The Parthenon in Nashville

The Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville's premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the statue of Athena, are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.

Originally built for Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition, 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 are direct casts of the original sculptures, which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C.

Today, the replica of the Parthenon serves as the an art museum.

The City of Nashville first undertook the construction of a full-scale replica of the Parthenon to house the art exhibition for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Cities, industries and other interest groups built pavilions for the celebration. Nashville’s pavilion was constructed of brick, wood and plaster and was intended to reflect the city’s reputation as the “Athens of the South.”

The celebration lasted from May to October of 1897, just six months. Once the exposition was over, all of the buildings were moved or disassembled except for the Parthenon.  Due to the building’s popularity, the Parthenon was allowed to remain after the fair, and Centennial Park was established around it in 1902.

By 1920, the original structure had deteriorated beyond repair, and from 1920 to 1931 the building was rebuilt in concrete. Nashville architect Russell E. Hart worked on the plans with William B. Dinsmoor, a New York architect and archaeologist. Dinsmoor traveled to Greece to study the ruins of the original building and from them put together an interior plan for the Parthenon still accepted by scholars today.

By as early as the 1950’s, it had become apparent that cosmetic repairs would soon be necessary for the building’s decorative concrete forms and areas most exposed to the weather. However, the need for restoration was not fully addressed until only a few years ago.

In 1988, after a two-year, two million-dollar renovation project, the Parthenon reopened with state-of-the-art galleries, a gift shop, and office space in the basement. Dominating the East Room of the main floor is a forty-two-foot statue of Athena by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire.