Posted by: ushistoryfiles | August 20, 2009

The Parthenon?? What does that have to do with American History?

100_0257A few weeks ago I wrote about our trip to Fort Donelson.  Well, on the way back we stopped off in Nashville and visited the Parthenon.  Now what is a replica of the Parthenon doing in Nashville?  Well, let me tell you.

By the 1850s or so, Nashville had established several institutions of higher education and had been the first Southern City to give birth to a public school system.  This emphasis on education combined with it’s growing collection of theaters and cultural attractions earned Nashville the nickname “Athens of the South”.  While this cultural growth was brought to a standstill during the Civil War, Nashville again became a vibrant city in the years after.

In 1897 Tennessee celebrated it’s 100th anniversary of being admitted into the union (someone somehow forgot that Tennessee was admitted in 1796).  Exhibit halls were built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition.  Nashville built their exhibit in the form of a replica Parthenon (Memphis, not to be outdone built theirs in the form of a pyramid).  The original structure was designed to be temporary and built of brick, wood, and plaster.  Inside it housed an art exhibition.

The residents of Nashville loved the building so much that after the exposition was over they left the building standing.  In the 1920s the city decided to replace the decaying original structure with a permanent one.  This time the building would be an exact replica Athena and all.

100_0240The basement currently houses an art exhibition along with pictures of the 1897 Centennial.  For more information you can visit the Parthenon’s website here:

http://www.nashville.gov/parthenon/

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