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Beau Cheval: Where History, Horses and Heart Meet

Sitting on the crest of a hill on the road to Wartrace in Bedford County, Beau Cheval (“beautiful horse” in French) is an historic home that was probably built in 1810 and moved to the current site in 1973 by the late Dr. Joe Tom Walker, a prominent dentist and businessman in Murfreesboro. He turned the rustic dog-trot log house into the home where he raised his family. After turning down many offers for the farm he loved, he decided that he liked the plans Beau and Gary Spry had for the place and sold it to them in 2017, when he was 89. The Sprys turned the beautiful, rustic home into what has become a popular bridal event venue.

“[Dr. Walker’s] daughter, Pallie, came by after we bought the house [to see what we had done] and brought her wedding album. She was married [to David Jones] on the front porch,” noted Gary. “Beau had told Dr. Walker that we intended to turn the home into a wedding venue and open it to the public, and I think he was really excited about that. He felt like he built this place and that it was part of his legacy. And, he wanted people to see what he had done.”

“[Some more of] his children and grandchildren have come to see what we’ve done with the home,” said Beau. “And, one of his grandchildren wrote in our guest book that he was smiling down from heaven. Which was sweet.”

Buying the Home Was More Like an Interview

Buying the home from Dr. Walker was an experience. Because he saw the home as one of his legacies, he was being very particular about who bought the house and what they did with it. When the Sprys came upon it, it had been on the market for about three years. 

“Joe Tom was sitting in a recliner in the kitchen in front of the fireplace watching TV while we were touring the house with a realtor,” Gary explained. “And, you know how you tour a house…Well, these floors are sagging…you are really tearing it down to get the price lower. And then we walk through the kitchen and there sits the owner. I was like, ‘What? You’re not supposed to be here.’ So, he kind of ambushed us…”

What the couple finds humorous is that the first time they made him an offer, he wrote one word on that offer. No. And sent it back. He didn’t even make a counter offer. And it was not about a lowball offer. It was about what was going to happen to the home. 

“It was an interview process,” Beau explained. “He continued the tour with us on the property.” That was when they told him about their plans and he began to change his mind. 

House Was a Show Home in 1973

Dr. Walker’s wife, Elizabeth, had an interior decorator come and design the décor for the home before their family moved in. Some of those touches remain on the second floor, including unique dark green wallpaper, which had also been on the walls in the dog trot entry hall when the Sprys moved in. And, a clawfoot tub that was hand-painted to match the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom.

“There was wallpaper all over the place [when we moved in],” said Gary. “And, all the curtains matched the wallpaper. We were told that after this home was finished, it was featured in Southern Living Magazine… It was quite a home for 1973. All the floors in the bathrooms are heated floors…which was very unusual for [that time].”

Several places the Sprys have kept things as they found them, including where Dr. Walker’s childrens’ heights were recorded on the kitchen wall. 

“We didn’t have the heart to paint over it,” added Gary. 

Gary and Beau Updated Much of Beau Cheval

Initially, the Sprys and some of their five children (from previous marriages) moved into the house and the couple slowly renovated the place. Eventually, they moved to another home on the property. 

While a show home when Dr. Walker’s family moved in, in 2017 it was feeling very dark and dated. The ceilings in the living room had been painted brown, the wallpaper was dark. The couple tried to do what they could to bring light into the home. They painted the ceilings white; put in recessed lighting; stripped the wall paper; did a lot of spackling and filling, tore out the old tubs on the main floor and put in tiled showers; and covered the yellow walls on the sun porch, which looks over the outdoor wedding space, white with a “haint “blue ceiling. 

“Beau is the visionary,” said Gary. “And, I don’t call it Pinterest. I call it Pinterrorist. Because she’ll lay in bed and look at Pinterest and find something and show me and say, ‘do you think you can do this?’ That has been my life for the last six years.” Both of them show well-deserved pride in everything they have accomplished in that time. 

They did keep the brick floor that can be found throughout the main floor of the home. However, they had to make some adjustments to it.

“In the dog trot by the stairs there was a dip,” explained Gary. “The floor had sunk, we measured it with a laser. I think it was about 2 and 3/8 of an inch from the threshold at the front door to where the staircase is located. It was a huge drop. So, we got in the crawl space with screw jacks in strategic places and started screwing. I told Beau that we were going to break all that brick, be ready to cry…We turned the jacks slowly, I watched the laser level, and when we got to within 3/8 of an inch I told the fellows to stop. We didn’t crack a single brick. We didn’t crack the chinking in any of the logs. It all stayed just exactly the way it should.”

