Clinging to the walls, the shelves and the familiar floors like ghosts, they settle with ease into the spaces they resided so long ago.
After more than 130 years away, almost 200 of Adelicia Acklen’s personal belongings returned to the Belmont Mansion this summer thanks to Beverly Kaiser, wife of Acklen’s late great-grandson Franck Kaiser.
“Most of the other family members who own pieces, own maybe eight or ten pieces at the most. Major pieces of furniture, artwork, that type of thing but nothing as extensive as this collection,” said executive director of Belmont Mansion Mark Brown
The items— which included five portraits, a pair of center tables and various pieces of intricately painted china— belonged to Acklen at the time of her death and were distributed among her descendants. They were tracked by the mansion’s staff for more than 40 years before they were carefully moved back into the mansion from Kaiser’s house in St. Louis in May.
“The first thing we had to do was go and assess all the pieces that were being offered to Belmont: the age, condition and quality of the objects. There were so many things this family had acquired over a number of generations, and we were only interested in pieces that had been here in Adelicia’s time. So we had to call all the other pieces from other generations of the family from the collection and concentrate in on the pieces that were most necessary for the story that we tell here at Belmont,” Belmont Mansion Associate Curator Jerry Trescott said.
Every new item was cataloged by the Belmont Mansion staff and added to a list with the details of its production, date, size and relevance to Acklen’s life. This would not only be used to keep track of the items but also to inform those who would visit the new objects during the exhibition later that month.
Along with the donation and installation of the new items, the mansion is also currently seeing major restorations to some of its main rooms, including current construction in the library. The renovation is spurred by the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville and the tourists who are predicted to visit Nashville for the occasion.
“What we started doing, as a very simple reworking of the space, led into a full-scale restoration. It was General Wood’s office, and that’s how it will look when it’s first finished: a recreation of his office in 1864, because that’s when he occupied the space,” Trescott said.
Other rooms will follow in the future with plans for the grand parlor to be put in motion in January. This major restoration may divert the typical tour route through the mansion, but tour guide Patty Morris believes that the inconvenience is worth what waits on the other side.
“Construction means that we can’t show that room, and that there are one or two other rooms that are closed… Sometimes it’s blocking access to another room. We just have to be flexible. It does take a long time, but each room as it is done is more amazing than the last one,” said Morris.
This article was written by Riley Wallace.