Arts & Culture

The Hermitage Marks a Milestone

A year-long celebration of Andrew Jackson’s 250th

Photo: Courtesy of the Hermitage

A portrait of Andrew Jackson.

For a 250-year-old, Andrew Jackson can throw one heck of a party. “Old Hickory’s” homeplace, The Hermitage, located just northeast of Nashville, commemorates the president’s birthday every year on March 15. This year, the celebration will shift a day—with the festivities starting on Thursday, March 16. (The grounds will be closed Wednesday afternoon for a private ceremony during a visit from President Donald Trump.) On Thursday, the museum will offer half-price admission, slices upon thousands of slices of birthday cake, and a day full of both indoor and outdoor activities. The Tennessee National Guard will perform as part of a wreath-laying ceremony at Jackson’s burial site. Inside the museum, the renovated theater will debut a new film, “Jackson” before guests tour the National Historic Landmark spread across 1,120 acres.

Photo: Courtesy of the Hermitage

Andrew Jackson’s tomb at the Hermitage.

“I think what draws people here is the beauty of the site,” says Hermitage vice president Jason Nelson. “From the walking trails to the working farm spread out over more than a thousand acres, we’ve found ways for people to learn about Jackson beyond just taking a tour.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Hermitage

The Jacksons ate a 3 p.m. meal every day in the Hermitage mansion’s dining room.

Although the statesman was raised in the Carolinas, he considered Tennessee his adopted home once he purchased the farm in 1804 as his private retreat. “Jackson was the quintessential hunter and outdoorsman,” Nelson says. “He loved the serenity of this place. Hermitage means ‘place of rest,’ and he founded it as a way to get away from everything. It was his calm in the middle of the storm that was his life.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Hermitage

Andrew Jackson on Sam Patch, oil painting by Ralph Earl, c. 1833.

The Hermitage was one of America’s first presidential museums, encompassing 27 historic buildings including Jackson’s mansion and tomb, a church, and restored slave cabins. (Read about the Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight stay in the cabins). It doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of Jackson’s life or his presidency. The main exhibit includes displays on slavery and his Native American removal initiatives, and through its educational programs, the site aims to tell the whole Jackson story. An upcoming exhibit on what it meant to be a “Southern gentleman” of the early 1800s will include information on the role of dueling. Jackson killed a man in 1806 during a duel that also left him with a bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.

But he had a soft side, too. Legend has it that when Jackson assumed the presidency in 1829, he brought a piece of Tennessee with him to Washington—a cutting from one of the Hermitage’s beautiful magnolia trees to honor his wife, Rachel, who died just before his inauguration. That tree grows today on the South Lawn of the White House.

Photo: Courtesy of the Hermitage

The Hermitage has welcomed approximately 16 million visitors from around the world since opening as a museum in 1889.

Other highlights to keep tabs on: An art exhibition in April, and the 117th Annual Spring Outing fund-raiser to benefit the Andrew Jackson Foundation on May 17 will host former First Lady Laura Bush as keynote speaker. Also, Jackson is set to be the focus of a 2018 HBO miniseries based on Jon Meacham’s Pulitzer-Prize winning biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, starring Sean Penn. Keep track of all the anniversary year’s events at the Hermitage’s site.