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Grassmere/ Croft Home

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

Grassmere (Croft House) was built in 1810 by Col. Michael Carnes Dunn (1770-1853) and Elizabeth Rains Dunn (1781-1837) in the Federal Style. The 2 story house is located in the 3700 block of Nolensville Rd. Dunn was sheriff of Davidson County (1807-1815) married Elizabeth in 1801. Elizabeth was a daughter of Capt. Rains of Rains Blockhouse/ Woodycrest. In 1846, Dunn sold the property to his son-in-law, Lee Shute (1797-1879). Shute had wed Margaret Dunn (1811-1852). The property remained in the family when, in 1859, Lee deeded the home and 346 acres to his son, William Dickson (W.D.) Shute (1834-1916), for his marriage to Lavinia Lafayette Hilliard (1837-1872). They changed the style of the home to be more Italianate. They raised sweet potatoes, corn, wheat, hay, swine and cattle.

Peter Meenen

William and Lavinia had four daughters - Leila, Maggie, Venie and Kate. Kate Shute (1865-1925) married William Croft (1860-1938) in 1888. The two had two daughters, Margaret Croft (1889-1974) and Elise Croft (1894-1985), and the family moved to Cuba for his business in sugar plantations in 1902. Croft established and ran General Concrete Construction Company which built concrete chimneys for the sugar industry. The daughters, Margaret and Elise, visited in the summers, and in 1931, remained at the Croft House with their grandfather until their deaths. After William’s death in 1938, Elise and Margaret maintained Grassmere from the Cuba income. After the Castro revolution in 1959, no more sugar monies were available to fund Grassmere.

In 1964, the sisters made an agreement with the Children’s Museum of Nashville (now the Adventure Science Museum) where the sisters would remain at the house until their deaths and the museum organization would help pay for the Croft House and property upkeep. Margaret died in 1974, and Elise died in 1985. After their deaths, the home and land would become the property of the Children’s Museum. In 1984, 90 acres of the original 300 acres were sold for development to raise funds for Grassmere upkeep. Because of financial challenges, the Nashville Zoo took over management of Grassmere in 1996. The Croft House was restored and prepared for public usage. In 1998, Grassmere Historic House opened to the public. Grassmere is the second oldest home in Davidson County open to the public. W.D. Shute named the property Grassmere. NR 1984 See Rains Blockhouse/ Woodycrest


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