When we were in Nashville two weeks ago, we happened by this amazing sign for the former Belle Meade Theatre. This isn’t the best picture of it, but it certainly is gloriously vintage!
This summer, we visited the Parthenon!
No, we didn’t go to Greece. But right in the heart of Nashville, TN, is a full-size replica of that famous Athenian building! Of course, the Nashville version is in a bit better shape, as it was “only” first built in 1897 in plaster, wood, and brick, for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and then rebuilt in concrete in the 1920s.
I guess I had never really thought about how large the Parthenon is, but one look at the columns is all it takes to realize the scale of the building:
The decorations on the building are also impressive.
The Nashville Parthenon serves as an art gallery, and although we didn’t pay to go inside, I understand that it also contains as a copy of the Athena Parthenos statue. There were quite a few people waiting to get in, and many more people enjoying the day (and the food trucks!) outside. It seems like a fun gathering spot.
It’s kind of a weird thing to find in the mid-south, but anytime I can give my children an idea of what ancient architecture looked like, without having to get on a plane, I jump at the chance!
While we were at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens in Nashville, TN, to tour the Dressing Downton exhibit, we decided to see as much as we could at the estate. One of the things I had heard about that I knew Turkey would enjoy was the “Classic Cars in the Courtyard” display.
There were two cars being presented, in what used to be the Cheek family’s garage. I can only dream of having a garage so fancy!
Now, I’ll be honest. I’m not a car person. I love looking at old cars, because they were so elegant and had so much character, but I don’t really know what’s what. So I hope I have the right years/names with the right car, but if you know I don’t, please let me know!
There was a black 1925 Chrysler Standard Touring car. This is the car most easily associated with Downton Abbey, as the show’s times period ended only a year after this car came on the market. I loved both the gorgeous details on the car, and how well cared for it obviously is!
The 1931 Chrysler Deluxe Roadster is a bit of an anachronism compared with Downton Abbey, but it still has that feeling from the time period, and you can easily imagine that some member of the Grantham family may have eventually ridden in such a vehicle. This was also my favorite of the two cars…there are so many amazing details to take in!
I love helping my children make connections to history in any way I can. Seeing how people used to get around is definitely a great way to do that, even if these cars are almost as foreign to us as a horse and carriage are!
The Dressing Downton exhibit wasn’t the only thing to see at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. We also got to tour the mansion, and enjoy the various gardens on the grounds of the estate.
The limestone house was finished in 1932, and was modeled after English country estates admired by the Cheek family when they traveled abroad. The estate is named after Leslie Cheek, who purchased the property and commissioned the building of both the house and gardens, and his wife, Mabel Wood Cheek.
You get a sense of the mansion as soon as you enter the building. There is a grand staircase with a beautiful tapestry hanging above it:
When you go upstairs, there are a variety of rooms to explore. The table in the dining room is set, and looks like it’s ready for a grand meal:
The morning room looks like a pleasant place to enjoy a cup of coffee, and there are also a few displays detailing the family’s history:
The library may have been my favorite room. So many books, a lovely spot to write letters, beautiful furniture, and even a game table!
The parlor is lovely, and the ceiling is amazing!
The upper floor of the house is now being used as galleries, so you can’t tour the bedrooms that were once there. There are a few Cheek family mementos on display, however, including the family silver chest:
The grandest feature of the home may be this light:
There are so many beautiful details scattered throughout the home…chandeliers, mirrors, vases, and more!
The outisde of the house is quite imposing:
The grounds immediately around the house look like something from a movie…the views are spectacular!
The rest of the estate has other gardens as well. In the water garden there is a pond that used to be the family swimming pool:
We were especially interested to see how the Japanese Garden compares to the one here in St. Louis. It’s not nearly as big, but it does have some features that ours doesn’t, including a bamboo forest:
The color garden, which was in full bloom when we were there, really lives up to its name!
I’m so glad we were able to visit this beautiful estate through our Missouri Botanical Garden membership. If we have time, we may even go back in the spring, when over 100,000 tulips are in bloom!
I first heard about the “Dressing Downton” fashion exhibit, featuring costumes worn on Downton Abbey, almost two years ago, and didn’t think much of it, because it wasn’t going to be on display in St. Louis. But when I found out that it was going to be in Nashville this summer, at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, a place that we have a reciprocal membership to through the Missouri Botanical Garden, I knew I was going to have to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed…not only were the costumes on display gorgeous, there were more of them than I was expecting!
The first big display of three costumes, in front of a Highclere Castle backdrop, was especially eye-catching.
