|Location||1200 Forest Park Dr., Nashville, Tennessee|
|Area||7 acres (2.8 ha)|
|Architect||Bryant Fleming; et al.|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference #||00000993|
|Added to NRHP||August 23, 2000|
Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate in Nashville, Tennessee. Originally built as the home of Leslie and Mabel Cheek in 1929, Cheekwood is one of the finest examples of an American Country Place Era estate. Since being converted into a museum of art and botanical garden in 1960, Cheekwood now presents world-class art exhibitions, spectacular gardens and an historic estate with authentic furnishings.
Each year, Cheekwood welcomes over 250,000 annual visitors, making it one of the city's top cultural attractions, with approximately 13,000 member households. Visitors enjoy family activities, programming for all ages and year-round festivals celebrating the four seasons.
Christopher Cheek founded a wholesale grocery business in Nashville in the 1880s. His son, Leslie Cheek, joined him as a partner, and by 1915 was president of the family-owned company. Leslie's wife, Mabel Wood, was a member of a prominent Clarksville, Tennessee, family. Meanwhile, Joel Cheek, Leslie's cousin, had developed an acclaimed blend of coffee that was marketed through Nashville's finest hotel, the Maxwell House Hotel. Cheek's extended family, including Leslie and Mabel Cheek, were investors. In 1928, the Postum Cereals Company (now General Foods) purchased Maxwell House's parent company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $40 million.
After the sale of the family business, Leslie Cheek bought 100 acres (40 ha) of woodland in West Nashville for a country estate. He hired New York residential and landscape architect Bryant Fleming to design the house and gardens, and gave him full control over every detail of the project, including interior furnishings. The resulting limestone mansion and extensive formal gardens were completed in 1932. The estate design was inspired by the grand English manors of the 18th century.
Leslie Cheek died just two years after moving into the mansion. Mabel Cheek and their daughter, Huldah Cheek Sharp, lived at Cheekwood until the 1950s, when Huldah Sharp and her husband offered the property as a site for a botanical garden and art museum. The Exchange Club of Nashville, the Horticultural Society of Middle Tennessee and other civic groups led the redevelopment of the property aided by funds raised from the sale of the former building of the Nashville Museum of Art. The new Cheekwood museum opened in 1960.
Cheekwood's art collection was founded in 1959 upon the holdings of the former Nashville Museum of Art and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The core holdings include broad collections of American art; American and British decorative arts; contemporary art, especially outdoor sculpture acquired for the Woodland Sculpture Trail.
Cheekwood's American art collection includes 600 paintings and 5,000 prints, drawings and photographs. The collection, assembled in the 1980s and early 1990s through a multimillion-dollar bequest, spans the history of American art. Its strength centers on The Eight. Other strengths include the world's largest collection of sculptures of William Edmondson, photographs by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, and a vast variety of post-Second World War prints. Recently, the Museum has pursued a consciously focused acquisition process, having added paintings by James Hamilton, William Bradford, and new contemporary sculpture for the Trail.
The Cheekwood Mansion is itself considered part of the collection. A year-long renovation, completed in June of 2017, restored much of the original building, which revealed authentic features (wood and marble floors that had been carpeted), and conserved historical architectural motifs, such as the illusionist murals that line the main corridor.
The Contemporary Art collection, housed in the galleries created out of the estate's original garage and stables, is small but of high quality, including paintings by Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol, Robert Ryman, Red Grooms, and Marylyn Dintenfass. Additionally, seven small galleries were created in the old horse stable stalls to enable Cheekwood to display installation art.
The Carrell Woodland Sculpture Trail, a collection of fourteen sculptures by international artists, extends the contemporary art collection into nature, focusing on a kind of intimate, outdoor art not commonly found in American museums.
Extending across the grounds from the Museum of Art, the Botanical Garden encompasses the entire 55-acre (22 ha) site with an emphasis on display, education, and study. The plant collections include boxwood, conifer, crape myrtle, daffodil, daylily, dogwood, fern, herb, holly, hosta, hydrangea, Japanese maple, magnolia, Southeastern US natives, redbud, and trillium.
Visitors to Cheekwood will enjoy many styles of garden design. An avenue of crape myrtles leads into the Robertson Ellis Color Garden where sweeping curves of colorful flowers border a sloping lawn with a beautiful view of the distant hills. As visitors exit this garden, they pass under eight curved aches covered with colorful vines and planted with a variety of annuals and perennials. Next visitors will enter the Japanese Garden. This is a quiet place for rest and meditation, a refuge from the outside world. The Wills Perennial garden displays new and traditional perennials and includes a steep limestone wall that provides habitat and background for this colorful, full-sun garden. The Martin Boxwood Garden was designed and built by landscape architect Bryant Fleming in the late 1920s with terraced gardens and extensive plantings of boxwood. This formal garden invites the visitor to be transported to a different era. The Howe Wildflower garden, spectacular in the spring, is a woodland wildflower garden that was originally at the East Nashville home of Cora Howe. This garden was moved to Cheekwood in 1968 along with its stone tool shed, rock wall, and garden ornaments. As visitors move through the gardens, they will next encounter the Burr Terrace Garden. This is an enclosed cottage garden on three levels with many pastel colored perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Exiting the Burr Terrace Garden, visitors will enter the Carell Dogwood Garden. This garden displays many variations in branching patterns, bark, leaf, berry, and the showy bracts characteristic of dogwoods. The Herb Study Garden displays many plants to be touched and smelled, in addition to plants that can be used for cooking, fragrance, dyes, fibers, and cosmetics. Finally, guests will come to the Turner Seasons Garden. This garden focuses on the seasonal aspect of gardens in Tennessee. It features a series of garden rooms, each highlighting a different season with plant collections of special interest
The gardens and collections not only serve to educate, but also to please each visitor's sense of aesthetic. The gardens are an important horticultural resource for the entire region.
Cheekwood offers four seasonal festivals throughout the year, with a variety of events and cultural exhibitions. Cheekwood in Bloom runs from March through April, and features 100,000 tulips blooming throughout the gardens. Summertime at Cheekwood is known for its blockbuster art exhibitions, such as the Dale Chihuly exhibition in 2010, and LIGHT: Bruce Monro at Cheekwood in 2013. Cheekwood Harvest, which runs from September to October, features two of Cheekwood's most popular cultural festivals: The Japanese Moon Viewing Celebration and El Dia de los Muertos. From November through December, Cheekwood becomes a major holiday destination in Nashville during the Holiday LIGHTS festival, during which Cheekwood's botanical gardens are decorated with over 1,000,000 lights.
In addition to the Museum and the Botanical Garden, Cheekwood operates two gift shops, and the Pineapple Room Restaurant which overlooks the greenery of the elegant west lawn. Cheekwood is also home to a beer garden, opening during select weekends in the spring and fall, serving a variety of drinks, including several options from local Nashville breweries.