A trip to Nashville is not complete with going to the beautiful Centennial Park to view the Parthenon. Nashville is known to the be the city of country music, however, what you may not know is that it also houses a full-scale copy of the original Parthenon in Athens.
The Parthenon is very accessible, just west of Nashville, in the middle of a public park. You might be thinking, this seems random, gimmicky and just odd…. But it’s none of these. Built in 1897, it is a truly inspiring look at the iconic Athens structure.
So why is this Parthenon replica in one of Nashville’s public parks? Well, it was originally meant to be temporary. It was build for the Centennial Exposition in Tennessee. The structure was built for the festivities and to help with Tennessee’s self-declared reputation as the “Athens of the South”. As the exposition continued, Nashville’s fondness of the building increased. When the time came, no one wanted to get knock it down, so they didn’t. Since the building wasn’t created to be permanent, pieces began falling making it a safety hazard. So, in 1920, an architect by the name of Russell Hart oversaw the reconstruction of the building. He was committed to making it as true to the original Parthenon as he could. However, due to a lack of funds, the Parthenon wasn’t revealed to the people of Nashville until 1990. Although every attempt was made to be as true to the building in Athens, some main differences still exist. For example, in the Parthenon in Nashville, you are able to approach the structure from all sides and some of the outside was made of concrete (both unlike Athens). Despite this, it is still inspiring, as many of the elements remain the same.
Is it gimmicky? To be honest, it truly isn’t… with true attention to detail; the Parthenon is just gorgeous, especially with one of its best features, a 42-foot-tall sculpture of Athena, coated with gold. It’s hard to miss the attention to detail. Athena is truly the focus and heart of the Parthenon. She is helmeted, carriers a shield on her back and even holds a 6-foot-tall status of Nike in her right palm.
The Parthenon currently functions as an art museum. Anyone can come to the park to see the outside, but you do have to pay a small fee to enter. Paying to enter allows you to come up close to the Athena structure, which alone is worth the price of admission.
As someone who has seen the Parthenon in Athens, I can still say that you shouldn’t miss the Parthenon in Nashville - you won’t regret it!