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Rippavilla, Spring Hill

#43 of 169 in Historic Sites in Tennessee
Must see · Historic Site · Tourist Spot
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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Rippavilla reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
136 reviews
  • Knowledgeable guides not just on this battle but other aspects of life before and after the war. Incredible story that sets up the tragic Battle of Franklin. Definitely worth the price of admission...  more »
  • What a fascinating tour! I am a Civil War buff and when I learned about the bloodiest battles that took place in Franklin that shaped the the end of the Civil War, I had to go see it for myself...  more »
  • Had lots of fun with the school field trip. This house is very open, most of the rooms are not restricted with handrails or roped off. There is not any information plaques so a guided tour is kinda necessary. But it was good. The guide let my daughter (who knows how to) play the piano in the music room. Very cool.
  • I enjoyed my visit and paranormal adventure. Everyone was friendly and our journey was very interesting. Brent, Connie and to the team - thank you!

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