Historic Structures

Belair Mansion, Nashville Tennessee

Date added: July 2, 2021 Categories: Tennessee House Mansion

Belair, one of the impressive antebellum homes in the Nashville area, was built in 1832 on a grant of one thousand acres by Harding of Belle Meade for his daughter, Elizabeth, who married Joseph Clay of Kentucky. Constructed of bricks laid in Flemish bond, the house was built in an L-shape, but has had many additions. In 1838, William Nichol bought the place and added a wing on either end, as well as making changes to the house. The winding stairway, rosewood doors and silver hardware were added at this time, and it is probable that some elaboration to the front of the house was made. The exterior bricks have been painted white.

The style of architecture of Belair is generally Federal, with some classic revival, influence shown in the two-story portico with fluted Doric columns and a one-story deck roof. There are a total of 30 rooms in the house, with four halls and three stairways. At the back of the large entrance hall an elliptical stairway rises to the second floor. The stairway is similar to the one at the Hermitage, as are the two wings added by Nichol in 1838, indicating the possible influence of Andrew Jackson, a neighbor who often visited Nichol.

The floors in Belair are of random width pine and ash. The doors exhibit interesting mouldings and the trim is elaborate with dentil work. Many of the ceilings have been decorated with frescoed plaster.

An interesting feature is a secret room in the second-story ell. A window is opened and the room is entered by stepping down. The room has a fireplace and window and is a large room. There is also a wine cellar that cannot be entered except from inside the house. In the basement of the house are three rooms with two-feet thick stone walls and small windows with iron bars where "disobedient servants" were kept.

At the_ rear of the ell is the kitchen with living quarters above, which was built separate from the house but has since been connected and has had extensive remodeling done to utilize it as a playroom. The original dining room has been converted into a modern kitchen.

Elaborate flower gardens were planted under the supervision of Mrs. Nichol, similar to those at the Hermitage, but after the death of Mr. Nichol she sold the house in 1870, and the new owner destroyed the flower gardens. Gone also are the stables and dairy barns, as the area is now in the midst of a crowded residential area. An expressway project destroyed much of the yard and some of the old trees, as the road has come to within 35 feet of the west side of Belair.