In response to our new series What’s Up With That?, a Home Page reader asked the following question: What is the history of Mooreland Mansion?
The Mooreland mansion is a Greek-revival-style antebellum home in Brentwood that dates back to 1838. It was a private residence for most of its existence, but starting in the early 1980s began to be used as office space. Presently, it sits adjacent to the Hilton Garden Inn hotel at 217 Centerview Drive, in the CityPark development. The hotel was designed to complement the historic home.
The land that Mooreland mansion sits on was granted to General Robert Irvin in 1785 for his service in the Revolutionary War. The land was later passed from Irvin to his daughter, Eleanor, and her husband, James Moore. Robert Irvin Moore, the couple’s son, began construction of Mooreland in about 1838 after his parents passing. He died before the house was finished, and his brother, Alexander, took over the building project.
Brentwood historian Vance Little described the finished project in his book “Historic Brentwood:” “The completed house contains 28 rooms, with a full basement where the house servants lived…Its Greek Revival architectural style is typical of fine country homes of the period. It was designed for gracious living, with wide halls, large rooms, and 14-foot ceilings.”
The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. More information about the home’s style can be found in Mooreland’s register application.
“Mooreland is significant primarily as a very well preserved example of the major homes built in rural areas of Middle Tennessee during the first half of the nineteenth century,” the application reads. “These homes reflect the importance and magnitude of the primarily agrarian economy of the time and were almost universally done in the Greek Revival style.”
The application goes on to note, however, that Mooreland is somewhat unique from other homes built in the area. It clings more strictly to the Greek Revival style as propounded by leading architect Minard Lafever. While other homes had more personal, “vernacular” elements to their construction, Mooreland was a textbook example of Lafever’s ideal country house.
During the Civil War, Mooreland was used as a field hospital for both Union and Confederate troops. Little’s book includes the following description of the house in the aftermath of Hood’s retreat from the Battle of Nashville: “It is reported that not a piece of white material was left at Mooreland—sheets, petticoats, and towels were all used to dress wounds.”
Mooreland passed down through the Moore family to Robert Irwin Moore’s son, Hugh Campbell Moore. The family was deeply involved with Brentwood United Methodist Church in its early years. In fact, Hugh Campbell Moore donated a building for the church to meet in on Church Street after a previous location was destroyed in a storm. Campbell’s son, Robert Irwin Moore IV, played the organ at BUMC for twenty years.
It was he and his brother, Alexander, who finally sold the house in 1944. The home remained a private residence for several decades and gradually gained the reputation of being haunted. A previous Home Page article got into the supposed ghostly goings-on at the house, one in particular of a young girl in the Moore family who died mysteriously in the house in the 19th century.
By 1969, developers had designs on the house. An article from that year in The Tennessean outlined plans to build a large shopping complex where Mooreland sits. “The Brentwood Mall,” as it was to be called, was to incorporate Mooreland, with plans to transform the historic home into a private establishment called “The Steeplechase Club.”
Nothing came of that, and by the mid-1970s Mooreland was owned by Mercantile Stores, Inc. A news article found in the Brentwood Room at the Brentwood Library described negotiations between Mercantile Stores and two other entities that wanted to purchase Mooreland and the surrounding property. Service Merchandise wanted to turn the land into commercial space, while Koger Properties, Co., wanted to turn it into an office park.
Koger submitted a plan to Brentwood’s Planning Commission that involved tearing down Mooreland in 1981. Reporter Mark Green described the plan and the commission’s rejection of it: “The plan called for 12 buildings, ranging from two to four stories, and the demolition of Mooreland, a Greek revival antebellum mansion built in 1838. The Mooreland issue was the deciding factor, according to Garland Teague, commission member.”
The Koger company eventually obtained ownership of Mooreland and turned it and the surrounding area into an office park. According to a 1992 Brentwood Journal article, Koger had spent $1 million to renovate the historic mansion. It was apparently in awful shape when the company purchased it. The article quotes Koger General Manager James Walker on the state of the mansion at that time: “The first time I walked in, there were no windows and chickens were walking through the house. It looked like it would be impossible to refurbish.”
The Mooreland mansion had several tenants over the years, including several law firms. In 2001, Koger sold its office park to Harbor Group International. They rebranded the area as Synergy Business Park, according to an article in the Nashville Business Journal.
The Boyle Investment Company bought the land that Mooreland sits on in 2012 with plans to build a hotel around the mansion. The plan was approved, and a few years later, in 2016, the Hilton Garden Inn opened its doors.
Mooreland mansion now sits yards away from a number of retail spaces, such as Blaze Pizza and Newk’s Eatery.
Given the way events have transpired over the decades, one passage from the mansion’s register application rings especially ironic: “Previous owners had developed plans for the construction of a shopping center around Mooreland, retaining the historic house and many of the trees which surround it…The previous owners hope to be able to convince the new owners that Mooreland should be preserved and incorporated into what would be one of the most unique shopping centers in the country.”
After undergoing war, deterioration and narrowly evading the wrecking ball, that’s just where Mooreland stands today.
Special thanks to the Vance Little’s “Historic Brentwood” and the wonderful resource that is the Brentwood Library’s Brentwood Room for assistance with this article.