This fine home was built in 1828 by Henry Reiff for Robert Looney Caruthers. Reiff was also the builder of the Hermitage in 1819. Caruthers (1800-1882) was a successful Lebanon lawyer in 1827 when he was appointed 6th district Attorney General by Governor Sam Houston. His political career included election to the Tennessee House of Representatives, 1835, United States House of Representatives, 1841-43, and appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court, 1852, replacing Judge Nathan Green Sr.
Caruthers was elected governor of Tennessee in 1863 but did not take office as Federal troops occupied Nashville preventing the General Assembly from convening. He was a founder of Cumberland University, elected President of its first Board of Trustees, 1842, and served in this office until his death. Along with his brother Abraham, he co-founded Cumberland’s law school in 1847, and served as professor of law from 1868 until 1882. Before he was elected Governor in 1863, Caruthers accepted the nomination in a speech delivered from the home’s balcony.
The home’s elegant curvilinear staircase is a feature also seen at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, as well as Tulip Grove, both of which were also constructed by the Caruthers home builders. The federal style home, updated with Eastlake features in the 1880s, is the earliest surviving brick residence in the city.
From its founding in 1847 Cumberland’s Law School met with great success. By 1859 it was counted with Harvard and the University of Virginia as the nation’s three largest law schools.
In 1877, Robert L. Caruthers gifted a lot just west of his home on West Main Street and 10,000 dollars to Cumberland University, in order to build a structure to house the law school. With additional contributions of 25,000 dollars, Caruthers Hall was built and placed in use in 1878.
The “Law Barn” sat opposite the South Greenwood Street terminus into West Main Street until razed in 1962; the year following the law school’s sale to Samford University in Birmingham, AL.