The First Hermitage


In 1804, Andrew Jackson bought the first 425 acres of what would become a 1,120 acre plantation just outside of Nashville, TN. On the original land sat The First Hermitage, a two story farmhouse where Jackson and his wife Rachel lived until their two story brick mansion was completed in 1821. During the years the Jacksons lived in the farmhouse, a second building was built known as the “Kitchen” even though its purpose was more than just a kitchen.  Once the Jackson family moved into their mansion, the farmhouse was reduced to a single story and both it and the kitchen were used as slave quarters.  The buildings continued to be occupied by African Americans until the mid 1870s when they were abandoned and fell into disrepair. The first restoration project began in 1889 under the direction of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association and continued until the 1970s. Even with this effort, the buildings continued to deteriorate due to age, insects, rot and inappropriate repairs.  In 1992, engineers examined both buildings and declared them structurally unsound.  In 2000, the National Park Service along with other federal agencies declared The First Hermitage a “Save Americas Treasures” project and the complete restoration began.

The top right picture is believed to be the oldest known photograph of The First Hermitage (left) and kitchen (right) taken about 1867. The first floor ceiling beams provide definitive evidence that the farmhouse was once a two story building, but no pictorial evidence was available. Therefore, the decision was made to restore the farmhouse to the single story construction using this photograph as a guide.

To ensure the project was completed properly and with sensitivity to the period, Leatherwood, Inc from Fairview, Tennessee was contracted to handle the restoration. Both buildings were completely dismantled and each piece inspected and repaired. “We saved all of the original wood, stone and bricks as possible” said Vic Hood, owner of Leatherwood. He added “Where necessary, we replaced all materials with period style pieces. Even the replacement bricks were made from wooden molds. The chimneys were completely removed and rebuilt, the windows were reconstructed and decaying logs repaired with the Dutchman technique”. It was key to the project and especially to Vic that the buildings were rebuilt as they were originally built, but with an eye toward longevity so they could be enjoyed by the people for many years to come.