‘Old Hickory’s’ Dramatic and Colorful Career. (Nashville: Ladies’ hermitage Association, 1933), 1- 5.

[22] Jefferson Davis, Autobiography of Jefferson Davis. (1890) Kindle Edition (n.d.) location 4598.

[23] The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson.

[24] Daniel Webster, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Age of Jackson. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1953), 12.

[25] “Farm Ledger List”, (1821). The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

[26] Andrew Jackson, Personal check written to William Hobb, January 29, 1823. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson Collection, Hermitage, Tennessee.

[27] Dores, Mary. Preservation of The Hermitage..,, 55.
[28] Artifact description. N.d. The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson, The Original Hermitage.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Larry McKee, quoted in David R. Logsdon, “Volunteers unearth relics of Slavery at Hermitage”, The Tennesseean. (1995) 

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