The original Hundred Oaks was not a mall, but a house: a two-story log house
that was a hub of Nashville entertaining in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Carolyn Suschnick can see it all in her mind’s eye, even now.
There was a stone wall along the front of the land, facing Thompson Lane. There
were split rail fences down the side of the property. Orange day lilies
brightened up the side yard, and a grove of dogwoods and redbuds further back
on the land brought color every spring.
“It was pastoral,” Suschnick sums up. And she knows what she’s talking about because for the first 12 years of her life, Hundred Oaks was
“We had horses. Cats, dogs, baby chickens, turtles, a parakeet, a rabbit. The
rabbit ate all my Barbie-doll clothes.”
Oh, and there really were 100 oaks. More or less.
“There were 98 oaks there when my mother bought the property. She planted two
acorns and named it Hundred Oaks.”
The name was retained when the house was dismantled, the land cleared, and
Nashville’s first mall opened on the site in 1967. One Hundred Oaks Mall was a retailing
wonderland at the height of the Space Age.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
The log house on Thompson Lane
Carolyn Suschnick talks about her mother the way some people talk about Elvis.
Virginia Hughes Smartt ran one of the most successful catering and entertaining
businesses in Nashville in an era when most women didn’t work outside the home.
“She was an amazing woman,” Suschnick says. “She owned 28 convertibles in her life. She graduated from the University of
Alabama with a home economics degree. Mother was 38 when she had me. She was a
working woman. She was liberated before we even knew what that meant.”
Beginning in 1947, Mrs. Smartt catered parties and hosted Nashville’s entertainment and business elite at the elegant two-story log house on
Thompson Lane. On one legendary occasion in 1948, she put on what was surely
Nashville’s first authentic Hawaiian luau, overseen by a crew of experts flown in from
Suschnick, who owns Westbury House, an antique store in Columbia, still has her
mother’s bound appointment books, and flipping the pages to a certain date in 1952, she
notes that her mother put on a breakfast for 60 people and a wedding luncheon
for 12. An additional notation at the top of the page makes mention of an
add-on event: Carolyn was born later that day.
Suschnick’s father, Landon Smartt, came back home from the Pacific theater in World War II
and, after working for the state, began a career in real estate. The first time
he asked Virginia Hughes out, she said no. But he persisted, and she eventually
consented to allow him to attend a bridge game. All over Nashville —well, all over the world—young men and women were building the lives that the war had put on hold, and
the Smartts were an example. Fate and love took over.