Historic Brentwood home offers gracious living
Newly renovated Isola Bella has seen history march past it for 170 years
Isola Bella, perhaps the crown jewel of Brentwood’s historic homes, has just come on the market at $4.9 million. In the heart of Brentwood on Franklin Road, the grand estate — whose name in Italian is “beautiful island” — is comprised of the antebellum plantation home, a guesthouse, six-stall barn and pool house on 9 acres of lush lawn and pasture land. The house was built around 1840 by extremely wealthy James Johnston and his wife, Narcisa Merrit Johnston.
The lawn of Isola Bella was traversed by Confederate and Federal cannons, wagons and marching soldiers during the Civil War. It is said that Gen. John Bell Hood and his staff met there before the Battle of Nashville, and the grand home served . Anne Goad, chairman of the board for the Brentwood Historic Commission, says the home and its property experienced so much traffic during the war because it was situated on what was at the time a super highway.
“Franklin Road at the time was like a modern day freeway,” she said. “It was packed gravel, providing a hard surface that cannons could pass over. Other roads were dirt and ruts.” It was one of the larger homes built in that era in Brentwood, she said, and it was finer than most. It originally was known as Thurso, named for an ancestral home in Scotland. It was renamed in the 1970s when the Alexander family acquired and expanded it.
While the home fell into disrepair after the death of its original owners and was at one time even used to store hay and strip tobacco, priceless elements such as a marble mantle that is said to have come from the Paris home of author Victor Hugo; a pair of marble benches flanking the front door; and a gazebo constructed of marble and wrought iron withstood the test of time.
“These incredibly beautiful pieces remain in the home today,” said listing agent Lisa Culp Taylor with Bob Parks Realty. “Natural materials like marble are just forever treasures. Each is beautiful. The benches are ornately carved. The gazebo is gorgeous with its marble floors and columns.” In the 1940s, John Oman Jr. restored the home to its original grandeur, preserving a piece of history for future generations. Goad says that since that reclamation, the home has continued to be nurtured, cared for and preserved.
“I would say the house is currently in its best state since its origins in the 1840s,” she said. “It is one of Brentwood’s jewels. We’re all fortunate that from the Oman family forward, it has been treated as the treasure that it is.” Culp Taylor says stepping through the front door is like stepping into history.
“You can only imagine all this house as seen and experienced in all these years going from glory to ruin and back to glory.” The main house has six bedrooms, six full and two half-baths. There are nine fireplaces. The guest house is 1,162 square feet and has three bedrooms and two full baths. The kitchen is updated with new appliances and granite countertops. Window treatments throughout the home remain.
“This is an extraordinary home for entertaining,” Culp Taylor said. “The rooms are large and spacious with a fantastic flow, and the outdoor living areas are terrific.” The home has been vacant since 2010, when the current owner acquired it and began making improvements. “In the two weeks it has been on the market, we’ve had significant interest,” she said. “The home is historic, gorgeous, grand — and it’s on nice lush acres in the heart of Brentwood; we’re not surprised that interest is keen.”