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Sylvan Hall/ Sugar Tree Grove/ William D. Philips Home

Updated: Jun 14

Dickerson Pike (originally Dickerson Meeting House Rd.) Nashville, TN

Circa 1791/ rebuilt 1804 or 1808. Wood cabin/ then 3-story Greek Revival home

Image from Philips Fam of Nashville

Sylvan Hall (aka Sugar Tree Grove, William D. Phillips Home) was located on Dickerson Pike with 1,000 acres originally. One of the first brick homes in Middle Tennessee, it was owned by Joseph Philips II (1763-1822) and Milberry “Milbry” Horn Phillips (1764-1851) and built in 1804 or 1808 after fire destroyed the original wood home built in 1791. Their son, Capt. William Duncan Phillips (1804-1879), inherited the estate of 1,000 acres when his father died. Early in life, he married Susan Payne Clark (1805-1826) who died soon after the marriage. In 1828, he married Elizabeth “Eliza” Dwyer Phillips (1801-1871) in 1824. The Greek Revival mansion with huge front pillars was located on Dickerson Pike just south of current Old Hickory Blvd. The property was labeled Sugar Tree Grove in several illustrations from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

In 1879, prior to William’s death, the 1,000 acre property was divided among the children.

Margaret Phillips Polk (1842 -1910), got possession of the home. Margaret had married Rufus King Polk (1843-1902) whose family owned Ashwood in 1881.

Margaret's sister Mary L. Philips DeMoville (1837-1919) married John Felix DeMoville (1837-?) in 1854. Just prior to their marriage, Mary’s first cousin Martha M. Williams wed Andrew Jackson “Jack” Duncan, and they purchased a home at the corner of Spring St. and Vine St. Soonthereafter, the Duncans sold their home to the DeMoville couple, and moved to Franklin Pike near Ft. Negley. The Duncan home was destroyed in the Civil War by Federal forces to clear the field of view from Ft. Negley. The DeMoville family resided on Spring St. until 1902 when the home was razed. Four years later, the new department store Castner-Knott was constructed there.

Later, Mary and John’s daughter, Mary “Molly” Demoville Harding Polk also married into the Polk family with James Hilliard Polk, son of George Washington Polk of Rattle and Snap. Molly had lived at Belle Meade Plantation most of her youth.

Milbry Catherine Phillps Harding (1833-1863), married William Perkins Harding (1824-1903) in 1853. William P. was the son of Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth Waller Bosley Harding and the nephew of John and Susannah Harding of Belle Meade. Elizabeth was part of the Beal Bosley clan of West Nashville and Donelson lands. The Harding family resided at Sylvan Hall as well.

Daniel Dwyer Philips (1842-1911) married Mary Elizabeth Finn in 1868. Mary’s parents were Lawrence Finn (1832-1881)and Elizabeth Clay Durall Finn (?-1893). All her siblings died before Mary. In 1857, she inherited the large estate of Silverdene at 931 Main St. in East Nashville.

A cousin, Joseph Phillips Williams married Sarah Ann Magdalene Pennington in 1838 in Nashville. They moved to Arkansas to be closer to his brothers. After 1857, the couple moved to Clarksville and built a large mansion on the highest hill in the city and named it Tip-Top. They remained there the rest of their lives. In 1865, their oldest daughter, Mattie, married Hugh Dunlop, and the mansion remained in the family until 1909. That year, it was finally sold out of the family to the Malcolm Patterson family.

Another relative was Sarah Josey Ray Williams who married Maj. John Whitsett Childress and they resided in Murfreesboro in the Childress House.

Also, Phillips family was also related to Margaret “Money” Lindsley Warner of Renraw.

In 1911, another relative, great-granddaughter Mary Phillips Polk Moore and her husband Dr. John W. Moore, resided at Sylvan Hall. She had inherited many famly furtniture pieces. They sold the home after only four years because her husband died and she moved in with two married children.

In 1915, Dr. Persis Daniel (P. D.) Houston (1843-1921) and Medora Ann Pickens Houston (1847-1911) purchased the property from the Moore family, and the Moore family bought Houston’s Belmont Boulevard residence in a swap. Houston also owned Rippavilla at one point. The contemporary newspaper article noted that neither family was moving at this time.

In 1960, Bellshire Methodist Church purchased Sylvan Hall along the surrounding property and subsequently demolished the home to construct the church. Currently, Bellshire Methodist Church sits on the site of the former Phillips homestead (1201 Westchester Dr.).Over time, the land was sold off to become the (initially) 400 acres Bellshire Estates subdivision at Dickerson Road and Bell Lane. Folk-Jordan, Inc. handled the property sales and marketing. See Ashwood, Belle Meade, Hillhurst, Rippavilla, Siverdene, Rattle and Snap, Tip-Top, Childress House


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