I never want to miss a chance to visit a beautiful house, especially one surrounded by botanical gardens. On my way to Memphis to speak at Theater Memphis, I made a stop in Nashville to visit Cheekwood House and Botanical Gardens.
Within its 55 acres, Cheekwood is a home and garden rich with history. In 1890 , Leslie Cheek moved with his family from Kentucky to Nashville to join his father’s grocery business. While Leslie worked with his father in the grocery business, his cousin Joel developed a superior blend of coffee. Members of the Cheek family invested in Cheek-Neal Coffee. Eventually, Joel convinced the best hotel in Nashville, the Maxwell House, to carry his coffee exclusively and the Maxwell House brand was born. (as the saying goes,…the rest is history!) When Joel Cheek sold his brand to Postum (now general Foods) for over $40million in 1928, Leslie’s investment in the coffee paid him well. He and his wife purchased 100 acres in West Nashville and built their dream house, now known as Cheekwood.
The couple hired New York residential and landscape architect Bryant Fleming to create the 30,000 square –foot Georgian-style mansion with formal gardens. Built from limestone quarried on the grounds, Fleming designed the home so that it appears to rise out of the hill. He also orchestrated the placement of doors, windows and rooms to accentuate the views of gardens and landscape, completely tying the house to the grounds in every respect.
To furnish the home, Mr. and Mrs. Cheek traveled with Fleming to Great Britian to buy antiques and furniture for this great mansion. Construction on the mansion began in 1929 and completed in 1932. In January 1933, Leslie Cheek and his wife Mabel moved into their new home. Leslie lived only two years at Cheekwood before his death in 1935 and nine years later Mabel Cheek deeded the house to their daughter Huldad and her husband Walter Sharp. In 1957 , the Sharps offered the mansion and 55 acres of land for the establishment of a botanical garden and art museum. Cheekwood’s Fine Art Center opened to the public on May 22, 1960. Special attention was paid to restore the original architecture and landscaping of the mansion.
Sadly, no photos of Cheekwood’s interiors are allowed, so I highly recommend you go for a visit! Many aspects of the interiors of this lovely mansion intrigued me, but none so much as The Ewers-Tyne collection of Worchester Porcelain at Cheekwood! Of course the blue and white pieces were of special interest to me, so upon leaving Cheekwood, I had to have this book by John Sandon!
The gardens at Cheekwood are particularly spectular in Spring, although it felt very “wintery” the day of my visit!
David Roger’s “Big Bugs” exhibit was fun and runs through August 31st if you can manage a visit this summer.
As a big fan of Dale Chihuly, I was sorry to have missed his exhibit in 2010!!
When departing Cheekwood, I noticed that things were a buzz, getting ready for the 2014 Swan Ball which benefits the house and gardens. What an elegant annual event!
Image of the 2013 Swan Ball-Town and Country
If you are in the Nashville area, go by and enjoy the house and gardens and art at Cheekwood!