The depth of appreciation I have for my family's heritage cannot be overstated. I have so much more to say on that subject, and what it means to us today, but I will save it for another post. For now, I just wanted to give you a tiny background of why I was so thrilled to be able to see this gorgeous mansion called Two Rivers in Nashville.
I love history. Not that I know all of it, but I love to learn new stuff. Especially my family history. I come by it naturally, I guess. My Daddy's side of the family can trace its history back to the 1700's. There is still some mystery as to whether or not the furthest ancestor we can trace back to is a famous Welsh poet or a Revolutionary War hero. Either one sounds good to me.
I know a lot about my Great Great Grandfather, F.A. Owen, who was the first permanent pastor of First Church in Memphis (now First United Methodist). While he only spent a year in Memphis, his accomplishments were groundbreaking. Literally. The first church building ever built in Memphis was built under his leadership. After he left his post here he travelled quite a bit, but had time to marry a young widow, Elizabeth Harding, my Great Great Grandmother. She had a two year old daughter from her first marriage; her name was Willie Harding. She and my Great Great Grandfather had a very close relationship. So much so that in the later years of his and my Great Great Grandmother's lives they went to live at Willie's home in Nashville....Two Rivers.
When Kat and I went to Nashville to stalk, it didn't take much convincing for her to want to come to this place. She enjoys history, too, even if it's not her family's. I so wanted to see it, just to feel that connection with my long-ago family.
But just driving up and taking a tour wasn't going to happen. See, the mansion is not open for the public. You can reserve it for meetings, weddings, parties, and such, but just for some yokel from Mississippi? Not gonna happen. Unless you pull some heart strings, which is what I evidently did. I called the Parks Department (the City of Nashville has owned Two Rivers since 1966) and spoke with Bill Troup, Superintendent of Recreation. He explained that he sometimes let people tour the house as a prospective wedding or meeting site, but he didn't give tours or anything. Disappointed, I explained what connection I had with the house just so he'd know why in the world someone would, out of the blue, want to look at the house just for kicks. My story must have intrigued him, because he immediately gave me his cell number and told me to call him when we got to Nashville and he'd make sure I got in to see the house. I can't thank him enough for his kindness.This is my first glimpse of the house. It still gives me a little thrill. Was this what my Great Great Grandparents, as well as my Great Grandfather, and even my Grandmother, who was born in 1887, saw as they drove up the driveway in their horse-drawn carriages?
A little statue in the front garden area. He's so worn, I'm thinking he was here from the beginning in 1859.
The view from the front porch. I looked back and imagined those horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping their way up that long driveway, which originally wound around to the back of the house.
The massive front doors. I immediately fell in love with them.
Here's Kat, being all Vanna.
While not very impressive from the outside, wait till you see this window from the inside.
View of the back porch.
One thing I love about any old building is its architecture. Look at all that moulding!
This American Holly tree was in front. I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but see how big around the trunk is? I wondered if this was an original tree. The sunlight spilling through the branches was so pretty. Think they'll notice the tiny branch I swiped?
I never knew about this house until the day we got there. It's called the 1802 House. The "first academy for female instruction" in the area was located here in 1815. In 1819 William Harding, my Great Great Grandmother's first husband, bought the house and the surrounding land. Willie Harding inherited the land and this house upon her marriage to David McGavock in 1850, and they lived here until Two Rivers was completed in 1859.
Here's Kat peeking in the back window before we knew we were going to be able to get inside.
I love this house.
This is where they cooked. This fireplace was huge. If you notice the Christmas decorations, they were still there from a party that had been held there and just hadn't been cleaned up yet.
There is a sign posted at the foot of the stairs saying "No one permitted upstairs" or something like that. Yeah. Unless you have the Super with you. He would have even let me go in the attic if I had wanted to. Which I didn't. Have I ever told you my aversion to attics? No matter how historic?This was in an upstairs room. How many people have been warmed by this little fireplace? Did my Grandmother ever play up here?
I hope you can see the inscriptions on the brick. David and Willie had their names stamped in these bricks on the back porch when they built the mansion. Such permanence. I love that. By the way...the bricks were made there on the "farm," as it was called back then.
I know this post has been long, and I thank you if you've made it this far. This is only the first half...the outside. Next Two Rivers post will be about the beautiful interior, where portraits of my Great Aunt Willie and her husband, David, are hung.
Why it is that I feel the need to be connected to long-ago family members, I can't tell you. It's just something that I feel deeply about. I don't have the patience my sister does to do the hard work of research, but I eat up the history that others dig up. Where I've come from...what shaped and molded my ancestors.
Again...thanks for letting me be uber-introspective. It doesn't happen often. Maybe if it happened more I would write shorter posts!