It Starts with a Square

‘I Do’ With a View

BY Regan Hewitt

Tucked along a winding road in Arlington is a historical estate nestled on 20 acres of Tennessee countryside. Turn into a majestic tree-lined drive where guests are greeted by more than forty Eastern Red Cedar trees. At the point of honor in front of the current home site stands a magnificent magnolia tree that is impossible to miss. The land sings with the soothing whispers of historical richness from the moment you set foot onto the property.

The story of 12055 Donelson Road dates back to 1830 when Alexander Donelson, nephew of President Andrew Jackson, and his wife became one of the first permanent settlers in the area. Donelson built a home which he would name Orion Hill. Visible almost directly overhead the home site is the constellation Orion, which is believed to be the reason for the name. Orion Hill was meant to replicate the Hermitage (President Jackson’s historic mansion) down to the same majestic cedar and magnolia trees that can be seen today. The estate was home to several generations before burning down in the 1920s. 

“We’ve worked hard to make it so brides feel like they’re getting married at a family-friend’s house. We want you to feel at home when you’re here!”    – Shelby Hartman

For a period of time, the property was dilapidated and overgrown, until the 1990s when Dr. and Mrs. Lester Graves built a Greek revival style home on the site of the original Donelson house. The architecture of the home includes a gable, low-pitched roof, dentil cornices with wide bands of trim, Doric columns and entry doors with rectangular transom lights. Much of this has been preserved by the current owners Don and Cathy Wilson, who purchased the property in 2018. Since the transfer of ownership, preservation efforts have been made by the Wilsons.  They have applied for “Heritage Status” in hopes that Orion Hill would qualify as a state identified arboretum and tree sanctuary. The Shelby County Historical Commission has also since granted Orion Hill a historic marker.

The Wilsons, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Shelby and Adam Hartman, have made alterations to the home to accommodate the wedding and event venue they are excited to share with guests. Renovations began in March 2019 and concluded in September of last year. Ledford Architects of Arlington designed the floor plan, and Dan Rutledge Construction LLC of Collierville managed the renovations. 

A 3,400 square foot addition was made to the back of the home for a ballroom. Other renovations include outdoor ceremony location accessibility, boardwalk onto the lake, grooms quarters and more. This now 10,000 square foot venue has ample space for both indoor and outdoor needs and can accommodate 300 guests.

“We want our guests to utilize every square inch of this space, and enjoy the beauty all around this property!”    – Shelby Hartman

“I went to Arlington High School and I grew up passing this very street, going to and from my parents’ house,” recalls Shelby. “My parents say they’ve driven past here 30-something years and little did we all know! Of course there have been hurdles turning a house into a commercial property and wedding venue, but we’ve worked hard to make it so brides feel like they’re getting married at a family-friend’s house. We want you to feel at home when you’re here! With my wedding industry background, I have approached everything from a videographers’ perspective and my concentration on the little details is what sets us apart and makes us special. My family and I have really put our hearts into [Orion Hill]. We want our guests to utilize every square inch of this space, and enjoy the beauty all around this property!”

Find inspiration and beautiful views when you celebrate your big event at the area’s best kept secret, Orion Hill.

story | Anna Bell

photos |  NLA WEDDINGS

May/June 2020 Tour Collierville Magazine