The Cheekwood estate was funded by the Cheek family sale of the Maxwell House coffee company. It was completed in the early 1930s and originally encompassed over 100 acres of prime land in Belle Meade, a city within the city of Nashville. Originally designed by the noted Country Place Era designer Bryant Fleming, the mansion house and its surrounding gardens and parks were occupied by the Cheek family until the 1950s when the property was donated to the city.
The mansion eventually housed a regional collection of art provided by the Nashville Art Museum. The grounds were reduced to 55 acres, and developed as a sequence of display gardens and a woodland sculpture trail. A Botanic Hall was built; and an additional building housing a restaurant and gift shop was erected nearby. Historic structures were retrofitted to accommodate education and events. The incoherence and physical limitations of the campus have impeded Cheekwood from realizing its full potential.
The Cheekwood Board and Administration selected Trahan Architects, in association with the celebrated landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand, to re-envision the campus and enhance its quality and national prominence. The goals of the new master plan are to focus on the historic landscape as Cheekwood’s prime asset; to celebrate the estate as one of America’s finest Country Place estates; to enhance the prominence, experience and accessibility of the sculpture trail and gardens; and to set a course for a sustainable future for the institution (which requires appropriate education and event space).
The master plan includes renovation of the mansion house and curatorial refinement of the art collection, enhanced by new interpretive research and installations based upon the lives of the Cheek and Wood families and their residence on the estate. In addition, the renewed and clarified campus will include updated restaurant and event accommodation, new admissions, orientation and group visit facilities, improved education facilities, a new amphitheater, consolidated administrative facilities, and expanded facility support, parking and site circulation.