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Royal Oaks Mansion

Updated: Jun 14

4505 Harding Pike Nashville, TN (south side of Harding)(current side of Royal Oaks Tower)

Circa 1900. 3-story English Tudor home



Royal Oaks was built by Mrs. John W. Baker for her daughter Bessie Baker Forsythe and her husband John Wilson Forsythe. The English Tudor style home was on the south side of Harding Pike and had 20 acres that sloped to Sugartree Creek. Evidently, when the Forsythe clan was vacationing in the newly developed Miami, FL area they stayed at the Royal Tropicana Hotel. When a society friend inquired about the Forsythe's new home, Bessie said it was good and called it Royal Oaks - naming it on the spot. They moved in 1908 further out in the country beyond the new Belle Meade development and built Longleat off Hillsboro and Tyne. Later when the Tyne family purchased Longleat estate, the Baker/ Forsythe clan moved into Belle Meade itself. Forythe sold some land to the Belle Meade corporation, and Forsythe St. was named in his honor.


In 1908, it was purchased by William Jennings Cummins (1861-1936) and Emma Mai Benson Cummins (1866-1936). Cummins and other investors of the Wholesale Merchants Warehouse Company built Cummins Station in 1906. Built with reinforced concrete, at the time, it was the largest reinforced concrete industrial warehouse in the world. The warehouse itself has been listed since 1983 on the National Register of Historic Places. Cummins also had interests in The Tennessee Packing and Provision Co., The Cummins-Bennett Co., The Duncan Hotel, the Mechanics Bank & Trust Co. (Knoxville), the Enterprise Soap Works, and The Continental Baking Powder Co. The Cummins family moved to New York in 1911, three years later.


In 1912, Percy and Margaret Warner purchased Royal Oaks to move to the fashionable and fast-growing west side of Nashville. They had moved from Renraw and Elmington and now to Royal Oaks. The Baker/ Forsythe family moved to Longleat. After Percy died, Margaret continued residing there until her passing in 1936.


In 1940, the Warner heirs sold the property to the Royal Oaks Apartment Company. Then in 1960, Royal Oaks was torn down for commercial development including Royal Oaks Tower (1977) and Park Manor Presbyterian Retirement Home. The home was named by the Forsythe family when they stayed at the fashionable Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach, FL and Bessie was asked the name of their Nashville mansion. Their family contributions are recognized with Percy Warner Blvd., the Warner Parks, Warner Place. See Longleat, Renraw


Sources:

Nashville Pikes Vol. 3 150 Years Along Harding Pike, p. 159


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