Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fairfield, Home of William B. Lewis

St. Margaret's Hospital, Artwork of Nashville

St. Margaret's Hospital, Artwork of Nashville, 1894. Metro Nashville Archives

When I came across this wonderful photo, I wanted to know more about St. Margaret's Hospital and the building, as well. It was relatively easy to find information on St. Margaret's Hospital and the location.  It was a Catholic Hospital near the intersection of Green Street and Decatur Avenue, near today's Hermitage Avenue.  I also found out that before St. Margaret's, the building was used as the City Hospital, operated by the Medical Department of the University of Nashville.  I found this great plat which showed the exact location.  You will find more about St Margaret's below. 

Davidson County Deed Book 97, page 212
Roads have been renamed and others have disappeared from the modern landscape, since this plat was drawn. Lebanon Road, on the plat, to the north of the house, is now called Hermitage Avenue.  Hermitage Avenue, to the south on the plat, seemed to have run along, what was later Fain Street. 

The building, appeared to be a house.  I wanted to know who built it, and who lived there, and when, and what happened to it?  As I found each clue for the house, I was led down a crooked path, that led me to a story of one of Nashville's well known early families.  What I thought would be a brief project, turned into weeks of research, and a great history lesson for me. Learning about the various members of the Lewis family and their very interesting lives, pulled me in.  I plan to blog about the Lewis family at a later date.

The house was called Fairfield and it was the home of William Berkley Lewis.  William B. Lewis moved to  the property in 1813, when he married Margaret Lewis, daughter of William Terrell Lewis.   William B. Lewis died in 1866 and had lived at Fairfield for 53 years.

Republican Banner, November 14, 1866

That the home in the photo was the "old Lewis place," is not in doubt.  It was referred to as such, time after time, in news articles.  The house is of Second Empire architectural style.  Second Empire was popular in the United States 1855-1885 and is rarely seen in the south.  I read that many older houses were remodeled in this style, with a mansard roof added to a house that once had a pitched roof.  

What is in question, is exactly when the Second Empire features were added to the house.  Whether this house was new construction or an addition or remodel of an older house is not known.  It is possible that the structure was constructed or modified, between 1855 and 1862, by William B. Lewis. With his frequent visits to Washington, DC, Lewis would have been familiar with the Second Empire style.  He may have been influenced by his grandson, Andrew, who had lived both in France and the United States.  Once the war reached Nashville, it is doubtful that such a project would have occurred.  It may also be that the house was changed with a remodel, many years later.

If you examine the photo, there appears to be an older, smaller house attached at the right side.  It has also been modified with a mansard roof added.  This may have been the original house at Fairfield.  There is a small structure with a tall chimney, just to the right of the smaller house. The oddly tall chimney suggests a furnace, maybe to dispose of medical waste, from the hospital.

A closeup of the original photo of St. Margaret's showing the attached house.

In 1862, Lewis deeded his residence and about 180 acres to his son-in-law and daughter, Alphonse and Mary Ann Lewis Pageot. He reserved the right to live in the house, for his lifetime.  The couple had been living in France for many years.  It is not know when they last visited the United States.  The son of Alphonse and Mary Ann, Andrew Jackson Pagoet, was living with his grandfather at Fairfield during the civil war.  He died there, on the 9th of January, 1865.   William B Lewis died the next year, in November of 1866.  The daughter, Mary Ann Lewis Pagoet, died in France, also in November of 1866, a few days after her father.

The house was in limbo, after William B. Lewis and Mary Ann Lewis Pagoet died.  For the next 15 years, it was the property of  Alphonse Joseph Pageot, widower of Mary Ann.   Pageot named Godfrey Fogg and A. V. S. Lindsley, to act as his attorneys, regarding the house and land in Nashville.  Fogg and Lindsley managed to sell some of the land. The house was offered for sale , in 1867, and in 1874, without success. The house, and 128 acres, had not been sold by the time of the death of Pagoet in about 1880.  A suit was filed by Pagoet heirs, in Davidson Chancery Court in 1881, forcing the sale of the house and remaining land, in 1882.

The Daily American, May 3, 1882

The next owners, A. C. and William Kidd, purchased the house at auction, in May of 1882.  They received a deed to the the property, in December of 1883, from Joseph Wrenne, Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court.  A. C. Kidd deeded his interest to William Kidd, also in December, 1883. A news article stated, that Mr. Kidd had remodeled and enlarged the house.  It is possible that William Kidd was the one to add the Second Empire features to the house.  On April 25, 1884, William Kidd, sold the house and 128 acres to W. M. Duncan, Samuel Keith, Edgar Jones, and John M Bass.

In November of 1886, Duncan, Keith, Jones and Bass, sold to the Medical Department of the University of Nashville, the house and a small tract of land. Security was given by several professors of the university, Duncan Eve, W. D. Haggard, W. F Glenn and others.  The City Hospital opened in the old Lewis home place soon after.  The article below, mentions the room that was Andrew Jackson's favorite.  Jackson was a frequent visitor to the house.

Daily American, November 14, 1886

The news stories about the hospital lead me to believe that a part of the house is much older than the structure, shown in the photo.  The City Hospital operated in the Lewis house until 1890, when a new City Hospital was opened on what is now Hermitage Avenue, at Rolling Mill Hill.

In 1891, Bishop Rademacher purchased the Lewis house with the intent to open a Catholic Hospital. Within months, St. Margaret's Hospital was operating in the Lewis house, under the care of Sister of Charity.  All patients were accepted into St. Margaret's regardless of ability to pay.  Person of any faith were also welcome there.  The hospital did not last.  In December of 1894, it was announced that the hospital would close, and the Sisters would return to the mother house in Lafayette, Indiana. 
Nashville Republican, Dec 22, 1894_

The building was deeded by Bishop Byrne, to the Sister's of Mercy, in 1894.  The St. Bernard Academy was moved to the Lewis house, in 1895.  St. Bernards founded in 1866, is still educating Nashville's children, today.  The Sister's found the distance from the city to be a challenge.  By the fall of 1896, the academy was moved to North Vine Street.  It is not known, what or if anything occupied the old house after 1896.   

The Nashville American, February 19, 1896

It was owned by the Sister's of Mercy until 1903, when it was deeded to the City of Nashville.  In the spring of 1905 the house was demolished. 

The Tennessean, April 11, 1905

On the site of the old Lewis home, the James F. Lipscomb School was built and opened in the fall of 1906.  

 Lipscomb School, 1908 Hopkins Atlas of Nashville

 In August of 1960, the city council voted to transfer the Lipscomb School property, at 130 Green Street, to the State of Tennessee for right of way for the interstate system.  

James F. Lipscomb School, 130 Green Street, 1906-1960.  Metro Nashville Archives, City Property Photos, 1949.

The map below is a Google satellite image of the area where Fairfield stood.  A red X marks indicates the approximate location of the old house.

Image from Google maps.


  1. This was fascinating. What particularly piqued my interest is the fact that Green Street Church of Christ (which started in 1894) was across the street from the property. I notice that on the 1908 Hopkins Atlas map, if I'm reading it correctly, Green Street CofC is referred to as "Campbellite Church." So fascinating how that nomenclature ended up on a map.

    1. Sharp eyes, I would never have seen that. My mama used to laugh about being called a Campbellite. She said her mother's reply to that was, "A camel to ride on and a light to find my way."

  2. What a marvelous tale. Thank you!!


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