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Rippavilla, Spring Hill

#44 of 169 in Historic Sites in Tennessee
Must see · Historic Site · Tourist Spot
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In 1811 Nathaniel Cheairs, III moved his family from North Carolina to Spring Hill, Tennessee and purchased 300 acres for $1,800. He built a large wooden house on the property and raised ten children. His tenth child, Nathaniel (Nat) F. Cheairs, IV was born on the property in 1818. Nat later inherited the land from his father and began construction of the brick mansion we know as Rippavilla.

In 1850, Nat built the smoke house and the kitchen and immediately started building the two-story brick home for his family. By the end of 1855, the Cheairs family resided comfortably in their new home.

Every wall in the house is three-bricks-thick and the floor plan is the same from the cellar up. At the time of its completion the house had a porch that covered the back of the first and second stories. The porch at the carriage entrance and the front porch were originally wooden and the carriage entrance porch only extended as far as the columns.

According to the 1860 Federal Census, the Cheairs plantation consisted of 1,100 acres producing everything from wheat, corn, cotton, tobacco, oats, to raising livestock such as hogs, sheep, cattle, mules, and horses.

During the Civil War, troops of both armies camped and fought battles on and near the plantation. Both Union and Confederate generals used Rippavilla as their headquarters. In the dining room on November 30, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood outlined plans for the Battle of Franklin.

In 1893, Nathaniel sold the house and 1,200 acres to his younger son, William, for $40,000. William kept the house until 1920 and in the meantime added the four-car garage and garden walls on both sides of the house.

In 1920, William sold the house out of the family to the Whitfield family of Alabama, this time for $200,000. While the Whitfields only owned the house for about six years, they made many changes to the house. They installed electricity, plumbing and connected the home with the kitchen and smoke house.

They also enclosed the bottom portion of the porch to make a serving room, and added several bathrooms and closets, as well as the sunroom on the south side of the house. The Whitfields opened up the rooms in the main portion of the house by putting in larger doorways. They changed the staircase to its current design and put in 1.5-inch hardwood floors on top of the original 4-inch poplar floor.

The Whitfields sold the house in 1926 and after that it changed hands four or five times and no major changes were made to the house. The land was farmed and at times cattle was raised on the land until 1985 when Saturn Corp. leased the property.

In 2007, General Motors donated Rippavilla and 98.44 acres to Rippavilla.
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145 reviews
  • We did the Slavery & the Enslaved Tour on a Friday morning. The tour guide, Christie (not sure on the spelling), was incredibly well informed and answered a variety of questions with an outstanding... 
    We did the Slavery & the Enslaved Tour on a Friday morning. The tour guide, Christie (not sure on the spelling), was incredibly well informed and answered a variety of questions with an outstanding...  more »
  • We went on the Slavery & the Enslaved Tour and found it incredibly informative. Our guide, Kristi, was very knowledgeable about both Rippavilla specifically and the history of the area/Civil War/etc. broadly. We appreciated that the tour captured the human stories of this plantation and didn't gloss over the atrocity of slavery and its role in the Civil War. We learned a ton and plan to go back! The previous management company took basically all of the historical artifacts off of the walls when they left, so the current management (the Battle of Franklin Trust) is working on restoring the building in a historically accurate way.
  • Very informative and knowledgeable. Trey did a great job! 😀

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