The Lotz House Museum and the Painting of the Thwarted Lovers
by Michelle Place, Director of Education
The reopening of the Historic Lotz House as a museum is the missing chapter to an already compelling story. Those familiar with Franklin, Tennessee, will already know of the Battle of Franklin and its bloody, heroic, and heartbreaking consequences.
Carnton Plantation and the Carter House both give excellent tours of their historic homes and roles during the battle. The Lotz House Museum offers something in addition to these well-respected sites. The triangulation of these museums offers visitors a complimentary and complete feel for the time period. While visitors will hear of the role that the Lotz family and their home played during the battle, the historic museum offers an elegant example of the decorative arts of the 1820-1860 period. Wendell Garrett, editor-at-large of The Magazine Antiques has said “this collection of antiques is by far the finest private collection of American Victorian furniture in the Southeast. “
Our object in the months to come is to offer a tempting peek at individual pieces to entice historic enthusiasts. The owners and collectors, Sue Thompson, J.T. Thompson and his wife Susan, hope you will visit the Lotz House for an unforgettable tour.
How many have heard of a man named Napoleon Bonaparte? Napoleon’s youngest sibling, Jerome, came to America to tour the sights and further his well-traveled status. He was certainly not expecting to fall for the “belle of Baltimore,” Betsy Patterson. Miss Patterson was in no way common or unrespectable and fully expected to marry a gentleman.
Betsy and Jerome fell madly in love. During their halcyon days, the Viennese master painter, P. Gastgeb painted the two in a playful and loving pose. They were married and spent the days after the wedding at the Great Falls. We know them now as Niagara Falls, honeymoon capital of North America. They were the first to make the location fashionable.
When Napoleon discovered what little brother had been up to in America, he was livid. The marriage had taken place without his permission, and he expected all his siblings to marry royalty or at least heads of state. He declared the marriage null and void.
Jerome and Betsy sailed to France where Jerome had been ordered post haste. Napoleon made it clear that Betsy was to be shot immediately if she set foot on French soil. Jerome continued to visit her on the ship and eventually, a son was born. Again, Napoleon was resolute and declared their child a bastard—a great scandal and stumbling block in those days.
Still passionately in love, the two were never reunited. Betsy spent the rest of her life traveling to distant shores trying to legitimatize her marriage and the birth of their son. The painting always remained in Betsy’s ownership.
The Lotz House Museum is in possession of the 1802-1803 painting, in its original frame, of the two young lovers still dreaming of a glorious future together. The Lotz House Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5p.m. and Sunday, 1:00p.m.-4:00 p.m. Come and have a look at Betsy and Jerome for yourself. We can’t wait to share them with you.