The Dowager Countess’ Edwardian mourning costume is, in my opinion, an iconic early Downton Abbey look:
Lord and Lady Grantham’s outfits are also easily recognizable:
In that same room was Lady Mary’s riding costume:
We moved on to wartime looks worn by Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary:
And a lovely tailored outfit also worn by Lady Mary:
I loved seeing Branson’s chauffeur’s uniform next to a lovely blue suit worn by Lady Sybil:
And, of course, Lady Sybil’s nurse’s uniform:
Lady Edith may not have been my favorite character, but the detail on her coat was amazing, and I liked the use of props in the display, too:
And, while we all remember Lady Sybil shocking the family in her harem pants outfit, let’s not forget that Lady Edith also wore breeches when she was working on the farm:
We then moved on to more formal wear. This beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary had amazing details:
Another wartime look, featuring a dress uniform worn by the Earl, and lovely dress and jacket worn by the Countess, were especially eye-catching flanked by a Union Flag bunting:
There were also lots of informative signs spread throughout the exhibit:
I was glad that there was a section dedicated to the wardrobe worn by some of the downstairs staff. I especially enjoyed seeing how the keys attached to Mrs. Hughes’ uniform:
And not only did I get a look at the maids’ uniform, but also another beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary:
We saw the “plus fours” worn by Lord Grantham when he was out and about on the estate, as well as a three-piece suit and coat worn by the scheming Sir Richard Carlisle:
The security guard working at the exhibit when we were there was very knowledgeable…he informed us that this detailed dress, worn by Lady Cora at Lady Edith’s (non)wedding, was made from a vintage tablecloth!
This dress, also worn by the Countess of Grantham, likewise had amazing details:
There was one, and only one, hands-on section. You could actually ring the Downton bells…and we all did!
It was especially interesting to see the one maternity dress on display, worn by Lady Sybil, up close:
Lady Rose may have denied being a flapper, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this dress, displayed next to the formal wear Jack Ross wore when performing:
This dress worn by Virginia Woolf, which was barely seen on the show, is full of Tambour embroidery work, but I was most impressed by the Bakelite necklace:
Remember when Lady Rose was presented to King George and Queen Mary? There was an entire room dedicated to that episode, and it may have been my favorite…all of those fancy dresses, beautiful tiaras and jewelry, and lovely accessories! This was also the room that explained the Cheekwood-Downton Abbey connection. Huldah Cheek, daughter of Leslie Cheek, who built the estate, was presented at court in a similar fashion.
The lavender dress worn by the Countess of Grantham was displayed with the dress worn by Madeline Allsopp, along with all of their beautiful accessories from tiaras to necklaces to feather fans:
Freda Dudley Ward’s unbelievably intricate dress was also on display:
After all that, Lady Edith’s boyish silk dress was almost boring…but not quite, thanks to the lovely embellishments:
Another beautiful dress worn by the Dowager Countess…seeing clothing actually worn by Maggie Smith truly brought a tear to my eye!
This dress worn by Martha Levinson wasn’t too amazing, but the necklace paired with it certainly was!
And another of Mrs. Levinson’s styles, featuring a coat trimmed with fox fur:
The final costumes were not in the exhibit itself, but spread throughout the mansion at Cheekwood. We saw a footman’s uniform, and I made sure to pay close attention to the buttons:
And white tie apparel worn by Matthew and Lady Mary, appropriately displayed in the formal dining room:
This was an unbelievable exhibit, and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see it. The workmanship that went into the costumes is truly amazing, and seeing the level of detail up close was an experience. It brought one of my favorite TV shows to life in a way I didn’t know was possible!
This summer, we have really been taking advantage of our membership to the St. Louis Science Center, and we haven’t even been to the Science Center since May! On Memorial Day, we used our reciprocal membership to get into the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for free, and in June, we were able to obtain free admission to the Adventure Science Center in Nashville!
Our favorite exhibit was the first one we walked through…Body Quest. What’s not to love? You can walk into a brain, play a laser game to defeat germs, and explore the interior of ambulance:
But the children’s favorite part of that exhibit was learning about the digestive system. There was not a tooting slide or anything:
Moving on…Turkey loved getting to use a lever to lift an entire car!
And because we’re Markels, we all loved the space exhibit, as well.
I even found some more space propaganda:
And who doesn’t love a plasma ball?
There was also a giant tower to explore and climb:
Our Science Center in St. Louis is still our favorite science museum, but we’ve really enjoyed getting to visit other museums this summer!
When we visit a big city, one of the things I like to do is find the best place to view the skyline, so when we stopped in Nashville last month, I did some research, and decided we needed to take a walk across the Shelby Street Bridge by Cumberland Park. It was a great view!
We also walked down closer to the Cumberland River, where the view was also excellent:
And we discovered that the Adventure Science Center’s Skyline Café offers a great view of the city, from a completely different perspective!
It might not have the towering skyline of Chicago, or feel like home like St. Louis, but it’s a pretty city, and we’d like to go back and explore more someday!
We only had a few hours in Nashville earlier this month, but one place I knew I wanted to go was the historic Shelby Street Bridge. It is over 100 years old and was renovated and turned into a pedestrian-only bridge in 2003. It provides a fantastic view of the Nashville skyline and the Cumberland River. We picked a good time to be there…while the Predators had just lost the final game of the Stanley Cup finals the night before, the banners celebrating all the players were still flying proudly down the length of the bridge. And to cap off our Nashville experience, we saw what might be the most Nashville sight ever: a man walking down the bridge toward the historic downtown, under the Predators’ banners, carrying a guitar!