Two Rivers Mansion
Two Rivers Mansion, located at the confluence of the Stones and Cumberland rivers, is among the last elaborate antebellum country homes in the Nashville area and is the earliest and best preserved Italianate houses built in Middle Tennessee. Three generations of the McGavock family inhabited the Two Rivers Mansion until the last heir died and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County bought the property for nearly one million dollars. Today, the Two Rivers Mansion, once a part of an 1100 acre plantation, is a fourteen acre tract. It includes its predecessor—a two story brick house among Nashville’s oldest brick houses; both locations are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
The original home on the property was the two-story brick house built by David Buchanan in 1802. After William Harding purchased the 476 acre farm from Willie Barrow in 1819, he grew the property to a total of 1100 acres before marrying local Elizabeth Clopton in 1830. Sadly, he died in 1832 before their only child was born. Elizabeth named their daughter William “Willie” Elizabeth Harding in honor of both of her parents. After Willie grew up and married her cousin David H. McGavock in 1850, Willie and David inherited the 1820 Federal style brick home and 1100 acres.
Willie, David, and their son Frank stayed in the brick residence as they planned and built the 1859 mansion nearby, although the mansion wasn’t finished until the 1870’s. The brick and millwork were made on the plantation itself using slave labor. Visitors can see “David, Willie, and Frank” stamped in three bricks located on the back porch. The 1880’s estate was known as Two Rivers Stock Farm and was well known for being the center of Morgan horse breeding in Middle Tennessee and a thriving dairy business. However, the financial Panic of 1893 hit the estate hard, causing Spence, Frank’s only son, to lease out the estate and work as a shoe salesman in the early 1900’s to keep the farm.
Spence and his wife Mary Louise Branford, whom he married in 1928, lived in Two Rivers Mansion for four years remodeling their home by installing plumbing, electricity, and heat. When Mary’s mother died in 1933, Mary and Spence returned to Melrose, her childhood home. Spence, too, died in Melrose three years later. For the next eighteen years Mary remained at Melrose while the Two Rivers farm was maintained by caretakers. In 1954, Mary returned to Two Rivers where she said was always the happiest until she, the last of the McGavock family died in November 1965. She named several family members, friends, and employees as beneficiaries and instructed that Two Rivers should be sold with the proceeds to go to Division of Hematology at Vanderbilt Hospital and Medical School in a research fund named after her father, William S. Bransford.
In 1966 the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County purchased the 447 acre property for nearly one million dollars, set aside fourteen acres including the historical homes, and developed the rest of the site for the community. Today, two schools, a gold course, park greenway, waterpark, skate park, and frisbie golf course occupy the original farmland. A state grant and matching amount by the Metro Council allowed Two Rivers Mansion to be restored to its former glory so that visitors can grasp the culture and lifestyle preserved there.