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Vine Hill: Owner of Gerst Haus (Davidson Co.)

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Vine Hill sat at 629 Benton Ave. - on the former Sixth Ave. South

Photo from American Illustr. Co.

At that time, Sixth Ave. South extended well south of Nashville; whereas now, Sixth Ave. South ends at the Nashville City Cemetery. About 1890, Capt John Watson Morton (1842-1914) and Annie Payne Humphreys Morton (1846-1899) lived at the estate. After serving in the Civil War, Morton came to Nashville. From 1882-1886, he was assistant commissioner of agriculture. Later, from 1901-1909, he was Secretary of State for Tennessee. After Annie died, evidently Morton sold his property to the Gersts.

In 1900, Vine Hill was purchased by William J. Gerst and Mary Engel Gerst in 1900. The location is just west of Bransford Ave and the Metro Nashville Fairgrounds site. The Gerst family had recently moved to Nashville. Gerst was a famous local brewer and racehorse owner. In 1888, he earned a Master Brewers Certificate and the following year, became the second president of the United States’ Brewmasters Association. With partner Christian Moerlein, he purchased Nashville Brewing Co., and they changed the company’s name to Moerlein-Gerst Brewing Co., and the plant was located on 6th Ave. South. Moerlein, at the time, was the most established and known master brewer. Two years later, in 1893, Gerst bought controlling interest and renamed the company William Gerst Brewing Co. By about 1900, Gerst Brewing was one of the largest in the South.

Gerst also started a hobby in racehorses that turned serious.He later transformed his estate into a horse farm. By 1905, Gerst built a 3 story barn, and his operation was training thoroughbreds and racing horses nationally. His horse, Donau, won the Kentucky Derby in 1910, and is the only Tennessee horse to win the Derby. Gerst retired due to Prohibition, moved back to Cincinnati and died in 1933 prior to the repeal of Prohibition. The brewery remained open and run by Gerst’s sons until 1954. The Gerst House (Haus) had several locations over the years: Second Ave. North, near the Metro Courthouse/ Public Square; in East Nashville; and on Woodland St. Vine Hill was built near the original brewery.

After William’s death, the Gerst family sold the property to clear the way for Vultee Aircraft employee housing. Later, the home was used as a community center in World War II. Vine Hill itself was razed to construct public housing, Vine Hill Apartments. His sons opened Gerst Haus restaurant in 1955 to keep the brewery and name alive. The restaurant has moved a couple times - first location was on Second Ave, then was located in the Nissan Stadium footprint, and had been at 301 Woodland St. from 2000-2018. Gerst’s homestead is remembered in the neighborhood: Vine Hill Rd. and the Vine Hill Apartments.


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