Library and Archives, Nashville Zoo Partner to Highlight Grassmere’s Unique History

Monday, March 19, 2018
Margaret Croft (in black) with her sister Elise (in white) (Courtesy: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is one of the most visited locations in Nashville, but the property’s historical significance is often overlooked. On April 5, the Tennessee State Library and Archives and Nashville Zoo will co-host a free program highlighting the history of the property and historic home through a new digital collection.

The program will show how two sisters’ love of animals led to the zoo's relocation. The collection includes photographs, letters, oral history audio excerpts, maps, memorabilia and land records.

The home, built in 1810, is one of the oldest residences in Davidson County open to the public. The property served as a family farm for 175 years. Sisters Margaret and Elise Croft willed the Grassmere property to be used as a nature preserve upon their deaths, and the Nashville Zoo began management of the site in 1997 to honor that request.

“This program will highlight a true treasure of our state. Through this collection, we honor the legacy of two sisters who generously gifted their land, house and its contents for future generations to enjoy,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. "We are grateful for the collaboration that is making this event possible."

Tori Mason, Historic Site Manager of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, will share some of the more than 250 items included in the new Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) collection curated by the Library and Archives staff.

“One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from visitors is, ‘Where can I get more information about this family and the property?’ Up to this point, we have not been able to guide visitors to a site to access more information other than the zoo's website and our social media pages,” Mason said. “Thanks to the Library and Archives’ staff, we now have the ability to direct those questions to the TeVA site and all of these wonderful documents, photos and oral histories.”

Megan Spainhour and Jami Awalt from the Library and Archives will also present on how to browse the collection through TeVA, which is available at bit.ly/GrassmereTeVA.

This free program is open to the public and will take place at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday, April 5, at the zoo’s Croft Center. The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is located at 3777 Nolensville Pike in Nashville.