McNeal Place - 1861

A tuscan-style villa, this nationally-recognized home sits in a park of thirty acres with the house rising up three stories to the cupola on the roof. The formal entrance facing north on Bills Street is Grecian and approached by a hand lain brick walk. The large veranda on the west, is enclosed with the lacy iron grill work imported from Spain which depicts the four seasons of the year. The approach to this entrance is a pebbled walkway in the traditional heart shape.

This home is unique in that it was not designed by a local architect or built locally. It is believed the architect was Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia and the lumber was precut and barged from Cincinnati. The shipping stencils are still evident on the back porch latticework and the cook's quarters mantle. Some of the features and materials used are imported from Europe. The entry hall dry-wall frescoes, the marble and granite, and graining on the interior woodwork were by craftsmen unknown in West Tennessee homes of the time.

McNeal Place was built due to the death of the only daughter of the original owner, Ezekiek K. Polk; it was completed after the Civil War was in progress. Mrs. (Ann) Polk was inconsolable at the death of Priscilla who was in her teens in 1854. Polk built the home on the west side of his property near Polk Cemetery where Priscilla was buried. Ann visited the grave each day.

During the Civil War, the home was occupied by Union forces forcing the family to live in a single room. Ann Polk was granted a special pass (viewable on tour) to cross the Union lines so she could maintain her daily visit to her daughter's grave.

The architect returned during the Civil War as a Union colonel and was instrumental in saving the building from being burned.

In accordance with a clause in the owner's will, no one save his direct descendants have ever lived there. Furnishings and paintings are original to the McNeal family and their heirs the Hills and the McDonnells.

Floor plan and gardens of the

Colonel Ezekiel Polk McNeal House

as recorded by the

Historic American Building Survey

(Site and floor plans on file at the

Library of Congress - 1928)

McNeal Gardens

Originally a cornfield, the carefully planned park surrounding the house contains one of every kind of tree drown that was native to Hardeman County - planted by Major McNeal. An old-fashioned rose garden is to the east of the house with gazebos, the playhouse and the servants quarters. The kitchen is attached to the main house with a covered "whistle walk" and a greenhouse flourishes off the southern veranda. It is one of the first estates to be placed on Tennessee's preservation list in 1932.