Davidson County Asylum

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Davidson County Asylum
Established 1864
Current Status Active
Location Nashville, TN
Alternate Names
  • Davidson County Poor Farm & Insane Asylum
  • Davidson County Hospital


The first Davidson County institution for the aged, infirm and mentally ill operated from 1864 to 1879 on another site, the farm of Thomas Harris who served as its "keeper." In April 1874, the county bought two tracts east of Gallatin Pike for $13,000 to serve as a farm residence for those in need, both the indigent and the mentally ill. The farms had previously belonged to the estate of Thomas L. Bransford (1804-1865), a merchant and railroad official, and to Charlotte P. Ramsey.

The area was then about 3½ miles outside the city of Nashville. The facility cost roughly $14,000 annually to operate, but those of its residents able to do farm work on the property helped offset "a large portion" of that through the county's sale of farm products, Clayton wrote. Three two-story buildings were built adjacent to each other, and a fourth was later added for a superintendent's residence, enclosing a sort of yard.

A three-member commission saw to its operation. By 1880, Isaac W. Lanier was the appointed superintendent, with his wife overseeing its "female department." The facility housed about 150-190 people - roughly half of them African-American. The 1880 Census listed all of them with the term "pauper." The county physician saw to their medical needs. "This is not known as a poorhouse, and it stands so high in the estimation of the citizens that it is considered no dishonor to be permitted to hire keeping there when disabled by age or infirmity," Clayton's history said.

Bordeaux Long-Term Care, Metro Nashville's current 420-bed nursing home on 121 acres northwest of downtown, began in 1893 as the successor to the poor farm. It provided various medical services to residents as Bordeaux Hospital until 1967 when its focus became long-term care.