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Clifflawn (1850s)/ Clifflawn (1910): One Place, Two Homes, Three Prominent Families

The original Cliff Lawn, located off Richland Pike (101 Harding Rd.), was built in the 1850s.

Photo from Tenn. State Lib. & Archives

Francis “Frank” Preston McGavock (1794-1866) married Amanda P. Harding (1807-1873) and her marriage added much more acreage to his already extensive lands on both sides of Richland Pike (now Harding Rd) – 275 acres. Their home was built beside her family’s Belle Meade estate. Frank was the son of David and Elizabeth McGavock. Amanda was the daughter of John and Susannah Harding. Frank, in the 1850s, was in charge of the Tennessee office for the registration of lands. He was also clerk of the chancery court in Nashville. After Amanda died, their daughter, Amanda McGavock Cheatham (1832-1899), inherited it, and she and her husband, Archer Cheatham (1828-1879) resided there. Their son, William B. Cheatham, helped run the farm operations successfully and also organized races at West Side Park.

Drawing from Tenn. State Lib. & Archives

In 1908, William Josiah (W. J.) Cude (1862-1933) and Mabel Harriet Grizzard Cude (1892-1973) purchased it and made major renovations. In 1910, Cude was owner of W.J. Cude Land & Lumber Co. and moved offices from the Stahlman Building to the Hermitage National Bank building on Third Ave. N. In 1900, Cude had opened mills in Kimmins, Hohenwald and Colesburg, TN and Cude, MS. Cude was in delta country where he purchased 6,000 acres of timberland and established a town which he named for himself. Cude also had large farms in Hohenwald, Beardstown and Kimmins, TN. In 1910, the mansion on the cliff was destroyed by fire. Cude intended to rebuild it, but instead it was sold.

The next year, in 1911, Horace Greeley Hill (1873-1942) and May “Mamie” Winston Buntin Murray Hill (1878-1965) purchased and rebuilt Cliff Lawn on the 213 acre property in Greek Revival style. The Hill family had lived in Donelson and joined the migration in the early 1900s to the west side of Nashville. The property had extensive acreage, and over the years, H.G. added to his land holding especially to the west of his home. About twenty years later, the area was subdivided into what became the Hillwood and Hillwood Estates area in the 1940s. The Hills wed in 1897. Mamie was the daughter of Daniel C. and Elise Buntin of Nashville and related to the Craigheads of Craighead House, the Erwins of Peach Blossom, and James & May Caldwell family of Longview. Mamie was also the widow of Shade Murrray, owner of Blue Bell Boot Co. Daniel was a realtor and businessman who in 1903 created and built Nashville’s first shopping mall - the enclosed Arcade in downtown Nashville. Mamie was also a founding member of the Tennessee Botanical Gardens and Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood. The Hills were involved with much civic philanthropy. They helped George Peabody College for Teachers and the Young Men’s Christian Association grow.

Starting in 1895, Hill built H.G. Hill Company grocery stores into a major regional chain. The first store opened in downtown Nashville. At its height, the H.G. Hill Grocery Store chain ran more than 500 stores in Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee. In 1926 he established H.G. Hill Realty Company which has been one of the largest privately held real estate holdings in the Southeast. During the Great Depression about 1933, the Nashville Trust Company was in financial trouble. Hill got involved with the bank and helped strengthen it. He served as chairman of the board until 1942.

The Hill family donated land to Metro Nashville Schools to build Hillwood High School which opened in 1959. Land was purchased to create Hillwood Country Club and its golf course which was chartered in 1953.

Their son, H.G. Jr. (1901-1993) and (first wife) Edith Caldwell Hill (1914-1971) and (second wife) May Winston Buntin Murray Hill (1914-1999) lived in a mansion built north of Clifflawn beyond what became Post Rd. Hill, Jr. continued to run the H.G. Hill stores company until his death. In the modern era, he famously forbid the grocery stores from carrying or selling alcohol or from opening on Sundays. Months after his death in 1993, those traditions were changed.

In 1973, Wentworth Caldwell, H.G. Hills’ nephew, purchased the property and resides in it in 2017 with his wife, Barry. Caldwell has been involved with the H.G. Hill Company for years and is the chairman. In the 1990s, a large tract behind Clifflawn and surrounding the Hill Jr. mansion was developed as the exclusive, gate community, Hill Place. The property was named Clifflawn by the McGavocks because of the cliff at the front of the property, and the Hill family retained the name. Several names near the property recognize the various owners: Greeley Dr., Hickory Valley (birthplace of H.G. Hill), Hillwood Blvd, Hill Place. See Belle Meade Plantation, Craighhead House, Longview, Brentwood Hall, Peach Blossom


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