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Maury County, Tennessee
Historic Sites of Interest

  • Polk Ancestral Home

    The ancestral home of President James Knox Polk is located in Columbia, TN. Polk, the eleventh President of the United States (1845-1849), had his first law office in Columbia in the home of his parents, Samuel and Jane Knox Polk. The Polk Home, now restored and registered as a National Historic Landmark, is located about two blocks west of the Maury County Courthouse, on West 7th Street. It is reported that at least three Presidents have slept in the Polk Home.

    A rare item among the many authentic furnishing of the Polk Home is the Inaugural Bible used by President Polk. Also included is the beautiful fan which the President had made for his wife, Sarah Childress Polk, to carry to the Inaugural Ball. The first eleven presidents are depicted on the front of the fan, while on the back is a print of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    Located at 301 West 7th St., The Polk Home is open from 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, April -October; and 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., November - March. The home is open on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. and closed Thanksgiving, Dec. 24, 25, and Jan. 1. Telephone: (931) 388-2354.

  • Rippavilla Plantation

    P.O. Box 877, Spring Hill, TN 37174-0877; phone: (931) 486-9037
    Director: Dave Stieghan

    Rippavilla Plantation, located 1-1/2 miles south of Saturn Pkwy (off I-65) on Hwy 31, near Spring Hill, TN, was built by Nathaniel Cheairs in the 1850s. It has wonderful exterior detail, with Corinthian columns and double white-pillared porticoes. Focal point of the great entrance hall is an elegant stairway. Mantels in Rippavilla are inlaid with Wedgewood medallions.

    Rippavilla took its place in history on November 30, 1864 when Confederate General Hood and his officer-staff of the Army of the Tennessee, Generals Cheatham, Lee, Forrest, and possibly General Stewart met for breakfast before departing in pursuit of Union General Schofields' army. (Former Tennessee Governor, Isham Harris, was also present). In the afternoon of that same day, they would become engaged in the bloody Battle of Franklin.

    Museum areas are being added to Rippavilla in the near future. Rooms and wings will interpret the Armies of the Tennessee, both Confederate and Federal, 1860 antebellum life and the life of the Cheairs family. A Freedman's Bureau School has been transported intact to the grounds of Rippavilla and is one of only a few in the entire state. A mule-drawn trolley will transport visitors on part of the old Andrew Jackson Road to nearby Oaklawn mansion, which served as General Hood's headquarters prior to the Battle of Franklin. (Rippavilla serves as headquarters for the Antebellum Tour of Middle Tennessee).

    Recently purchased is a 118-acre tract of battlefield from the little-known Battle of Spring Hill (November 29, 1864), which will be interpreted with markers and included in the tour of Rippavilla Plantation. According to Alethea Sayers, author of The Sound of Brown's Guns, which details the Battle of Spring Hill, there were approximately 850 casualties, involving Cleburne's Division, Forrest's Cavalry - 8000 of Hood's men and 6000 of Schofield's. There are a limited number of copies of The Sound of Brown's Guns from the second printing still available in the plantation's gift shop.

  • The Athenaeum

    The Athenaeum, once an institution for the education of young women, was founded in 1851 by Rev. Franklin Gillette Smith. Its name is derived from Athena, goddess of wisdom, and has evolved to mean "seat of learning." The Athenaeum Rectory, begun in 1835 as a home for Samuel Polk Walker, nephew of President James K. Polk, is of Gothic and Moorish architechture and was certainly not typical of the building style of the day. The Athenaeum has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Under Rev. Smith, the institute and its monthly publication The Guardian, were esteemed among educators in many states. Rev. Smith, born in Benson, VT on December 14, 1797, became a staunch supporter of the South during the War Between the States and from his own funds, equipped a company to support the Confederate cause.

    The Athenaeum, at 808 Athenaeum St., is owned and maintained by the Maury County Chapter for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. It is open for guided tours from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday, and from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, February through December. Telephone: (931) 381-4822.

  • Rattle and Snap

    The beautiful mansion, Rattle and Snap, was built circa 1842-1845 by George Washington Polk and wife Sallie Hilliard, on land inherited from his father, Col. William Polk. Col. Polk won the tract of land from the Governor of North Carolina in a friendly game of rattle and snap, which was played with dried beans, rattled in the hand and rolled with a snap of the fingers like dice.

    Rattle and Snap has been called by many architectural scholars, "the grandest of its style in Tennessee to which only a handful in the nation are comparable. The home has ten Corinthian columns, to the usual four were added six more, three to each flank and three paces to the rear. The columns and capitals were carved in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville, barged down the Ohio, up the Cumberland to Nashville. The Italian marble mantels were imported, but everything else in the making of the home was accomplished by local craftsmen.

    This magnificent mansion would not have survived the Civil War had not the Union General Buell, spied a Masonic ring of brotherhood on the finger of George Polk in his portrait. The order to put Rattle & Snap to the torch was stayed, and the mansion survives today honored as a National Landmark.

    Rattle & Snap is open to the public. Dining, by reservation, is offered, and the mansion houses a gift shop. Telephone: 1-800-258-3875 or (931) 379-5861.


  • For more information on Maury County's historic homes, battlefields, tours, accomodations, and a calendar of events, stop in here.




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    Frank D. "Denny" Thomas, Volunteer for Maury County
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    This page was last updated July 7, 1998.