Nashville: “The Athens of the South”
Sitting majestically as the centerpiece of Nashville’s Centennial Park, the world’s only full-scale replica of the iconic Parthenon has anchored the country’s cultural life for 123 years. Constructed for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon today serves as a visual reminder of the famous nickname as “Athens of the South” – an epithet dating to the mid-1800s.
Originally envisioned as a temporary structure of wood, brick and plaster, and housing a massive display of art for the centennial celebration, the Parthenon served as a backdrop for enormous spring pageants with massive theatrical productions, dance performances, and even chariot race reenactments in 1913 and 1914.
The Parthenon was reconstructed in the 1920s as a permanent building, opening in 1931. The full-scale structure includes the architectural refinements such as the inclining of vertical lines and the curvature of horizontal lines that the original in Athens gave to the world as example of aesthetic perfection.
The full scale 42-foot statue of Athena, created by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire (now serving as an HICD-USA Ambassador), was unveiled in 1990 and was gilded in 2002 by a team led by LeQuire and master holder Lou Reed.
Housed in the Parthenon’s west Treasury (opisthodomos) are full scale replicas of the Parthenon Marbles from the originals housed with great controversy since the early 1800s in the British Museum.