29 Jun Iconic home
Elegant, timeless, gracious.
Much has been said and written about this magnificent Belle Meade estate over the years. The Neoclassical beauty built in 1929 represents so much of the grandeur and grace of the past that many “old Nashville” families remember and miss. But she still stands tall and regal after all these years.
Designed by architects Christian A. Asmus and Richard R. Clark, the home that sits on five acres in the heart of Belle Meade on the Boulevard represents one of the first “Country Place Era” estates in Nashville.
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Wilson Craig acquired the property in 1932 and their daughter, Margaret Ann Craig Robinson and her husband Walter took up residence in 1987. The home has been the setting for countless social, civic, and charitable events, including family weddings.
Here is Margaret Ann’s granddaughter, Florence, on her wedding day in the drawing room, in 2016.
Such wonderful family traditions captured in this home and in the surrounding noteworthy gardens have been featured in numerous magazines, including Southern Living, Southern Accents, Southern Comfort, and listed in the Archives of American Gardens in the Smithsonian Institution.
Mrs. Robinson, the mother of four children, did so very much for this city and is fondly remembered for her countless contributions and charitable work.
She is considered the “heart and soul” of the Nashville Public Library and was instrumental in getting the new library built downtown. In fact, in naming her the 2001 Nashvillian of the Year, the Nashville Scene said, “If it weren’t for Margaret Ann Robinson, Nashville wouldn’t have a new downtown library.” She and her husband of 55 years also founded The Ensworth School in 1958. She passed away at her home at the age of 92 in 2017. I’m sorry that I did not have the good fortune to meet this influential and gracious woman, but have met some of her family members and got the chance to see her estate that was on the market in 2018.
Major renovations to blend the house and garden into entertaining areas began after Margaret Ann and her husband assumed ownership of the property. Their sons-in-law, landscape architect Ben Page and architect Stephen Rick, worked together to achieve the elegant gardens from sunroom to courtyard.
I love the fact that local material was used extensively throughout the property. The brick used for the walks has a history of its own having been used as sidewalks in the now trendy East Nashville that was laid back in the late 1800’s. Tennessee Crab Orchard stone and native limestone were used for the extensive walls and terraces.
It is just magical. A series of four garden rooms were designed back in the late 1980’s. They were arranged laterally alongside and below the house with a series of high and low walls.
I could go on and on about the grounds and even though this is not the peak time of year for gardens, it is still so lovely. She has such good bones.
This is probably my favorite perspective of the back of the property. Pear trees espaliered against one wall, with a door leading to the pool area with a pool house converted from a three-car garage. It includes a one-bedroom apartment complete with kitchen, laundry, screened porch and sizable potting room.
I haven’t even taken you inside yet! Despite the fact that the house is empty, she is like a naturally beautiful woman. This grand dame doesn’t need adornment. Her architectural beauty is enough.
The dramatic floating staircase greets you in the entrance hall, along with the panoramic wallpaper from French wallpaper company, Zuber on the stair landing and in the dining room. The interior was designed by A. Herbert Rogers and his apprentice Albert Hadley, a native Nashvillian who went on to become a partner in the premier New York design firm of Parish Hadley.
Paneled wainscoting in the dining room is another beautiful feature, along with the solid wood paneling in the library just beyond these doors. And the elaborate millwork throughout the home is stunning.
There are modern touches in the home, including a kitchen with two built-in refrigerators, two dishwashers, two sinks, a generator and an elevator! I love the backsplash and windows bringing the outside in.
The house has five fireplaces, five bedrooms and ample storage including the most unique linen closet I’ve ever seen upstairs.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest. Or at least given you a glimpse of a bygone era in Nashville. We need to remember and celebrate the pillars of the community, like Mrs. Robinson, who paved the way for so much of what we enjoy today, both beauty and books that everyone can enjoy at the Nashville Public Library.
And I certainly hope a family will purchase this home and enjoy it like the Craigs and Robinsons did over the years. She’s a grand dame with many stories from the past, and hopefully more chapters yet to be written.
The home sold in August of 2019!!! Thanks for following Stylish Retreats Life, celebrating lovely homes, and other retreats, plus occasional cooking videos tossed in!