Almost out of nowhere this summer, Fontanel, a new attraction just 10 minutes from downtown Nashville through the rolling hills of Whites Creek, started getting a lot of buzz. Over the last three years, the 136-acre property has been quietly transforming into a music and entertainment destination that’s devoted to melding the best of the past, present and future of Music City. Now that things are coming along on the property, people can’t stop talking about the place. Here’s how to properly explore the new hot spot on the Tennessee landmark map.
The history of Fontanel reaches back to 1987, when Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Barbara Mandrell decided to build a 27,000-square-foot mansion in northeast Nashville. Mandrell named the estate Fontanel, stemming from her hope that, like a fountain, the home would be a spring of new beginnings for her young family. Erected from more than 42 truckloads of logs from Montana (some as large as 4,000 pounds), the mansion maintains its country charm to this day, and has been graced by a who’s who of television, movies and music, such as Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Reba McEntire. Thought to be the largest log home in the world, the Fontanel mansion boasts 20 rooms, 13 bathrooms, five fireplaces, two full kitchens and an indoor shooting range.
When you visit, notice the details: In the indoor pool, for instance, the alternating beams and windows are positioned to look like piano keys. Included in the adult tour ticket is a short mile-long bus ride through the woods, full access to the home — do everything from take pictures to play guitars around the estate — and a live piano and singing performance from your guide. In 2002, country music executives Dale Morris and Marc Oswald purchased the home, so, in addition to the Mandrell family heirlooms on display, you can also see collectibles from a number of Morris- and Oswald-managed artists, such as Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich.
Fontanel is much more than a mere museum for music memorabilia. In conjunction with the debut of Southern Living’s 2013 Idea House at Fontanel (the innovative farmhouse will be open through December), a summer concert series takes place on the original estate’s porch Sundays at 6 p.m. The last show in the Biscuit & Jam Concert Series will be the brother-sister duo Dugas performing on August 25. But don’t fret if you miss the intimate concert. The neighboring Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel accommodates more than 4,500 revelers, and as one of the last active outdoor venues in Tennessee, trumpets a strong lineup straight through September, including the Alabama Shakes (September 21) and Sigur Rós (September 27).
Food and Drink
Cafe Fontanella (located on the same acreage as the mansion, amphitheater and Idea House) surprisingly veers from country cooking with its authentic Italian menu — and it’s a good detour. Spearheaded by Anthony Amico of Amico’s New York Pizza & Italian Restaurant fame, the eatery’s hand-tossed, wood-fired pies are delicious. Try the fresh tomato sauce pizza and a house salad topped with the housemade sweet, creamy basil dressing for a satisfying pre-concert bite. But if your taste buds needed any more incentive for a visit, Prichard’s Distillery will open a rum- and whiskey-making facility on the property by mid-October — adding even more spirit to the already-vibrant Fontanel.
Photos Courtesy of Fontanel