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William Martin House/ Hayesland/ Boxwood Hall: Ties to Hayes, Barges & an Observatory

Updated: Apr 4

Photo by Skye Marthaler

The William Martin House sits at 5215 Seward Rd. It is a 3 story stone home built in 1852.

The original home was called Hayesland and built in 1852 by Emily Crockett McGavock Hayes (1830-1920) and Oliver Bliss Hayes II (1825-1868). The land was given to them by her father, Lysander McGavock, of Midway. The home and property lay just north of the former McGavock home of Midway. Hayes’s parents were Oliver B. and Sarah C.H. Hayes of Rokeby. His sister was Adelicia Hayes Franklin Cheatham of Fairvue and Belmont.

The house burned while the Hayes were on their honeymoon so they constructed a smaller one behind it. Their daughter Elizabeth “Bettie” Hayes Martin (1863-1933) and her husband Dr. William Wallace Martin (1851-1946) owned it next. Dr. Martin was a Methodist minister and professor of Hebrew at Vanderbilt University. In 1910, the smaller Hayesland was remodeled and enlarged with Colonial Revival style. The Martin family resided there from the 1890s to 1924.

In 1924, the Hayesland estate was divided in two portions. The much larger portion which extended north to Old Hickory Blvd. was purchased by Henry Harry Hughes. He later sold the property of about 100 acres to Truman Ward (H.G.W. Mayberry House) in 1937. Ward kept the land as a horse farm (named Maryland Farms for his wife Mary) and increased it to 400 acres. From 1979-1991, investors including Truman's son Jim Ward and Jack Massey (Broook House) as Maryland Farm Developers purchased the farm land and slowly created a business park called Maryland Farms.

Mrs. William Smart purchased the mansion and a small portion of the estate. Evidently, Mrs. Smart did not maintain the grounds very much.

About eleven years later, in 1935, Mrs. Smart sold her home and land to Arthur James (A. J.) Dyer (1868-1957) and Elizabeth W. Buttorff Dyer (1875-1954). Dyer was a graduate of the Vanderbilt Engineering School and founded the Nashville Bridge Company. It expanded to a successful domestic and international market. From the 1920s into the 1960s, Nashville Bridge Company constructed barges and launched them from its facilities on the Cumberland River and its plant in Bessemer, AL. In the 1960s, the company became the world’s largest builder of inland barges. In 1969, Dyer sold Nashville Bridge Company barge operations and at some point Ingram Industries owned it. Then in 1972, the Dyer family sold the bridge operations.

The Dyers also gave money for the Dyer Observatory in Brentwood - the only Vanderbilt operation not on the main Vanderbilt campus and it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Properties. The Dyers renamed the estate Boxland Hall. The Dyer family created Dyer Lake. At some point, much of the Boxwood Hall estate was developed into the residential Meadowlake. In 1965, James “Jim” and Nell Fowler found the vacant stone mansion with just under 2 acres and moved from their Brook Hollow Rd. home in Hillwood. Jim was an executive with Genesco and then owned Glengary Gallery, and Nell is a free-lance designer specializing in older home renewal. The families are remembered with Dyer Lake, Dyer Lane, Hayeswood Dr.. NRHP 1988 See Midway, Fairvue/ Belmont, Rokeby

[Sidenote: Growing up in Nashville, I got to witness 2 barge launchings from the Nashville Bridge facility and the sight was awesome to watch a barge slide down into the Cumberland River.]


National Register Properties, Williamson County, TN, Hillsboro Press, 1995, ed. Pearce, Warwick, Hasselbring, p.

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