Belle Meade Plantation
Located in the opulent neighborhood of the same name, the Belle Meade Plantation sets the tone for the entire area. Once one of the nation’s most prosperous plantations and premier horse breeding farms, Belle Meade now opens its gates daily as a museum, restaurant and winery.
The grandness of the home and its accompanying buildings is evident the moment you drive across the stone bridge at the entrance. John Giles Harding conceived the plantation in 1807 when he purchased 250 acres (101 hectares) near Richland Creek. The original home was commissioned in the Federal style in 1820 and over subsequent decades was remodeled into the Greek Revival-style mansion that stands today.
As you approach the mansion, look for the bullet holes in the massive front columns, a reminder of the Civil War battle that took place across the estate’s front fields. Wander the cool hallways and rooms within the house and admire Harding family treasures, which have been returned by descendants over the years. Of particular note are the fine examples of Tennessee-crafted antique furniture and the collection of paintings of the estate’s illustrious thoroughbreds, created by some of the period’s greatest artists.
At its peak, the estate covered more than 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres). Even at its present size of 30 acres (12 hectares) there is much to see, so wear comfortable footwear. In addition to the main house, guests are invited to explore the dairy, horse stables, carriage house, mausoleum and original log cabin. For deeper insights, join one of the daily tours led by knowledgeable guides dressed in period attire.
Enjoy a meal at Harding House, a renowned dining establishment specializing in Southern fare. The restaurant and surrounding grounds are a hot spot for Nashville weddings. Wine buffs will also enjoy the plantation's winery where the wines feature equestrian-inspired labels paying homage to the estate’s horse breeding past. A gift shop offers quality craft items and a monthly art show.
Located six miles (10 kilometers) west of Nashville, the estate is a feature on the Tennessee Antebellum Trail. Parking is free.