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Burlington/ Father Ryan High School

Burlington was built by former mayor and Nashville silversmith Joseph Thorpe Elliston (1779-1856) and wife Elizabeth Odum Elliston (1779-1846) between 1816-1821.

It was located on Elliston Place on the site later occupied for decades by Father Ryan High School and renowned for being a local music scene in the late twentieth century as well as hosting Rotiers and Elliston Place Soda Shop. The style was of Neo-Grec style, and in 1936, the place sat on 52 acres. Joseph and Elizabeth had married in 1817. Joseph was Elizabeth’s third husband: Charles Elliott of Walnut Grove, and then Learner Blackman of same. Elliston was on the committee to select William Strickland as architect for TN State Capitol Building.

Elliston began purchasing land in 1811 with 208 acres near present day Centennial Park: from current 20th Ave. to well within Centennial Park and from about mid-way into the Vanderbilt campus to Charlotte Ave. Later he purchased 350 acres along Murphy Road. At one point, the estate held 365 acres. The family’s tract extended from Charlotte to Hillsboro Pike to what became West End Ave including Acklen Park, Centennial Park and Vanderbilt University campus. Joseph designed cutlery for Andrew Jackson and pieces are part of the collection at The Hermitage. Joseph served as the 4th Nashville Mayor from 1814-17. He also was co-founder of the Nashville Female Academy and of McKendree Methodist Church.

After his death, his son William Robert (W.R.) Elliston (1815-1870) and wife Elizabeth Blackman Boddie Elliston (1820-1904) inherited it. Elizabeth B.B. was also his step-sister as her mother had married his father.

In 1859, William Elliston renovated the property and incorporated the original house into the Italianate Renaissance mansion that was called Burlington. He was a successful investor in railroads and real estate. His investments included the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and the Tennessee and Pacific Railroad. He was an investor in the Richland Turnpike Company, Union Bank, Commercial Insurance Company, Old Tennessee Marine and Fire Insurance Company.

The Farrell family was integral in the foundation of Vanderbilt University. When the Methodist Episcopal Church South was trying to establish a university in Nashville about 1873, it was having difficulty raising funds. A local bishop spoke to Elizabeth B. Elliston. She had a relative in New York who spoke to Cornelius Vanderbilt about the matter. Vanderbilt gave his largest donation of $1 million to the fledgling institution which was renamed Vanderbilt University in his honor. (See Greenland and Bishop Hargrove Home entries for more details.) Elizabeth also contributed a sizable portion of Burlington land to help Vanderbilt grow.

In 1869, their daughter Josephine Ellison (1847-1921) married Norman Farrell (1843-1918). [Norman was the brother of Herbert Farrell of Overton Hall/ Crieve Hall.] Elizabeth Boddie did not live in Burlington from 1870-1880s. In 1875, their daughter Lizinka “Zink” Elliston Buford (1852-1919) and husband Edward L. Buford (1842-1928) bought her share of the mansion and Godfrey M. Fogg (Melrose) purchased the other half. Edward founded Buford Bros. Wholesale Hardware. Norman and Josephine Farrell moved in by 1873 as well as the Bufords by 1876. Another son, William R. Elliston (1872-1909) married Selene Harding Jackson, daughter of General William Hicks Jackson of Belle Meade Plantation.

About 1889, the Buford family had sold much of the plantation land to the West End Development Company. Burlington was torn down in 1928 after the Catholic Diocese purchased the land. A growing new Catholic school, Nashville Catholic High School for Boys, that had outgrown its founding roots on West End [original location was 2015 West End Ave.] was built in 1929 at 2300 Elliston Place, and the school was renamed Father Ryan High School. A new mansion called Burlington was erected on Abbott Martin Rd. in 1932 by Bruce and Elizabeth Shepherd, William Elliston’s maternal granddaughter and Ed Buford’s daughter. Elizabeth reclaimed special items and put them in her new home.

Burlington was named for the family homestead in Kentucky. In 1991, Father Ryan High School outgrew its facilities and moved to a new campus off Franklin Rd. at 700 Norwood Dr. A Homewood Suites by Hilton now operates on the site. The family is remembered through Elliston Place. See Buford-Elliston Mansion/By Ma, Belle Meade Plantation, Melrose, Walnut Grove


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