Archive for November, 2008

From Nashville, Tennessee to St. Louis, Missouri

Written on November 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Monday: We left Nashville owing a huge debt to our tour guide Tom (and his parents) who fed us, put a roof over our heads, and showed us the Nashville ropes. Thanks, y’all.

Tuesday: This morning we dropped Hazel off at the cleaners groomers Beauty Parlor for the day while we checked out the house museums of St. Louis. First stop, the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion.

As usual, I neglected to get directions before hopping in the car. We got a little lost along the way, but stopped for guidance when we felt we were close.

St. Louis Map


I walked into the Lemp Mansion Restaurant, thinking that maybe since they ran their operation out of an old house, they’d be in the know. Here’s how the conversation went–

LAIN: Hey! Do you know where the Chant-tee-yon Demumble House is?

WAITER: Dude, are you serious?

LAIN: I really don’t know how to pronounce it, I’m sorry.

WAITER: (eyeing me warily) It is literally next door.

LAIN: Reall–

WAITER: Literally. Next door.

Chatillon Demenil Where Lain Asked for Directions

The distance between the two houses was well before the stop sign.

So we found it. Review to follow.

Nashville, Tennessee — Travellers Rest

Written on November 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Monday: We learned our lesson from the Clover Bottom Mansion and called ahead to Travellers Rest. The lady on the phone assured me that we could walk in and take the tour right away. Nice.

Hazel at Travellers Rest

But when we got there, the same lady assured me that we would have to wait twenty or twenty-five minutes for the tour. Le sigh!

Luckily, we were able to walk around the grounds of Travellers Rest, where they have plenty of historic markers and restored outbuildings.

Susie at Traveller's Rest

Some of the outbuildings had open doors with little exhibits inside. For example–

Stuff at Travellers Rest

Travellers Rest is like the other house museums we’ve seen so far, in that originally the house was much, much smaller. They added on to the house several times over the years before they found what they wanted.

Travellers Rest through the years.  Also, Susie's head.

The weather was still kinda nasty, so we didn’t stay too long. We did, however, get to see little pumpkins before we left.

Lil' Baby Pumpkins at Travellers Rest

Topics Discussed — Those Little Pumpkins, Our Earlier Phone Conversation, Butter Churning, Highway Construction

Nashville, Tennessee — Clover Bottom Mansion

Written on November 28, 2008 at 1:12 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Monday: We visited Clover Bottom Mansion because it looked cool, it was in our brochure of museums, admission was free, and the house was right near the Hermitage.

Clover Bottom Mansion

Turns out the Clover Bottom Mansion is not so much a museum as it is the offices of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

And turns out that admission is free because …it is the offices of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

The very nice and accommodating secretary led me on a very brief tour of the place, where I saw things like …the conference room and …the brochure storage room and …the elevator.

She was not feeling well, however, and it looked like she–not unlike the dog Hazel last night–was about to, um, regurgitate lunch.  I thanked her graciously and hurried outside.  They have a few outbuildings, some of which will be restored.

Someone else got the full tour earlier this year, so I’d look to them if you want the history of the place.

Topics discussed — Nausea, Not Being a House Museum, Brochure Storage.

Hermitage, Tennessee — The Hermitage

Written on November 28, 2008 at 11:45 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Monday: The Hermitage is the big house museum to-do in Nashville.

Problem is, it costs $16 per person and you also need to carve out two hours of your time to see the place.

I’m sure the Hermitage is totally worth it.  I mean, if the brochure tells us anything, it’s that this is one classy place.
Cold, Rainy Hermitage

Hazel the dog was with us, looking forward to walking around the grounds.

But merely to explore the grounds with the dog (in the rain) would have set Susie back $16, while I was inside for two hours.  Gosh, we were looking for a house museum, not a really nice historic penitentiary that charged admission.  A soggy soggier dog wasn’t appealing at this point, either.

They do have a nice fleet of trucks with Andrew Jackson’s signature on the back.

Andrew Jackson Truck at Hermitage

I’m thinking about buying a fleet of trucks for the Wren’s Nest and putting Joel Chandler Harris’ signature on the back.  Consider it an investment.

In the end we said thanks but no thanks–the Hermitage may have been a little too rich for our blood.

Topics Discussed — Railroad Tracks In One’s Yard, The Song We Think Is Called “Rough and Ready Is Our Battle Call,” Whether Said Song Has to Do with Andrew Jackson.

Nashville, Tennessee — Belmont Mansion, Part Two

Written on November 28, 2008 at 8:32 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Monday: The Belmont Mansion is super cool.  They even let me in this time.

Sure, it’s still a house dedicated to some mostly forgotten wealthy white woman, but to her credit, Adelicia Acklin was a crafty, entrepreneurial smooth talker.  She makes for great stories.  And I’m of the opinion that it’s great stories that make great house museums.

