If you take a stroll on one of the many paths in Centennial Park or drive-by on West End Avenue, an elaborate structure can be seen that seems to be in the wrong place, even the wrong century. The Parthenon located as the centerpiece of Centennial Park is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in the Athens, Greece.
Now a question many people maybe asking is why is a replica of the Parthenon in Nashville? Between the months of May and October in 1897 the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition was staged to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nashville entering the Union. For the exposition many cities built large buildings or exhibit halls to show off which region they were from. Nashville in turn chose the Parthenon due to its nickname “Athens of the South.”
The original Parthenon was built in 1897. However, a more permanent one was established between the years of 1925-1931. Originally built of plaster, wood, and brick, the Parthenon was not intended to be permanent, but the cost of demolishing the structure combined with its popularity with residents and visitors alike resulted in it being left standing after the Exposition. The original was defaced by weather after about twenty years. It was then rebuilt in concrete on the same foundations. William Bell Dinsmoor was the primary architectural consultant for the interior of the building.
Inside, the statue of Athena Parthenos has been reconstructed as close scholars can pinpoint to the original lost statue. The statue is cuirassed and helmeted and carries a shield on her left arm. In her right palm to holds a state of Nike. It stands 42 feet high with a serpent that rears its head between her and the shield. The whole sculpture is made with 8 pounds of gold leaf.
Today, the Parthenon is used primarily as an art exhibit with the re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue as its main focus. As an art museum, the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th- and 20th-century American artists. The landmark is also used sometimes as a Greek backdrop for classic Greek plays. It had its last restoration in 2002 for some much needed cleaning and stills stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park for all of Nashville to see.