After my recent visit to Nashville, I told people I stopped and saw the Parthenon and they responded with ” The Parthenon is in Nashville?, I thought it was is in Greece.” No there actually is a Parthenon in Nashville. It is a replica of the one in Greece. It was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897.
After The success of the Columbian Exposition and other World’s Fairs some prominent citizens of Nashville decided to hold an exposition in honor of the 100th anniversary of Tennessee becoming a state. The railroad companies stepped up with funding and 200 acres in Nashville was used for the Expo. The railroads like the idea because people would need to ride the train to get to it and of course purchase tickets for the trip there and back.
Over 100 buildings were constructed to display themes related to topics such as Agriculture, Education, Fine Arts and Machinery. Because of Nashville’s Colleges and dedication to higher education it was given the nickname ” Athens of the south”. Because of its nickname a replica of the Parthenon was proposed to represent the city. The town of Memphis built a pyramid to represent their city and its Egyptian inspire name.
The Expo was open to the public in 1897 from May to October and drew 1.7 million visitors. The planners were hoping for attendance to reach 2 million but the yellow fever epidemic that summer limited peoples desire to travel. Overall it was a success and although it made a small profit of which some estimate was $50 at least it broke even and was not in debt like many other fairs at the time.
The buildings of the expo were never intended to remain standing after it concluded in the fall of 1897. A few smaller buildings were moved to other parts of the city and the rest were demolished except the Parthenon. The people of the city fell in love with it and requested it remain standing. Because it was built as a temporary structure the materials used such as plaster and wood began to deteriorate. In the 1920 much of the building was reconstructed using concrete. The grounds of the expo are now Centennial Park and the Parthenon is used as an art museum. The Parthenon has also been used in a few movies. Most notably Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Centennial Park can be found at 2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203
P.S. One of my favorite books is Devil In The White City about the Chicago Exposition and the Serial Killer H H Holmes. If you like true crime and history you should check it out.
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