Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Nashville Safari!

Justin and I had the day off yesterday and we decided to adventure in our neck of the woods. Both of us had really wanted to visit Nashville’s Zoo, but hadn’t had the chance. So around noon we got on our safari gear and headed five miles south to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.

We got to see the tigers, elephants, birds, and giraffes, but our most favorite spot was the Meerkat enclosure. Much like a little village, there were these little animals scurrying around. Some were digging, some were grooming each other, some were sleeping, and one was keeping a look out… Just like what I saw on Meerkat Manor on the Animal Planet! (Does anyone remember this show?? It was one of my favorites while I was in college. The show made them seem just like people!)

Anyway we could have just watched them for hours…

Another reason I especially liked our visit was to be able to tour the Grassmere House. When I first heard the name. “The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere,” it sounded as if it was a satellite zoo from a larger one. We had no idea there was actually a plantation house on the zoo property, hence the name Grassmere. (The house/planation got its name from the original owner of the home who enjoyed reading poetry by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth frequently wrote about a lake in England, named Grasmere.)

After taking the group tour we learned that the Croft sisters (the eldest passed away in 1985)who had lived in the Grassmere house, made an agreement with the once standing Children’s Museum down town that if the museum paid their taxes and such, they would will their house and land to them – with a few conditions. One, that the house must remain standing and two, the land must be used to teach the public about animals.

Turns out that the house and land had been in their family since the late 1700’s! Their family had been a rich one, and the Croft sisters’ parents had both a house in Cuba (where they had a concrete business) as well as in Nashville. Their parents died in the 40’s and the sisters came back to Nashville to live. Unfortunately, when Castro came to power, the family’s money was taken for the government, and the sisters had not yet moved their money back to the states.

Neither married nor had extremely profitable jobs, and they began living in poverty in the late 1960’s. It was around that time that the city of Nashville came to them and offered 1.6 million dollars for their land – and they turned it down. ( That was a lot of money now… and a whole lot more back then!) They turned the offer down because in the agreement, the house would have to be demolished.

The sisters strongly believed in the preservation of history and kept all of their family’s heirlooms in near perfect condition. They also relished in the company of animals. They were known for nursing abandoned animals as well as injured animals back to health. It is said that they also believed in proper burials for the perished animals and kept a large cemetery for all the animals they lost on their grounds… which later became the zoo.

After the sisters’ deaths, an animal preservation was created but failed a few years after. In the late 1990’s, keeping the womens’ wishes, the zoo moved to the property – making sure the house could also be seen by all of the zoo’s visitors. Such an interesting story… we probably spent as much time at the house and its grounds as we did the rest of the zoo!

Here are some more pictures of our safari adventures…

The Garden at the Grassmere House

Justin in the Orchard at the Grassmere House

and now in the garden... Before the sisters were born, the house had a large, functioning farm. When they were older, they used only a few fields but grew enough fruits and vegetables to live on.

So pretty there!

And now the actual zoo...

Such a lovely day!

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