by Mike Slate.
George Peabody College’s Knapp Farm and its sister institution, the Seaman A. Knapp School of Country Life, began operations on Elm Hill Pike in 1915. Financed by a $250,000 philanthropic endowment and other funds raised throughout the South, the farm and its associated agricultural school was a memorial to Seaman Knapp, an agronomist and leader in farm demonstration work. Eventually the farm grew to 315 acres and became nationally known for putting modern agricultural theory into practice. Many of its pioneering practices were at first ridiculed as “college ideas” but later became accepted as standard techniques. One source of pride was the farm’s outstanding herd of registered Holstein cattle, perhaps the first to graze in the pastures of the South.
The farm was situated in a bend in the Mill Creek along the old Chicken Pike/Mud Tavern pioneer route. The farmland included the site of historic Buchanan’s Station, one of the original Cumberland settlements where a handful of settlers withstood one of the last great Indian onslaughts in Nashville’s history. Today, the Buchanan’s Station historical marker and the cemetery where Major Buchanan and his wife are buried have survived the industrialization of the area.
In 1923 Peabody established its Knapp Farm Club House on the exact site of the old Buchanan stockade. This stately colonial mansion was a social center for the college for about forty years, and its bucolic setting along with the hypnotic sounds of the rushing Mill Creek enchanted thousands of students, faculty, and other visitors over the years.
Despite the disapproval and counter proposals of some alumni and faculty, the Peabody Board of Trustees sold the farm and its club house for one million dollars in 1965. Today, many important commercial facilities—including those of Standard Candy Company and Gibson Guitar—are located along Massman Drive, which cuts through the heart of the once-great farm.
Since no vestige of Knapp Farm remains today, Nashvillians are generally unaware of its existence. One way to ensure the future recognition of the Knapp Farm adventure would be to erect a suitable historical marker along Elm Hill Pike or Massman Drive. (1997)