January 6, 2011
It was such a nice day today, I decided to go to Centennial Park on my lunch hour just to take some pictures. Not many people know this, but Nashville is home to the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in the world. A dubious honor perhaps, but an interesting story:
Long before it became known as “Music City,” Nashville prided itself as “The Athens of The South,” a nickname it acquired in the 1850s from its numerous institutions of higher education and as the first southern city to establish a public school system. On the occasion of Tennessee’s hundredth anniversary of statehood, an exact reconstruction of the Parthenon was the centerpiece of the Grand Exposition held in Nashville in 1896. Hastily built out of temporary materials, the structure was not meant to last past the six-month Exposition. However, when it came time to demolish the building, the townspeople revolted and it remained in situ for twenty-three years. Finally, in 1920, the City of Nashville decided to build a permanent Parthenon, a project that took eleven years to complete. Today, it houses a stunning, 41-foot tall, gold leafed statue of Athena by Nashville artist Alan LeQuire as well as small museum of Nashville history.
The people of Nashville do love their Parthenon—a major renovation of the structure was recently completed and it really looks better than ever. Sure, it’s a little tacky. But it’s also kind of awe-inspiring up close—a remarkable simulacra of ancient grandeur. And the beautifully manicured Centennial Park is not just a pretty public space: it’s also host to various art fairs and other events throughout the year. For me, the Parthenon is just another one of those quirky things about Nashville that make it a neat place to live.