The garden and residence of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Robinson, Jr. represents one of the first "Country Place Era" estates in Nashville. The Neoclassical home was built in 1929 by F. J. McCarthy and his wife, Mary Byrd McCarthy. The home was designed by architects A. Christian Asmus and Richard R. Clark, and their original plans, designed on linen, are preserved in the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Mrs. Robinson's parents, Edwin Wilson Craig and Elizabeth Wade Craig, purchased the home from the McCarthys in 1931. Soon thereafter, the Craigs employed renowned interior designer A. Herbert Rodgers and his assistant, Albert Hadley, to create the elegant spaces that continue to grace the home today.
Elizabeth Wade Craig designed the garden spaces herself. Having grown up surrounded by the lovely gardens of her mother and grandmother, she was well-prepared for the task. A special feature of this space is a fifty-foot section of antique wrought iron fence, salvaged from the old Kirkman home on Seventh Avenue in Nashville. This was the original location of the Nashville chapter of the Junior League. Mrs. Craig was a member of the chapter, and when the organization made plans to move to a new building, she arranged for the fence to be saved and moved to her garden.
As an avid member of the Garden Club of Nashville, (an affiliate of the Garden Club of America), Mrs. Craig instilled a love of gardening in her daughters, Mrs. Robinson and Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor. That appreciation has been passed down through subsequent generations, and the Garden Club of Nashville now has six members from this legacy.
The Robinsons assumed ownership of the property from her mother's estate in 1987, and began major renovations designed to blend the house and garden into areas suitable for all types of entertaining. The Robinsons' sons-in-law, Ben Page, Landscape Architect, and Stephen P. Rick, AIA, worked closely together to expand the property’s livable space across the grounds. Engulfing the senses in an experience of garden elegance from sunroom to courtyard, elements of architectural formality were replicated from house to garden to create seamless transitions.
Mrs. Robinson is an exceptional person who shares her home and garden with those around her. Inspired by her grace and hospitality, Ben Page envisioned a garden that would be an evolution of social interaction. The estate provides a gracious setting for a wide variety of social, civic and charitable events. One such memorable event was the 1993 Swan Ball Patron’s Party for the benefit of Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art.
An enthusiastic member of the Garden Club of Nashville, Mrs. Robinson is an active participant in general membership meetings and the Visiting Gardens Program, and has made her gardens available for viewing by other GCA members. The following description of the Robinson garden was provided at the 2004 Zone IX meeting of the Garden Club of America:
Roses salute you as you enter the gates surrounded by a depth of planting, giving forth a vast variety of color and texture year round. […] The gardens include a flagstone terrace with brick walkways leading to a rose garden, a summer perennial garden, and a cutting garden behind the pool house. A wall and its attached pergola divide the gardens to keep the summer gardens and pool separate from the more formal area. The walk leading to the pool is embraced by a long line of ‘Yoshino’ cherry trees, which give that area a mystical, oriental blush of pink every spring.
This special home and garden continues to be a source of pride for the Garden Club of Nashville and the entire community.
Photography by Paul Moore