Built on a peaceful hillside on the west side of Nashville, Cheekwood is an elegant setting for a group tour with its beautiful mansion, tranquil gardens and educational opportunities.
Containing lovely gardens, priceless art and historic manor rooms, Cheekwood is a 55-acre estate that promises discovery behind every corner. Constructed as a home for Leslie and Mabel Cheek in 1929, the property was converted into a public art museum and garden in 1960. Since then, Cheekwood has welcomed an average of 225,000 annual visitors, and the grounds are one of the Nashville area’s top draws. You can tour the elegant grounds while admiring the brilliant Georgian architecture year-round, and accompanying dining and shopping facilities make your Cheekwood visit comprehensive for groups of any size.
Cheekwood is one of the grandest surviving examples of the American Country Place Estate Movement. Made popular by Gilded Age industrial barons in the late 1800s, the movement’s aesthetics drew from the architecture and interior design of France’s Beaux-Arts style. The origin of Cheekwood, as a concept, is traced to an old family story involving a gilded gold mirror. After a successful return on investment in the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company, creators and brewers of Maxwell House Coffee, Mabel Cheek made sure her husband kept his word, they decided to hire one of the movement’s most notable designers: Bryant Fleming The New York landscape architect drew inspiration from 18th century English country estates, and the final product is a stunning mansion that contains 36 rooms, a hidden elevator and a library containing thousands of books. Group tours led by informative docents will explore the wealthy lifestyle of the Cheeks, their elaborate living spaces and the manor’s role in Nashville history.
After touring the mansion, your group can walk through the property’s crown jewel—the outdoor grounds. Cheekwood’s botanical gardens cover 55 acres and include hundreds of species, and designated areas are available for large picnic lunches. Smaller groups can gather in the Sigourney Cheek Literary Garden, whose amphitheater design was commissioned to host poetry and book readings, while larger parties can wander the Wills Perennial Garden, a natural environment of asters, salvias and ornamental grasses. Themed areas include the Martin Boxwood Gardens (modeled after Georgian-style manors), Suomi-en (a tranquil Japanese garden with a bamboo forest and courtyard to promote mindfulness) and the Carrell Woodland Sculpture Garden (which contains enormous contemporary sculptures). Groups can also experience the Bradford Robertson Color Garden for dazzling tropical species and the Burr Terrace Garden for spectacular bulb blooms in the spring. During warm-weather months, the “Trains!” exhibition sees 265 feet of track wind through a landscape of miniature villages, water towers and log cabins. Tour guides are available to explain the gardens’ many species and familial namesakes.
Groups can also admire beautiful works in the Cheekwood Permanent Collection of Fine Art, which emphasizes early 20th century American paintings and notably displays works by “The Eight.” This group of artists depicted American urbanization and social segregation by using bold brushstrokes to create evocative images. The collection also contains works that represent pop art, modernism and post-modernism, with works by Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth on display. In addition to painting and visual art, the Cheekwood estate claims hundreds of pieces in its decorative arts collection, which includes rare Chinese snuff bottles and English Worcester Porcelain. More art can be admired on the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail, a mile-long loop that features 11 sculptures by internationally recognized contemporary artists such as James Turrell and Sophie Ryder.
Coming soon is the renovated Frist Learning Center. Housed in the building that originally served as the Cheeks’ horse stables and garage, the updated center will include the Courtyard Café, retail space and classrooms to host student groups.
No matter the season, Cheekwood features beautiful grounds and gardens that will astonish groups of any age or interest.