Sometimes, however, Gary says he feels like Oliver from the old TV show Green Acres. When Oliver was renovating his back-woods country house on the show, he’d find really crazy stuff. Gary says when he’s torn out walls, he’s found plenty of things that made him go “Woah!”

Beau Finds Great Thrifted Furniture Finds

All of the furnishings in the venue are finds that Beau has discovered online, including from Sotheby’s Auctions, Facebook Marketplace and Nadeau Furniture in Nashville. 

The sofa on the sun porch and the two leather wing backs in the Groom’s ready room are from Sotheby’s, the sideboard in the hall that leads to the reception space is from Nadeau. 

“Beau has made very good use of Facebook Marketplace,” noted Gary. “She has sent me all kinds of places to pick stuff up, but it has really paid off. It is economical, and we have picked up some really nice-looking pieces that way.”  

Building the Business Has Been a Bumpy Ride

After two years of hard renovation work, in December of 2019, they were ready to have their first wedding. And then, the next Spring, when they had a number of weddings planned and contracted, the pandemic hit. Things got rough. 

“We were a couple of months away from having to sell the house,” said Gary. Gary had quit his job teaching at Riverdale and Beau had been furloughed from her job. Then Beau became ill. By July of 2020, they were doing a lot of praying, as they didn’t qualify for any of the monetary COVID relief provided by the government.

“That’s when we put beds into the house,” said Beau. “We thought we might become an airBnB. and Gary planted 10,000 pumpkins near the creek. We had hay rides and vendors, there were food and crafts.”

“And, she made me dress up like Santa,” added Gary.

“We still have people ask if we are going to do pumpkins and hay rides and Santa pictures again. But we are too busy with weddings,” said Beau. “We do about 45 per year.”

Been Building Better Facilities as the Business Has Grown

“The ceremony site was the family pool,” explained Gary, who has done much of the remodeling himself, and when not doing the work himself, he acts as the general contractor. “At some point Joe Tom asked his kids and grandkids if they were coming back to swim. When they said no, he filled it in with dirt. All I did was finish it with gravel and put a concrete cap on top of it to make it a flat space.”

A massive pavilion has also been added to the side of the home with a covered walkway leading to it from the house. The pavilion is where most weddings take place during the winter and practically all of the receptions occur there; even some rehearsal dinners. However, they have also had weddings take place out in one of their fields and others down by the creek. 

Beau Cheval Is a One Stop Wedding Shop

What makes them very unique is that they do it all. From their showroom, located down the hill from the venue, they help brides plan every detail. The showroom is a beautiful space where they offer a selection of décor and signage options for the bride to choose from. They even have one of the tables Gary handmade, that they use in the pavilion for receptions. Here brides can experiment with centerpieces, table runners and place setting options. 

Helping a bride plan her entire wedding and doing all of the coordination, is not all they have to offer that is unique. They also offer the chance for photos to be taken with one of their rescue horses, in a rowboat on the pond located on their property or with a falcon. At one wedding, the couple even had a falcon deliver their wedding rings. Of course, they owned the falcons.

Property Has an Interesting History

It is the history of the home that makes it the most unique place to get married. While the home was not located on the hill where it now sits during the Civil War, the land where it is now located acted as a bivouac for Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Stones River.

“The Louisiana Confederate regiment bivouaced on the farm … [for] six or seven months until they were pushed out by Union Colonel Wheeler and Colonel Eli Lilly, of pharmaceutical fame, who put his artillery on top of a hill overlooking the farm and bombarded it with cannon fire until the Confederates moved on. 

During World War II, General Patton came though during the “Louisiana Maneuvers” to train his division for war in Europe because the terrain in the area is similar to the terrain of central Germany and France. 

“One of the farmers that adjoins us…his daddy was alive during World War II,” explained Gary. “His father remembers the soldiers coming through and the jeep trailing behind the tanks with a load of cash on it. Every time they tore up a farmer’s fence, the finance officer would find the farmer and pay him cash for the damage that they had done and then they just rolled on out.”

Plans for the Future

Six years of updating and enhancing the site has paid off. Brides love having their weddings at Beau Cheval. But, both Beau and Gary have big plans for the future. They are getting ready to enhance the pavilion, and they want to eventually add a restaurant run by the folks at Strawberry Moon. Strawberry Moon now does catering for Beau Cheval weddings, but they once had a popular restaurant in Lawrenceburg. And, the couple has an extensive land use plan for the farm going into the future.

“God has carried us through all that we have experienced as we have built this business,” said Beau. “Our experiences have taught us a lot about faith. Faith is worth more than gold. He reveals things when you need them the most.” She feels that there is more on their horizon, they just need to keep enjoying what they are doing and working hard. 

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