My new home....just kidding. Even though my car is parked in front of this beautiful mansion and I am told all Tennesseans own a part of this mansion, I must admit, sadly, that it is not really my home. This is the home of Tennessee's sitting governor and is located in Nashville Tennessee. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting this home and its adjoining Conservation Hall courtesy of my garden club (Beachaven Garden Club) and its President (Charene-thanks for setting up the tour!) People outside of Tennessee may not be familiar with the Conservation Hall that our former First Lady (Andrea Conte) had built in 2010. The construction of this hall caused quite a bit of consternation among Tennessee voters who claimed it was a total waste of money. You see, as lovely as our mansion is it only had room for 22 people around its formal dining room table. Many times state dinners can include dozens of people as you can imagine. The state solved this problem by setting up tents on the large yard but during the summers and winters you can imagine that was not a very comfortable way of conducting parties. The solution was to build an underground 'green' banquet hall. Looking from a window in the front foyer of the mansion you can see the above ground part of the hall. This at first glance looks like a swimming pool but is actually a glass like enclosure around a deep depression that opens into the middle of the Conservation Hall. Within this enclosure at ground level are some lovely sculptures, trees and flowers. This natural area brings in a ton of natural light to the new banquet hall. This hall has its own kitchen and can seat up to 168 people for state dinners. It has state of art bathrooms and it is quite efficient to heat and cool since it is underground. I'm thinking it was a good move that will save not only manpower (no more labor needed to set up the tents) but the Hall will also save on costs in the long run. Plus, it gives Tennessee an absolutely awesome place to entertain out of state dignitaries.
Here is a picture of the interior of the circle you can see from above. This Conservation Hall is all underground with only this opening to the sky. Within the opening you can find a lovely sculpture called "In the Presence of Presents" created by Bell Buckle artist Sherri Warner Hunter. It is a mosaic made from the slate tiles that were removed from the roof of the mansion during the recent renovation of the mansion. All of these tiles were repurposed and have an intimate association with the Governor's Mansion. In my humble opinion it is these associations that make art so much more personal and meaningful. The main entrance to the Conservation Hall was below the mansion proper at a lower elevation further down the hill. It was a classy entrance that immediately led people down a beautiful staircase built with sinker wood. Does anyone know what sinker wood is? It is wood from trees that have been recovered from lakes and streams where it had sunk many years ago-decades even. The wood is wonderfully preserved while in the water and made a beautiful and natural staircase for all to tread upon. Along the way we ran into some unique displays. This one of shovels painted by children brought out the gardener in me and I was impressed. I might need to think about doing something like this with all those broken shovels I have hanging around my garden. The three stars you see is a common theme on these shovels. The stars are also part of our Tennessee state flag. I have always been taught each star represents a grand division in Tennessee but while researching this post I found a link that said the stars represent the three landforms found in Tennessee. Either way it comes down to this: the three divisions are: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The three landforms are: mountains (East Tennessee), highlands (Middle Tennessee), and lowlands (West Tennessee). Essentially, those in Tennessee or those familiar with our state understand what the three stars represent. Each of these divisions is very varied in cultural traditions, agriculture, economy, and way of life but together all three make for a very interesting and diverse state-one I do love. This sculpture was not far from the opening near the banquet hall itself. It was commissioned by Andre Conte and is an American flag made from the old copper gutters that were removed from the mansion during the renovation in 2010. We were lucky here that former Governor Phil Bredesen and his wife Andrea Conte actually own their own residence in Nashville. During his term of service Mr. Bredesen and his wife Ms. Andrea lived in their own residence and not in the Tennessee mansion. This enabled the renovation to proceed without all the hassles of having a sitting family in the mansion. Governor Bill Haslam and his family are very fortunate to be the first family to move into the newly renovated mansion.
This mansion was built in 1929 by William Ridley Wills. Mr. Wills went all over the world to find the various materials used in the construction of this mansion. You will find marble from Italy, stone from Indiana and Georgia and many other diverse materials in this mansion. Most of it is original but during the recent renovation the heating and air conditioning system were replaced, as well as windows and many updates were needed in order to make this mansion handicap friendly. This included a new elevator that goes both underground to the Conservation Hall and to the various floor levels in the home.
I am not a fan of crown molding but couldn't help but be impressed by the beautiful crown molding in this foyer. The floor in this foyer was made of black and white squares of marble. We were told by our lovely docent that previous occupants of the home used to play hopscotch on the marble squares. A delightful thought in that elegant foyer. I always wondered what mansions would be like to live in. If all mansions look like this one then I'd say they must be quite comfortable. This mansion was cozy, well lighted and looked liveable to me. I adored the large windows with unobstructed views to the gardens surrounding the property. Our garden club was not allowed to tour the gardens due to security but we were able to get good views. Most everyone in the world knows Elvis resided in Tennessee. This cute painting graced one of the walls in the above room. Can you see Priscilla in the background? How do you like that hair. There were various photos of not only Elvis in the home but many more dignitaries; both living and dead. How do you like this patio? Can you imagine state parties out here? This view felt very European to me but the mansion did not feel European. Having lived in Europe for many years I've only really visited castles; which could be considered mansions I suppose. The problem is castles have a totally different feel to them as compared to rich American people's homes in the United States. This could have something to do with the fact that these large homes are all so much newer than European castles but I don't know. Nonetheless I really enjoyed this mansion and could see any family living there happily. This rock is so famous it has its own name. Can you guess it? Our docent told us its name was the 'Spud'. It looks kind of like a potato doesn't it? Its location is directly across from the entrance to the Conservation Hall. I had to include it because in Middle Tennessee it is rather rocky but this rock takes the cake for sure.
Lastly a picture of the lovely ladies of Beachaven Garden Club (and a couple of visitors)....
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