The Parthenon of Nashville

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In the late 19th century, the city of Nashville, in Tennessee, the United States, was known to be one of the most refined and educated cities of the south. It was the first Southern City to establish a public school system, and was home to at least half a dozen universities and colleges, that earned the city the moniker of "Athens of the South". So when it was announced that Nashville will hold the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state’s admission into the Union, the city decided that it should be appropriately represented.

Nineteen states participated in the Expo including sixteen foreign nations. A very impressive array of buildings was constructed to house the exhibits, but the most favorite building at the Expo was Nashville’s full-scale replica of the Parthenon, the ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

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Photo credit: Will Powell/Flickr

Like all the buildings at the Fair, the Parthenon was not meant to be permanent. It was made from plaster, wood, and brick, so it could be torn down at the end of the Expo. But by the time the Expo ended, the citizens were in such love with the building that the city decided to keep it. The Parthenon stood for the next twenty years until it could stand no more. Twenty years of rain and sunshine had weathered it down. The structure was then demolished and rebuilt on the same foundations, in concrete. The new Parthenon was opened in 1931. It now functions as an art museum, and stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, a city park named after the memorable Expo.

In 1990, a replica of the statue of Athena Parthenos was built inside the Parthenon. The original Athena Parthenos, now lost to history, was a massive gold and ivory sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena, made by Phidias and his assistants and housed in the Parthenon in Athens. The modern copy at Nashville is made of gypsum cement and ground fiberglass. Although numerous replicas of Athena Parthenos stand around the world, Nashville’s version is significant because of its scale and its attention to detail. The statue stands 12.8 meters tall, making her the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World.

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The Parthenon during the 1897 Expo. Photo credit: historic-memphis.com

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Photo credit: Bobby Bradley/Flickr

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Photo credit: Larry Darling/Flickr

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Photo credit: Will Powell/Flickr

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Photo credit: Scazon/Flickr

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Photo credit: Scazon/Flickr

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Photo credit: Ron Cogswell/Flickr

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Photo credit: mulf/Flickr

Sources: Wikipedia / historic-memphis.com

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