Travellers Rest is the perfect place to practice being a hometown tourist. This historic home is located in South Nashville. I have lived in Middle Tennessee for 4 decades and I had never visited before. It was worth the wait.
Travellers Rest was built by John Overton in 1799. Overton was a judge and a good friend to Andrew Jackson. The original house was only two rooms.
John Overton originally called the house “Golgotha”. No. Seriously. Golgotha. It literally means “the place of the skull”. The official story is that a lot of human skulls were unearthed when the cellar for the house was dug out. My theory (unsubstantiated by facts) is that John Overton didn’t really like visitors. I mean who in the world would want to pop in and visit at a place called Golgotha?
Someone in the family must have agreed with me because Overton changed the name to Travellers Rest just a few years later. As a circuit court judge, Overton viewed the home as his place of respite from his rigorous job. And doesn’t ‘Travellers Rest’ just sound a whole lot more inviting than ‘Golgotha’? Also, if my house was built on a prehistoric graveyard, I would just probably keep that information to myself.
The house is surrounded by a huge yard that holds a smokehouse, a large herb garden, a weaving house, and a one room schoolhouse. If you have no interest in history at all, you should still take a trip to Travellers Rest for the landscape alone. The grounds are home to some of the largest, most beautiful trees I have ever seen in Tennessee.
Of course, the historic home tour is the highlight of any visit to Travellers Rest. They only allow about 15 people in at a time. This is mainly to make sure that each group is able to hear the tour guides and get a good view of the different rooms. Leave your stroller outside though, you will never get that thing up the narrow staircase.
There was a large crowd on the day of our visit but our wait for the tour was only around ten minutes. While we waited our turn, one of the guides gave us a short history of the home and answered lots of 3rd grade questions. Mainly ones like “Where is the bathroom?” Guess what? There are NO bathrooms inside the home. There is a fancy potty chair though. I took a picture in case you were curious. (There are modern bathrooms available in the picnic barn and check-in station thank goodness :))
Once it was our turn for the tour, we entered the original two room house first. The guide for the main floor allowed us to walk around and look while he talked about the various items we were seeing. Be aware that most of the home is ‘all access’ meaning you can walk right through the rooms and see the furnishings up close rather than through a window. But it is still a ‘No Touch’ situation. So if you have a rowdy two year old that cannot be trusted outside the stroller, I would probably go as a team and take turns doing the house tour alone.
One of the things Lauren and I have discovered as we have toured historic homes in Nashville is that most of the guides employed by these places are really dedicated to their jobs. We have been impressed over and over by the knowledge and passion that these people bring to their professions. That kind of enthusiasm could infect your kids and set them on a path to be a lifelong learner.
The tour allows you to go upstairs where you can view the bedrooms. Then as you head back downstairs to the back of the house, you will see the dining area. You will then exit through a gift shop type area set up on the side porch. It’s smaller than you would expect and has a lot of really unique items.
The Overton family lived in Travellers Rest until 1946. In 1954, the home was restored and began functioning as a museum. Travellers Rest is the oldest home available to tour in the state of Tennessee. The museum hosts lots of events throughout the year. We visited during the Trades Festival which is held each year in September. Local artisans were on site demonstrating basket weaving, fire pit cooking, soap making, pottery making and lots more.
They also had several ‘hands on’ activities for kids. Mine were able to make their own candles (under the supervision of some very patient employees!) They also made hanky dolls, corn husk dolls and got to try their hand at writing with a quill pen. These are the kinds of family fun experiences that kids never forget. If you don’t think you child will enjoy just a tour of the house, then make plans to visit during one of these special events. Just keep your eye on this page and we will make sure you know when they are scheduled.
Family Fun Facts
Open : Monday – Saturday 10AM – 4:30PM
Cost : Regular Tour Adults $12 Student (age 11 & up) $10 Child (age 6-11) $6 Children (5 and under) Free
Family Rate 2 Adults and up to 4 students $40