At Belmont University in Nashville there is an historic mansion which is perhaps one of the most ornate 19th centuries houses I’ve ever seen in America. But it also has an interesting history. This was the largest house in Tennessee and was built between 1849 and 1860, just before the Civil War. When the Union Army showed up in Nashville it used this mansion as a headquarters and lookout point by climbing up to the cupola and spying out the Rebel troop movements during the decisive battle for Nashville in December 1864. This battle effectively ended the war for the Western frontier. The house was originally modelled on an Italian villa and originally it had elaborate gardens. There was also a gazebo, a zoo, a bath house, and a bowling alley. Eventually the house became the center of a girls school called Belmont College in 1890, and then eventually a co-ed university. The restoration of the house began in 1972 by a non-profit association.
The inside of the house was furnished by a trip to Europe, including famous Odyssey wallpaper showing the plight of Telemachus stuck on an island entirely inhabited by women while Odysseus was away. The interesting thing is that there is this identical wallpaper at the Hermitage as we shall see.
That’s poor Telemachus with his head in his hand listening to the siren sound of women trying to sweet talk him. And here’s some more of the wallpaper…
Just when you thought things couldn’t get more ornate or tacky or both, there is a painting of the Spanish Inquisition! No kidding.
Of course socially elite 19th century Americans idolized European culture, and British royalty, so it’s not a surprise that along with a painting of the Mistress of the House next to her horse, that not coincidentally has the same name as Alexander the Great’s horse, Bucephalus, there is a big portrait of a younger Queen Victoria.
Here is the ladder on the second floor up into the cupola
Apparently jello colored red glass in transepts was a big deal in major houses in the late 19th century….
Most of these period mansions have a suspended spiral staircase, and while you are climbing up to the second floor you need a statue of, say a Roman emperor or a Greek philosopher or the like to catch your eye….
And of course we need an angel to protect the children and the adults…
Downstairs we have both a family and a formal dining room….
Also a parlor….
The rooms are crammed with all sorts of stuff, and the carpet is busy like the rooms
Even the wallpaper is busy and ornate….
Living in this sort of mansion is like living in an antiques museum……. to which I say—- NO Thanks.