Sunday, October 27, 2013

Upstairs at Elm Springs, Columbia, TN (3 of 3)

Some of the furniture originally given to Sarah by her brother Nathaniel in 1838 still resides in the home. Additionally,  "The house retains its original interior features, including original mantels, the broad main staircase, rear service stairs, pocket doors and other trim.  Most of the floors in the house are original. made of poplar.  Other pieces of the furniture in the house today are original to the Looney family....", this according to, the organization's website.

These features are especially impressive in the upstairs living quarters of the house.  At the top of the grand staircase, you are welcomed into the sitting parlor...

...with an exterior doorway leading to the upstairs balcony, looking across Mooresville Pike to the Fairmount estate.  The families "...were close friends and it is said that on still evenings they could call across to each other by only slightly raising their voices."  This, also according to

The interior doorways leading from this parlor provide access to the bedrooms.

These poplar floors are unequaled by any modern specimen and we owe General Armstrong a debt of gratitude for saving them from the ravages of war.

Don't forget to make Elm Springs a historic destination on your next visit to Middle Tennessee.

Downstairs Tour of Elm Springs, Columbia, TN (2 of 3)

When other large buildings and many fine homes in Maury County were being destroyed by the Union Army prior to the Battle of Franklin (1864), this fantastic home was saved by an alert and loyal female slave and the timely arrival of General Frank Armstrong (CSA).  He and his men were traveling along Mooresville Pike just as the Union soldiers were attempting to set fire to the home.  He sent some troops to drive off the Yankee arsonists and later, after the Battle of Franklin, returned with a wounded comrade (General Brown) who was allowed to recover here.  Upon their departure, Susan Looney gave General Armstrong a decanter to thank him for saving their home.  That decanter has since been returned to the collection at Elm Springs. *

The home is currently a showcase of period furnishings as well as some original pieces surviving the Todd and Looney families' occupancy.  This collection is kept safe under the protective gaze of several notable Southern Generals such as Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Like most homes of the Southern elite at the time, the downstairs was frequently used for dining...

...and entertaining guests.

The gentlemen could retire to this well-appointed study after dinner for drinks and cigars as they discussed the issues of the day.

The design of Elm Springs is said to have been copied from an Italian Villa that the builders, James and Nathaniel Dick, had admired while touring Europe.  The brothers, who operated a successful New Orleans brokerage firm, built this home as a gift for their sister Sarah.  The influence of New Orleans architecture can be seen in these "pocket doors", which are variant of a French design.

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, but cannot compare to the experience of being there.
To plan your visit and see what the Union soldiers almost destroyed when they attempted to raze the Looney's home in 1864, see the organization's website at

*  Cynthia White, personal communication, 2013.

Elm Springs, Columbia, TN (1 of 3)

When visiting Maury County, Tennessee, this historic home is second only to the Polk House as a "Don't Miss" destination.  More than just a beautifully preserved two-story, pre-war Greek Revival home with an intriguing history, this privately owned southern mansion also serves as the International Headquarters for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and houses their collection of Civil War artifacts.

Although they were kind enough to admit me shortly before closing, I suggest arriving early and allowing at least one hour for the full tour.  For more information on this site, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, I refer the reader to Wikipedia or, better yet, the owner's website at .

Just outside of Columbia, Tennessee on Mooresville Pike, stands this venerable  mansion.

Upon entering, your attention is immediately drawn to this enormous, hand-carved mirror on the left.

Reflected in the mirror is the grand staircase rising graciously to the bedrooms and upstairs parlor.  Seen to the right are the back stairs used by household servants as well as the family's children.  In the closet underneath this back stairway you may yet see the signs of smoke damage where a Union soldier once placed a burning broom in an effort to raze the building prior to the Battle of Franklin.  A trusted female slave is credited with removing the flaming broom before much damage occurred.

To learn more about the history of this fine home, visit