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Woodlawn (Davidson Co.)

Updated: Apr 19


Photo by Skye Marthaler


Woodlawn was built by Capt. John Nichols in 1812 on Richland Pike (current Harding Rd.) in English regency style (similar style to Middleton Place near Charleston). With a long drive (some of the stone walls remain) stretching from Richland Pk (Harding Rd. now) to the mansion, Woodlawn sat overlooking the main road and the valley to the north.


Upon the marriage of Nichols’ daughter Nancy Davis Nichols Williams (1808-1844) to Willoughby Williams, Jr. (1798-1882) in 1823, the couple moved into Woodlawn, and Willoughby got the property out of financial trouble helping Woodlawn farm become very successful.


Willoughby was Sheriff of Davidson County from 1830-1836 and later president of the Bank of Tennessee. Willoughby was friends with Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson. By the 1850s, Willoughby and Nancy moved to Arkansas. The Confederate Army used the house in the Civil War. After the War ended, it was used as a U.S. army base depot for Union soldiers being mustered out and returning home - Camp Harker which operated in 1865. The encampment stretched from current Kenner Ave. to somewhere near the Belle Meade Plantation deer park.


In 1870, their son, John Henry Williams (1825-1893), and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Boyd Williams (1830-1893) inhertied and lived at the property with their family. They married in 1847. Her father was Maj. John and Lemira S. Douglass Boyd who had extensive land holdings around Nashville. Her sister was married into the Hayes family and resided at Ensworth. Elizabeth used her family’s resources to help Woodlawn. About 1888, the Williams parents gave John and Sarah 777 acres of their lannd stretching west from current Kennver Ave. toward the Harding's Belle Meade Plantation.


J.H.'s sister, Verner Williams Hart (1869-1919), with her husband James Edwards Hart (1868-1936) inherited the estate near the turn of the of the century. Because of financial challenges, the Hart family sold off a large portion of the Woodlawn estate including the mansion to Duncan Kenner who turned it around to Henry Richardson. Verner kept about 160 acres. Her sister Lera Douglass Williams Goodall (1863-1945) purchased a 430 acre tract. Lera was married to John Lewis Goodall, Jr. (1858-1897). The Goodall family left Nashville at some point for Galveston, TX.


In 1900 Duncan Farrar Kenner, Jr. (1879-1941) and Mary Hill Cockrill Kenner (1880-1934) bought the house and 2 remaining acres from Verner Williams. Duncan Kenner came from a prominent New Orleans family - his parents were Duncan F. Kenner and Anne Guillemine Nanine Bringier Kenner of Louisiana. They owned several sugar plantations in Louisiana and resided at the Ashland Plantation. He was the president of the Southern Motor Company as well as a real estate developer. Her parents were Mark S. and Mary H. G. Cockrill of Solitude/ Cockrill Springs/ Westover and the Cockrill/ Hicks/ Roberetson clan. Her sister was Harriet C. Hicks of Devon Farm. After her parents died, Mary Hill inherited the Cockrill Springs lands that in part became Centennial Park at the turn of the century. After Mary passed away, Duncan remarried to Elise Carroll Kenner in 1936.


Kenner was an accomplished real estate speculator and developer. The land was subdivided in 1895 from 777 acres to 3 tracts of 160, 182, and 430 acres. He teamed with W.S. H. Armistead to organize the Kenner Manor Land Company in 1914. By 1904, Kenner had bought out the other two parcels from the related Goodall and Williams families. They had an iron gate with a large K which fronted onto Harding Pike.


In 1916, Woodlawn was sold to Henry B. Richardson, and the Kenner family moved down the Harding Rd. to Lynnwood BL. That same year, the east wing and pavilion were demolished for the construction of Woodmont BL to reach from Harding Rd. arching to Hillsboro Rd. Gustavus Adolphus (G.A.) and Renna McKinnie Puryear owned a large farm adjacent to Woodlawn and stretching west to Hillsboro Rd. Richardson, Puryear and others partnered to develop the farmland into new homes in Woodmont Estates. Two years later, in 1924, the subdivision of Kenner Manor subdivision commenced. Kenner Manor stretched from Woodmont Blvd to Estes Rd. and then north on Estes until Woodlawn Dr. Then the development of Woodmont Estates was developed adjacent in 1937.


In 1922, Mr and Mrs Fred B. Young purchased the place. By 1979, he gave the house and its remaining 2 acres to his son-in-law and daughter, Howard A. and Dorothy Moore. His daughter Dorothy Moore had lived there 60 years until 1982. It was sold to Woodlawn Ltd. and completely renovated in 1978. For a time, Southern States Petroleum Company leased the space.


In 1992, Randy Kinnard bought the building, and it currently houses his law firm, Kinnard, Clayton and Beveridge. The current address is 127 Woodmont BL. NRHP 1978 The families are recognized in the neighborhood by Kenner Ave., Nichol Lane, Woodlawn Dr.


Sources:

Kenner Manor Historic District

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