In the early 19th century, a man named John Harding came to Davidson County from Virginia to purchase land. Harding bought 250 acres of land and established a horse ranch. In the earliest years, the facility was used for boarding horses. Later, the Harding family began breeding them. The ranch became known as the Belle Meade Plantation and, after the American Civil War, it was the premier breeding facility for thoroughbred race horses. Breeding operations ceased sometime around the end of the 19th century and financial problems prompted an auction of the property; this basically prompted the start of Belle Meade as a residential community. Successful families from Nashville began buying property and building estates. Many of these families still live in Belle Meade today.
The plantation mansion and several of the buildings were given to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities in 1953. Today the site is open to the public for visits and tours. Visitors can enjoy the mansion, a log cabin, a carriage house and stables, and other historic buildings.
Schooling in Belle Meade is provided primarily by private institutions. Public school campuses are located in nearby Nashville; these are under the jurisdiction of the Nashville-Davidson County School District. There are several colleges within driving distance, providing post-high-school students with some great options nearby. Tennessee State University, Nashville State Technical Institute, Belmont University and Vanderbilt University are all within 10 miles of Belle Meade.
The main recreational site is the Warner Parks complex, located next to Belle Meade. The complex includes Percy Warner Park and Edwin Warner Park. The two sites are managed by the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation of Nashville and Davidson County. More than 500,000 people enjoy these parks every year; they come to experience the park's nature center, hiking trails, equestrian facility and steeplechase course, golf courses and athletic fields. Scenic roadways and unpaved trails wind through the forested areas of the park, providing a great venue for joggers, equestrians and explorers.
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