Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Rivers

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!


Unknown said...

Wow! That is a fantastic story. I am dreaming that something like that happens to me, and I am actually think that there is some old house waiting for me to come and see it.
I am not so fortunate to be able to track down my family tree very far. I find it so exciting to know the people that are your ancestors. Like I said I wasn't so lucky because from both of my sides (mother and father) no one kept any record of it. During many wars that we had in Europe and particularly Balkans, the church documents are mostly destroyed.

So you are so lucky to be able to find out more about YOU and I can't wait to see and read the rest of the story. How exciting!

Kat said...

Two thoughts here. Two thoughts on Two Rivers....bwah haa haa haa haa. Ahem. Okay...I'm thinking, "She posted the picture that I said I looked like I had to pee." I'm also thinking, "I think I may need to lose a couple more pounds." But this post isn't really about me, is it? Really, those pictures just make me want to go back and have more fun. I enjoyed that weekend soooo much. And my personal favorite part of Two Rivers was the 1802 house. It was so Laura Ingalls, so Little House. And you know, I'm addicted to all things Little House. Oh, and my other personal favorite about Two Rivers, was you trying swipe branches and twigs :)

Tiffany said...

This is really neat. I can't wait to see more pictures!

Miss Laura Lu/RMS4291960 said...

Wow Heather! How thrilling! Can't wait to see the rest of the tour! I think it's wonderful to pass on these wonderful stories and connection to the past! God Bless! Aunt Laura
P.S. thanks for asking about Andrew!

Rebecca Harber said...

That is so neat I would love to know more of my family history. My dad's mother's maiden name is Dalton, as in the Dalton Gang. I know a bunch of criminals nice huh! My mom's mother can be traced back to William the Conqueror and my mom's dad is Cherokee Native American. We have a variety I must say and I would like to know how far we can be traced. How do you even go about searching without spending a fortune?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this! I could have spent all day at that house. It is so beautiful and even more so to know a little of the story behind the house. Stories like that always are special. I'm so glad that you were able to sweet talk the Super to an up close and personal view of the house. How cool!!

Anonymous said...

I love to look at old houses. I'm always driving through the "old" part of Hernando so I can pick out which house I want. I'm glad I get to look at your pics.

Susie from Bienvenue said...

I felt like I had already heard some of your story but when I sat and read the words....goosebumps! The house is just beautiful but your history and feelings towards it....goosebumps! What an honor to be allowed to walk the same steps that your family walked...goosebumps! I just cant wait to see and read more. Take all the time you need..I will read! It's so worth it...goosebumps!
Miss you friend~

Shannon said...

Oh, I loved this post! How neat! I love history too and even more so when you have a connection to it. Can't wait to see the inside!

jen said...

yea I cant wait to see the inside!! How awesome to experience this Heathah Lee!!!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Oh, that was so exciting!! I would have been drooling to get in there! And knowing the family connection must have been thrilling!

"Intentionally Katie" said...

THIS is why I love the south. Southerners keep rich, historic buildings like these. Everything out west is so NEW. That building is so amazing. I love it!

Made In The South said...

Oh it was worth the wait for you to post about Two Rivers. The pictures are just great. I wish now I would have went with ya'll. So much history..Have a great week. MISSY

Darcy @ m3b said...

That is sooo gorgeous. The architecture, the brick... it's all so... stately and beautiful.

maryanne420 said...

that is awesome that you were able to experience such family history. what i would give to be able to learn more about both my family. my grandma survived WWII as a teenager during the time Japan invaded the Philippines. She said it was such a scary time.

Great pics also

Miss Laura Lu/RMS4291960 said...

Heather! come on over and check out a little something I have for you! Aunt Lauralu :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Heather, How lovely! When I first saw the pix on Facebook, I wondered about what it all meant. I'm so glad that you got to do this! I love history too. My paternal grandma's family was traced back to the 1500's England. It's pretty cool!

Anonymous said...

Heather that was beautiful! I love stuff like that too! Awesome, can't wait to see the inside :)