Constructed by Virginian Thomas Brown in 1846, the Greek Revival-styled home stands serenely at the juncture of the Big Harpeth River and Dolerson Creek with the original, well-worn Natchez Trace traversing through the front lawn.
In 1801 the Natchez Trace was widened, and the U.S. Government built a stone bridge for the passage of mail and troops over Dolerson Creek (now Brown’s Creek) at Old Town. The dry-stacked stone supporting structures for the Old Town Bridge stand 200 yards from the Thomas Brown House. Over this bridge passed Andrew Jackson and his troops on the way back from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
While the historic bridge, home, and stone walls are visible reminders of the past two centuries of people who traveled and lived at Old Town, the most ancient architecture preserved here are the earthen platform monuments constructed by the ancestors of modern Native Americans, who settled here almost a thousand years ago.
Sometime between about A.D. 1050 and 1350, ancient native peoples gathered here to construct a 12-acre town — replete with dozens of houses, places of worship, and other community buildings. While the centuries have left few remnants visible on the surface, the most monumental of the things built during those times remind us of their presence – the two large earthen platform mounds to the north of the historic residence and portions of the fortified wall that surrounded and protected the town.
The Mississippian culture tradition thrived from around AD 1000 to 1450 in current day Tennessee and was characterized by large permanent agricultural settlements, often with a number of platform temple mounds arranged around plazas, and smaller villages scattered around the larger sites.
Old Town is situated where the ruddy waters of Brown’s Creek spill into the Harpeth River.
Brown’s Creek was formerly known as Dolerson Creek. At Old Town we are partnering with the Harpeth River Association to improve riparian buffers along the Harpeth River to promote water quality for the future.
The original Natchez Trace, one of the most historic thoroughfares in America, runs through the property and is still visible near the present roadway. It was the path used by soldiers and mail carriers, and was perhaps the most significant prehistoric trade route for the region during the time of the native Mississippian civilizations. The Natchez Trace Parkway and the Historic Natchez Trace Rural Landscape have both been added to the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s endangered historical properties list in recent years.
Old Town is a living organism. And that life is reflected in the physical structures, always changing and adapting with the times. The smokehouse has always been an integral part of daily life from the earliest days of The Thomas Brown House until today, when it is used as a meeting place and nerve center for farm operations. The multiple barns have sheltered livestock, vital equipment, feed, and hay, and have been the site of many celebrations from the birth of a horse to a family Christmas visit by Santa Claus. The dog-trot cabin had its origins in Alabama but over time has had deep associations with Native American displays as well as the Buffett lyrics, “Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.”