Nashville Parthenon: How Music City became home to the world’s only exact replica of a famous Greek temple
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In downtown Nashville, you’ll find a structure built for a Titan—a whole team of them in fact—but a few miles away stands a replica of a structure once built for a god.
Deep in the heart of Music City stands the world’s only exact replica of the Parthenon. So, how did a famous replica of the Greek temple end up in Tennessee?
“The Parthenon was built for the 1897 [Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition],” said Nashville Parthenon Director, Lauren Bufferd. “It was the art building for the fair and Nashville chose it because Nashville was known as the ‘Athens of the South’—they felt like the classical culture was the thing that they were emulating and striving for. And so that was the building that they chose.”
The expo was held to celebrate Tennessee’s 100 years of statehood. It commemorated the state’s achievements showing the world its commerce, agriculture, history, art, and more.
The event kicked off a year late, and it lasted six months. An estimated 1.8 million visitors visited the festival. Most of the other buildings at the expo were moved or destroyed. Only the Parthenon remained.
According to historical records from the Nashville Parthenon, the structure “crystallized for Nashvillians their image of themselves and their city,” which resulted in many wanting the building to remain long after the expo.
For years, the replica remained the centerpiece of the empty fairgrounds, but that would change at the turn of the century after the Nashville Board of Parks was created.
“The land that the Parthenon was on was purchased by the city. It became a public park,” said Bufferd.
Centennial Park was established in 1902 with the Parthenon as the centerpiece of the municipal land.
In 1920, the city made the decision to tear it down and rebuild it from lasting materials. It reopened as a museum for the public in 1931. The decade-long process ironically mirrored the same timetable for the construction of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece (447-438 BCE).
So what can you expect to find inside the to-scale replica?
“There are two levels, art galleries on the lower level with some permanent collections and some changing exhibitions—on the upper level, a full-scale replica of the interior of the Parthenon,” said Bufferd.
You’ll also find a colossal figure that dwarfs your average honky-tonk that glows as brightly as any neon sign you’d find along Broadway—a 42ft replica of the great statue of Athena.
Nashville’s Parthenon is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. You can visit Wednesday through Sunday, but make sure to check the Parthenon’s website first as hours may vary each week.
Admission is free for members, learn more here. Admission is also free for children under the age of 4. For non-members: Admission for adults is $10, Ages 4-17 & 62+ can tour the venue for $8.