Nashville in Davidson County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
Belle Meade Plantation
In 1820 John Harding immensely improved his quality of life by constructing a six-room, brick federal style house on his property. Not long after finishing his new home he set to work on another improvement, building an ice house. An ice house was the next step for him in refining the status of his growing estate.
Ice houses became an essential part of American culture prior to electric refrigeration. Beginning in 1799, ships carrying New England ice, insulated in sawdust, brought ice to the warmer regions of the American South. As plantation owners learned to insulate their stored ice with grass, or later sawdust, ice houses were used to store food and other perishable items. The shape of an ice house is very important to the structure's functionality. “The best form of an ice house would be that of a globe. Because that would have the greatest bulk with the least surface. Such a shaped house however would be inconvenient and expensive to construct. The next best is a cylinder. Practically, however, an inverted truncated cone will give all the advantages of a cylindrical form with the further advantage of being
The location of the ice house at Belle Meade was re-discovered in 1982 during a two-week archaeological dig conducted on the property. It had long been assumed that the circular foundations adjoining the dairy were those of the ice house. Archaeological investigations in the summer of 1982, however, revealed that these were the foundations of a structure to house the steam engines which ran the family dairy operations. Additional research conducted during the second week of that two-week season turned up a recently acquired photograph which revealed the edge of a previously unknown structure in the front lawn of the mansion. Test units in that area uncovered the limestone foundations of the ice house on an approximate diagonal between the house and the dairy.
The ice house was an important part of the property until it was replaced by ice boxes and refrigerators. Once the ice house became less of a necessity, it was removed from the property by a controlled burn, pushed in on itself, and the hole filled in. Today's ice house is a replica of the one that stood on the property during the 19th century and it is used to show the importance of ice on a site like Belle Meade.
Top: Image reveals a portion of the Belle Meade ice house with its distinctive cone shape
Middle: Archaeologist (left) is shown using G.P.R. (Ground Penetrating Radar) to determine the exact location of the original Belle Meade ice house. Radar image (right) reveals the round shape of the ice house foundation.
Bottom: Below are examples of 19th century ice houses
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1820.
Location. 36° 6.369′ N, 86° 51.862′ W. Marker is in Nashville, Tennessee, in Davidson County. Marker can be reached from Harding Pike (U.S. 70S) 0.1 miles north of Leake Avenue, on the right when traveling north. Marker is on grounds of Belle Meade Plantation. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5025 Harding Pike, Nashville TN 37205, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Belle Meade Bourbon (here, next to this marker); Slave Cabin (within shouting distance of this marker); Dairy (within shouting distance of this marker); Slave Burials (within shouting distance of this marker); Belle Meade Plantation (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Belle Meade Plantation (within shouting distance of this marker); War on the Home Front (within shouting distance of this marker); Mausoleum (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Nashville.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 20, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 102 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 20, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.