Laura Carrillo has a very unique and special connection to Donelson. Her family has helped care for Donelson’s crown jewel historic site – Two Rivers Mansion, for over 50 years and her dedication has helped make the Two Rivers Mansion, the 1802 House and 14-acre property the success it is today. Laura’s grandfather, Z.L. Milton, purchased a lot on Pennington Bend Road in 1959 to build a retirement home after working for years at Nashville Street Car and Rail. Laura’s parents married and moved into the home with Laura’s grandparents. After acquiring a few more contiguous properties, the family still lives there after four generations.
Laura recalls, “My grandfather started me on this journey when I was 5 years old. Mary Louise Bransford McGavock passed away in November of 1965. In January of 1966 her estate auction was held in a downtown Nashville warehouse with 8 inches of snow on the ground. All of the contents from inside the Mansion were sold and the remaining 445 acres were bought by the new Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County. After the sale took place someone broke in the Mansion stealing carpets, drapes all the chandeliers and back banister. Metro Police quickly recovered the stolen items. Now some security had to be put in place to protect the Mansion. My Grandfather got word that they were looking for someone to move into the Mansion and care for it. Not that my Grandparents wanted to live in a Mansion, but there was 445 acres to raise Black Angus cattle on. They moved from Pennington Bend to the McGavock Mansion (as it was known back then) in the winter of 1967 and stayed until 1972. So many fond memories with Grandparents and family were spent there. I wanted them to stay forever.”
Laura is able to combine a close personal connection to the Mansion and its history and a professional one as she has worked for Metro Parks for over 25 years. She further recalls, “Growing up down the street, attending both Two Rivers Middle and McGavock High, I would see the Mansion almost every day. A friend was getting married back in 1990 and I tagged along on the site visit. I just wanted to see the inside again and walk down memory lane for a moment. By accident I heard of a job opening there and the company I was working for was going out of business. I applied for the job and two weeks later they handed me the keys to the Donelson Castle!! Another journey had started and the plan was just to be there for a short time, which was 25 year ago this past March. “
Laura says she was born in the wrong century. As a lover of antiques, especially from the mid to late 1880’s, it’s a passion that she shares with husband, Joe. When they were dating, they’d spend all day in small towns going through all the antique shops and flea markets. Laura’s Mother-in-law had been an antique dealer and owned a shop. Laura and Joe plan their vacations around antiquing and touring historical homes. They even have his and hers antique booths to see who does better each month. They’ve both brought that passion to the Two Rivers Mansion with the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion’s “Two Hearts Antiques & Crafts Show, which this year will be Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 from 10am-4pm and Sunday, February 19 from 12pm – 4pm. The Mansion is full of vendors both downstairs and upstairs, so it’s a great opportunity to see the mansion as well. Members are free. $5/adults and $2/kids. There’s a Coffee Shoppe as well.
As to the future of the Mansion, the future is bright. One of the latest successes of the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion is completing the process to research and design a Two Rivers Master Plan, which was recently finalized was presented to the Metro Parks Board on January 3, 2017. It will help guide the preservation and advancement of the property. One exciting element is the recommendation to rebuild the carriage house that would become an event center. The building would be designed to hold 200 – 300 people and could be used for all types of events. The inside of the Mansion and 1802 house would become house museums. Tours are only available now on a limited basis, but hopefully more will be available in the future. Laura’s personal and professional passions are on full display as she greets guests in her 1850’s costume and shares the whole McGavock story.
Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Laura Carrillo, Metro Council District 15, Two Rivers Mansion