The Spring House is a small place on the earth. A tiny 1/3 of an acre and a home.
At first glance, it appears to be a simple home in a neighborhood that might be found any where, but The Spring House is a place with a story to tell.
It is a place of flora and green; of living on the edges. A place of growing, healing, music, art, and history. And most importantly, it is a place of peace and love.
What is The Spring House?
Since we moved here in late 2018, The Spring House has slowly been in the process of transforming from a typical 1950’s neighborhood suburban property, to its current status as a botanical sanctuary and urban farm. We tend the land using organic, permaculture and biodynamic principles to grow plants for ourselves and others, while creating a habitat, as well, as for the pollinators, birds, and other creatures living here.
When the house was first built in 1951 the house and property seem to have been well cared for for a number of years, but then later, it saw years of neglect. This was a blessing in disguise, since the “weedy” lawn showed no signs of having chemicals used on it any time in the recent past, giving us a good start to growing things organically and chemical free here.
Previous to that, it had been pasture land for a large farm, and before that forest. Although today it is high above the Cumberland River, at one time, before the river carved its way deep into the land, it had also been part of the river flood plain. All these factors resulted in a rich alluvial soil; the perfect canvas for what we are doing here.
Although this parcel is small, we have everything from the dense shade of a narrow strip of woodland in the back, to full sun in the front yard where we grow most of our food, as well as a little of everything in between. This great diversity in a small space allows us to grow a wide variety of plants and trees.
The Spring House is a little corner of the world that we hope that we will tend well, as we share it with you.
– Robert & Joni McKeown (East Nashville TN)
The History of The Spring House
When we moved to The Spring House I also started researching the history of the house and land; which is something that I always love to do when moving to a new place. That interest is born of a deeply curious soul, as well as a need to connect to a new place.
This place is the ancestral land of the Shawandasse Tula (Shawnee), the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), and the S’atsoyaha (Yuchi) people. Before them it was a sacred space for the Mound Builders, and close nearby to The Spring House there was an ancient mound.
Later this area was colonized by European settlers, who divided up land that was not theirs to divide. The nearby mound had a house built on it by one settler, and the place where The Spring House now is became part of a large plantation called Maplewood Farm, whose enslaved people gave their lives working the land and making it prosperous.
(Our back boundary is actually an old fence-line dividing up that farm; old wire emerges from the sides of the towering trees that have long since grown around it.)
The farm was eventually owned by railroad man Jere Baxter and became a been a place of wealth and luxury. Prize-winning horses and cattle were raised on its fertile pastureland. Some of them had even traveled across the globe to come here. The mansion was a newsworthy place filled with priceless objects. Later Jere Baxter sold and divided up the farm to become a suburban development.
Eventually the land became home to the Maplewood neighborhood and houses were built on what had been the farm. Some years after that, the mound with the settler’s house on top was razed to make way for a store. In the recent past the last remnants of the mansion made way for brand new houses. The history of the place – whitewashed and buried.
Still, if you are quiet enough, you can feel the presence of all of indigenous people that made this their home, and of the enslaved persons that bore the weight of the wealth on their backs. It is our hope that, in our stewardship of this place, we can honor these people.
The Origin of the Name of The Spring House
Several years ago, I was in a coffee shop brainstorming ideas for a project that I was working on, and was using a small notebook that had a Pegasus on the cover it. The notebook cover got me wondering about the story of Pegasus, so I decided to read about him.
As I read the myth, I discovered that Pegasus had been given to the Muses on Mount Helicon – their sacred mountain. While there he struck his hoof on the ground, to create a spring, which was named Hippocrene (Horse Spring). That spring was thereafter considered a source of creative inspiration, and thus, Pegasus became a symbol of creativity.
In addition to its special springs, Mount Helicon was also known for its many medicinal herbs, which were considered to have divine healing powers.
Flashing ahead to 2018, Robert and I began looking for a new home. One of the things that I hoped for was a place with a creek or stream on the property or at least nearby, because water has always held a special place in my soul.
We looked at many houses, but none were quite right. Finally at the most unexpected moment we found “home”. We both knew as soon as we stepped foot on the property that it was where we were meant to be.
Although there was no visible water on the property, the neighborhood had many springs and small creeks running through it, including a stream on the property right behind us.
Since we are big believers in naming houses, we began searching for a name for our new home. Several ideas were tossed around, but nothing was quite right, still the theme of water kept reoccurring.
As these threads finally started coming together to slowly form an idea for a name. The themes of healing, of water, of horses and history, and of our love for all things creative and growing, brought to remembrance the story of Pegasus. It was then, finally, that the name became clear. It would be a place of Heliconian Muses, where waters of inspiration would flow, and healing plants and trees would be grown.
It would be The Spring House.
From the Heliconian Muses let us begin to sing,
Who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon,
And dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring…
When they have washed their tender bodies…
In the Horse’s Spring…
Make their fair, lovely dances upon highest Helicon…
and utter their song with lovely voice.
– Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days