top of page
  • Jay Brothers

Melrose Estate/ Woodlawn Memorial Park

Updated: Jun 13

The Barrow’s Melrose Mansion overlooked the southern end of what became the Melrose area of Franklin Rd.

At the present-day 2615 Franklin Rd. stands the Melrose Kroger and assorted small businesses. The Barrow’s estate stretched across the south Nashville countryside.

Melrose was built in 1836 across from G. W. Cooper’s Mount Alban. Alexander Barrow (1808-1846), Nashville lawyer, U.S. Senator and planter from Louisiana, was the first owner with his second wife and distant cousin, Mary Ann Barrow Barrow (1808-?), and built Melrose as a summer home to escape the heat of his Louisiana plantations. Alexander’s brother was G. Washington Barrow of Boscobel. Barrow had considerable interests and activities in both Louisiana and Tennessee. Mary’s father, Bartholomew Barrow, owned substantial land in Louisiana. It started with a 205 acre plot, and the estate stretched between the current Melrose shopping area on Franklin Road to Nolensville Road.

Barrow sold the estate to John W. Saunders (1807-1842) and Cynthia Hollard Pillow Saunders (Brown)(1810-1892) in 1842. John and Cynthia, married in 1832. While John died the same year, his family lived there for many years. A few years later, in 1845, Cynthia married Gov. Aaron Venable Brown (1795-1859) after he became the 13th governor of Tennessee. Brown was a friend of Andrew Jackson and served in the Tennessee legislature and the United States House of Representatives. After Aaron died, his widow suffered financial losses and lost or sold off much of the estate.

After her death in 1892, the property comprised only 130 acres and was sold at auction to Godfrey Malbone Fogg (1843-1901), lawyer, banker and had several interests: mine owner, Duck River Phosphate Company; president, National Fertilizer Comp.; president, Nashville Cotton Mills and Dallas cotton Mills in Huntsville, AL; a founder of the Hermitage Club; an officer of First National Bank; founder of the Vendome Theatre (1887); and a longtime member of the City Board of Education. He was married to Mary M. Lape Fogg (1841-1923) of Natchez. Mary's parents were William and Mary Ann Coleman Hinds Lape. The Lape family was one of the wealthiest planters in Louisiana. Godfrey and Mary’s son, Frank Fogg, married Elizabeth Bransford, but she abandoned Frank and went west. Frank left town, and died in 1901.

The following year, in 1902, Melrose was sold with furnishings to Elizabeth’s father, John S. Bransford. A friend living in the neighborhood had alerted him that the property might be a good investment. Two years later, Bransford sold it to Edwards Sinclair. Edwards was vice president of Union Bank and Trust Co. and had an interest in W.T. Berry’s Demoville Drug Comp. In 1903, he was president of Southern Soda Works. Edwards died tragically: In 1900, during a friends’ weekend outing, Billy Elliston, Edwards’ brother-in-law, evidently thought Edwards paid too much attention to Billy’s wife. That night, Billy visited with Edwards and a friend, and then fatally shot Edwards out of apparent jealousy. Edwards never really recovered from the assault and died a decade later in 1910.

Melrose was again for sale, and this time William Settle Bransford (1851-1933), John’s brother, purchased it in 1912. William was a director of First Savings Bank and of the Hermitage Hotel. William was married to Manoah McGavock (1859-1932). After William’s death in 1938, their daughter Mary Louise Bransford McGavock (1878-1965) inherited the mansion. She was married to her cousin Spence McGavock (1876-1936) in 1928. They lived at Two Rivers mansion for 4 years before moving to Melrose because her mother died. In 1955, she moved back to Two Rivers and sold Melrose in 1956. Spence died 4 years later, and Mary Louise remained at Melrose for 18 years.

In the early 1930s, Raymond Ligon purchased about 130 acres of the property to use as a cemetery called Woodlawn Memorial Park for Nashville’s fast growing population. About 1950, Ligon also purchased one of the buildings on the old estate. At the structure sat on a hill above the cemetery, and it was turned into the Melrose House Smorgasborg restaurant, which was a newly emerging dining style with 12 rooms. A fire caused damage in 1975, and five years later a second fire finally caused the closure of the restaurant. In 1993, Roesch-Patton Corp. bought it and now operates as Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park.

In 1975, Melrose itself suffered a major fire and was destroyed. In 1966, George and Lillian Forehand purchased land and the stone spring house. They incorporated it into their home. The spring house had been used by Melrose owners as cold storage for milk, butter and perishable food. Woodlawn Memorial Park operates on the former Melrose Mansion front lawn. Melrose Ave. running behind the former estate, Melrose Heights just north of the old property, and the general Melrose neighborhood alongside Franklin Rd. to the west of the old estate recognize the former Melrose ties. Cynthia Saunders named the mansion for her mother’s Scottish ancestry. See Boscobel, Two Rivers, Mt. Alban/ Breeze Hill


Recent Posts

See All

Currey Hill to Rose Park: A Hill of Change

1000 Edgehill Ave. Nashville, TN Circa 1800. Large 2-story home The spot of Nashville has seen so much change: Currey Hill to Meridian Hill to gigantic rock quarry Rock Crusher Hill to Rose Park. Robe

Goochland: Vandy Ties

North Jefferson Pike (no longer exists) Built in 1842. 2 story red brick Greek Revival Dr. John Claiborne Gooch (1800-1853) and Elizabeth Ann Saunders Gooch (1814-1877) wed in 1831 and settled in Davi


bottom of page