History

Glen Leven Farm is a 65-acre farm established through a Revolutionary War land grant to Thomas Thompson (1759-1837) and bequeathed in 2006 to the Land Trust for Tennessee by Susan McConnell West (1939-2006). As one of the original settlers of Nashville, Thompson registered the 640-acre grant in 1790 and built a blockhouse near present-day 715 Thompson Lane, currently the site of the Pepsi Bottling Company. His son John Thompson (1793-1876) expanded the farm operation to approximately 950 acres and in 1857 designed the Federal-style house with Greek Revival that remains the centerpiece of the property to this day.

Before the Civil War Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864), Glen Leven served as the headquarters of Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee. During the battle, the farm stood between the Confederate and Union lines and served as a field hospital. The farm is considered by Civil War historians to be the largest intact piece of Nashville’s battlefield.

Recent historical research is beginning to uncover more of the important history of African Americans who lived and worked at Glen Leven Farm during the 19th century. Historical records show more than 130 African Americans were born into slavery at Glen Leven Farm between 1816 and 1862. Historians believe at least ten men from Glen Leven Farm were impressed into service during the construction of Fort Negley before the Battle of Nashville in 1964 and it is also believed that three African American brothers from Glen Leven also enlisted in ranks of the United States Colored Troops.

HISTORICAL IMAGE GALLERY:

At John Thompson’s death, the property was divided between his two sons. The elder son, John M. Thompson (1852-1919), a farmer, state senator, commissioner of agriculture and breeder of shorthorn cattle and horses, inherited the western portion of the property and the house, which look much as they did during his lifetime.

Throughout the 19th century, the family cultivated crops typical of the region: wheat, cotton, tobacco, and a variety of vegetables and fruit, including potatoes, tomatoes, kale, apples, and strawberries. Cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, and horses were also raised at Glen Leven.

At John M. Thompson’s death, the farm was divided between his five adult children; three of them lived successively at Glen Leven until 1968. From 1969-1971, the house passed briefly out of the family and was owned by Nashville record producer Shelby Singleton (1931-2009). In 1971, Susan West, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Thompson, bought back the house and five acres surrounding it, which adjoined land inherited by her mother. Susan West gave Glen Leven Farm to The Land Trust for Tennessee through her will, because she wanted the land to be protected forever.

Glen Leven was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, being notable for its settlement patterns and agricultural history in Davidson County, and it earned its designation as an arboretum in 2012 by The Nashville Tree Foundation. The Land Trust for Tennessee undertook a stabilization campaign of the house and farm outbuildings in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, Glen Leven Farm participated as a living history site during The Metro Historical Commission’s 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Nashville.

Today, The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Nashville office is located at the historic home and farm. Just four miles from downtown Nashville, this 65-acres of open space serves as a front door for the organization in Middle Tennessee and center for conservation. While the property is not regularly open to the public, The Land Trust for Tennessee provides tours by appointment, as well as community open days, field trip programs and more to share the unique story of this place, its role in the history of Nashville, and the people who lived and worked the land.

The historical and cultural landscape of Glen Leven Farm truly embodies The Land Trust for Tennessee’s mission to preserve the unique character of Tennessee’s natural and historic landscapes and sites for future generations. 

Additional Resources:

Glen Leven in the Civil War

  • Learn more about Glen Leven in the Civil War by viewing our exhibit on display, “Between The Battle Lines,” sponsored by the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and the Civil War Trust. Schedule a tour.

Glen Leven Farm Historic Structure Report and Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey

  • Following a series of discussions and workshops in 2008 and 2009 with groups including The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation published a Historic Structure Report, including a history of the family and land. The report was made possible through the hard work of many, including leadership from MTSU Center for Historic Preservation Director and State Historian, Dr. Carrol Van West. Read the report.

For More Information:

For more information about The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Glen Leven Farm and additional resources and references, please contact us here.