Saturn Welcome Center (100 Saturn Pkwy., 931/486-5440, www.saturn.com, free) introduces visitors to the Saturn automobile manufacturing plant, built in 1986. Saturn now employs more than 8,200 people in its approximately 2,400-acre plant and has produced more than a million cars. It was designed to preserve the rural and historical surroundings, and this huge plant is almost invisible from U.S. 31 because of the landscaping and building colors. Farming continues on the plant site, including more than 600 acres of planted corn, soybeans, barley, and shear. More than 300 acres are planted in mixed grasses and alfalfa. Saturn received the "1987 Industrial Conservationist of the Year" award for its efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of the largest private construction project in the history of Tennessee. Call the welcome center to reserve a spot on the tour.
Rippavilla (5700 Main St., 931/486-9037, Jan.-Feb. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Fri., Apr.-Dec. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 1-5 p.m. Sun., $8 adults, $6 seniors, $4 for ages 6-18) across from the Saturn plant, was built in 1852, finished in 1854 and was used as headquarters by both sides during the Civil War. The day of the Battle of Franklin, Confederate General John Bell Hood and his staff had breakfast here, and before the day was over, five of those generals were killed. The house has been restored to its 1850s appearance with 65 percent original period furniture and includes a gift shop and a museum. Special events are welcome.
Behind Rippavilla is the Mule Museum, (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs., $3 adults, $2 seniors, $1 children) a barn containing a collection of old-time farming implements pulled by mules or horses.
While at Rippavilla, take the time to see Oaklawn (3331 Denning Ln.), which is just around the corner. It was in this brick home built in 1835 that General John Bell Hood spent the night when an entire Union army sneaked past him. The house was bought in the 1970s by country crooners George Jones and the late Tammy Wynette, who inflicted shag carpeting on the floor where Civil War generals had walked. To install the carpet, the bottoms of the 140-year-old doors were sawn off and put out in the trash. A sharp-eyed local woman retrieved the strips of wood and triumphantly returned them when the house passed into the hands of a more history-minded owner. Now properly restored to the way it appeared on the fateful night while Hood slept, the view of Oaklawn offers visitors very little of anything from the 20th century. To get there from Rippavilla, go south on U.S. 31 for 0.2 mile, then turn left on Denning Lane. A 2.5-mile drive leads to the mansion. Oaklawn is privately owned, so visitors should not invade the driveway.
copyright 2007 Jeff Bradley