Parthenon (Nashville)

Parthenon (Nashville)

Coordinates: 36°08′59″N 86°48′49″W / 36.1496°N 86.8135°W / 36.1496; -86.8135

The Parthenon
The Parthenon in Nashville's Centennial Park is a full-scale copy of the original Greek Parthenon
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Built: 1897 (original structure)
1925–1931 (permanent version)
Architect: William B. Dinsmoor, Russell E. Hart[1]
Governing body: Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation
NRHP Reference#: 72001236[1]
Added to NRHP: February 23, 1972

The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.


Early history

Nashville's moniker, the Athens of the South, influenced the choice of the building as the centerpiece of the 1897 fair. A number of buildings at the Exposition were based on ancient originals, however the Parthenon was the only one that was an exact reproduction. It was also the only one that was preserved by the city, although the Knights of Pythias building was purchased and moved to nearby Franklin, Tennessee.

Originally built of plaster, wood, and brick, the Parthenon was rebuilt on the same foundations, in concrete, in a project that started in 1920; the exterior was completed in 1925 and the interior in 1931.[2]

Some of the most elaborate events that occurred at the Parthenon were the Spring Pageants of 1913 and 1914. These extravaganzas were theatrical productions on a massive scale. With casts of up to 500, the Pageants brought in audiences from surroundings states and rail prices were lowered to encourage attendance. The entire city of Nashville reveled in the opportunity to celebrate the "Athens of the South." The 1913 performance was entitled "The Fire Regained," and featured a mythological storyline enhanced by theatrical spectacle popular in that era. The 1914 production, "The Mystery at Thanatos," had a similarly mythological plot, but was shorter and better received. A copy of the script is on file at the Nashville Public Library. The most impressive thing about these Pageants was the incredible use of visual spectacle. Both shows featured impressive displays ranging from chariot races to huge dance numbers to thousands of live birds to set pieces that shot flames, all set against the backdrop of the majestic Nashville Parthenon.

Recent history

Today, the Parthenon, which functions as an art museum, stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, a large public park just west of downtown Nashville. Alan LeQuire's 1990 re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building is a full-scale replica of the Athenian original; and the statue of Athena Parthenos within is a reconstruction of the long lost original to careful scholarly standards: she is cuirassed and helmeted, carries a shield on her left arm and a small (6 ft) statue of Nike (Victory) in her right palm, and stands 42 feet (13 m) high, gilt with more than eight pounds of gold leaf; an equally colossal serpent rears its head between her and her shield. Since the building is complete and its decorations were polychromed (painted in colors) as close to the presumed original as possible, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos (the east room of the main hall) are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 BC. Many fragments of the originals are housed in the British Museum in London. Others are at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

As an art museum, the Parthenon's permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.

In the summertime, local theatre productions use the building as a backdrop for classic Greek plays such as Euripides' Medea and Sophocles' Antigone, performing (usually for free) on the steps of the Parthenon. Other performances, such as Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, have been done inside, at the foot of Athena's statue.

In popular culture

The Parthenon served as the location for the political rally in the climactic scene of Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville.

It was also used as a backdrop for the battle against the Hydra in the 2010 movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

It features in the title and lyrics of the song Nashville Parthenon from the album Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.


  1. ^ a b "National Register of Historical Places - Tennessee (TN), Davidson County". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-03-03. 
  2. ^ "Timeline at the Parthenon". Metro Parks and Recreation Department, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 

External links

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