Adelicia Acklin was the kind of gal who used both Union and Confederate forces to ship her cotton from Louisiana to England without batting an eye.  She talked her way out of jail, had the good sense to keep her money in London until the end of the Civil War, and gave birth to ten children along the way.

Our docent weaved the narrative of Adelicia Acklin through each room.  The house is filled with high-society Victorian bric-a-brac and artifacts from Mrs. Acklin’s Grand Tour.  Much of it is original and it’s certainly impressive without the stories.  But really, it’s Acklin’s story that makes the home so intriguing.

Unfortunately, the Belmont Mansion doesn’t allow photos.  Fortunately, all was forgiven when our docent took me up to the off-limits third floor viewing platform.

Topics discussed — Egyptian Fads in the Victorian Period, Superstitions Surrounding Cauls, Grand Tours, Alligator Pits.

Nashville, Tennessee — Belmont Mansion

Written on November 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Sunday: We arrived at the Belmont Mansion at approximately 3:36, a mere six minutes after the last tour shoved off.

I was not allowed to join midway.

Hazel and the Belmont Mansion

The dude who answered the door had already put away the cash box.  This created an impenetrable force field in front of the door, so I couldn’t have gone in even if I wanted.

I went like this at him: “Sigh!

Our quick stop at the Sam Davis Home proved to be a critical mistake.  Luckily, the Belmont Mansion is open on Mondays.

In the meantime, we’re staying in Nashville with Tom, good guy and Wren’s Nest Facebook Fan.

We ate dinner at Tom’s parents’ house, nearby.  When Tom’s parents gave Hazel a Greenie, she swallowed it whole and vomited on what seemed like every carpet in the house.  Later, she vomited at Tom’s apartment.

Tomorrow will be better.

Topics Discussed — Rainy Nashville Weather, Presidential Debates, Gazebos, Curses on the Sam Davis Home

Smyrna, Tennessee — Sam Davis Home

Written on November 26, 2008 at 2:45 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Sunday: A little ways up from Murfreesboro on Highway 41, we stumbled across the Sam Davis Home.

Hazel and the Sam Davis Historic Home

We stopped to take a picture, but didn’t have time to go in.

Sam Davis was the Boy Hero of the Confederacy, and his story is pretty remarkable–at nineteen years old, Davis acted as a courier for the Confederate Army. He was captured by Union forces on suspicion of espionage and executed after a week of captivity.

Real uplifting.  Anyway, on to the Belmont Mansion.

Topics Discussed — How Stopping at the Sam Davis Home Would Not Affect Our Efforts to See the Belmont Mansion Later, Cotton

Murfreesboro, Tennessee — The Oaklands

Written on November 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Sunday: After winding through the mountains of north Georgia and Tennessee, we reached our first destination — the Oaklands.

The Oaklands in Murfreesboro, TN

From what I can tell, walk-in visitation to the Oaklands is somewhat light.

However! Visitation from families looking to take their Christmas card picture is off the chain. No less than three different families were taking pictures there during our hour stay.

The Oaklands sits on a large expanse of parkland, since it was once a plantation. Once inside, the home extols the virtue of simple elegance (which was also the name of a trailer store we saw on Highway 41).

In the 1950s (or thereabouts), the home fell into disarray.  You can still see the burn marks on the floors left over from the vagrants of days of yore.

The folks at the Oaklands necessarily give you a lot of history about the people that lived there–most notably the Maney family by way of the Murfree family–but to be honest I just don’t care too much about these anonymous wealthy people.

The house is dope though, so don’t let that stop you.

Topics discussed –19th Century Dental Practices, Human Hair Artwork, Structural Engineers, War Between the States

Decatur, Georgia — We’re Off

Written on November 26, 2008 at 8:15 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Sunday: Today I left for Salt Lake City with my sister Susie and her dog Hazel.

Lain and Susie as their epic journey begins

We’ll have updates here on the blog, as well as on

our fancy-pants Google Map.

My sister and I are a lot alike, but very different in two key ways:

  1. I do not like to plan things and want to see as many house museums as possible.
  2. She appreciates a plan and would like to get to Utah before Boxing Day.

A clash of Apollonian and Dionysian proportions is expected. You might wanna, you know, stay tuned for that.

Things we packed for the trip–

Out West by Duncan Drayton

  • copy of Out West by Dayton Duncan
  • more than eight bottles of wine
  • spiral-bound atlas
  • dog who will likely chew through the upholstery by Missouri

And so it begins!

Technical Difficulties

Written on November 24, 2008 at 11:22 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

You know how when you’re like, “I’m going to correct this person’s grammar” in a public forum, there’s this law that means you yourself will also have a grammar error?

I think the same law is in effect when you promise a blog post.

We’re safe and sound in St. Louis, and we’ll update soon, promise.  Please!  Amuse yourself with

our slightly updated map in the meantime.