The only full-scale replica of The Parthenon in the world
In 1895, plans were underway to celebrate Tennessee's 100th birthday. The state was in the midst of a depression and it was thought that a big party would help alleviate the financial downturn. Noted for being a center of education and the arts, Nashville had been known as "The Athens of the South" since the 1820s so a replica of The Parthenon seemed in order.
Plans for the original Parthenon were located with the aid of the British Museum. The Parthenon was built in 438 B.C.E. dedicated to the goddess Athena but was reduced to ruins in 1687 when stored gunpowder exploded. The replica in Nashville was the center of an exposition park, surrounded by 25 other structures to house exhibits.
Like Chicago's 1893 White City, all the buildings, including the Parthenon replica, were designed to be temporary and were built from wood and lath, covered with stucco and plastered in the interior.
The Centennial Celebration was a major success, and upon completion, the buildings were razed with the exception of the Parthenon, by popular demand. As a temporary building, though, it did not last. By 1915, it was badly deteriorated with parts falling off. For safety sake, it was closed and roped off. Park officials decided the Parthenon should be rebuilt with permanent materials, including a new material called reinforced concrete.
The old structure was essentially demolished and a new one built in its place. The original foundation and basement were left in place with modifications in the foundation to support the heavier building. It is an exacting replica, right down to the columns leaning inward slightly. This overcomes the optical illusion of perfectly straight columns appearing to lean outward. If the columns were extended, they would all intersect about one mile above the structure.
It is the only full-scale replica of the Parthenon extant and remains the only element connected to the 1897 exposition. It is an art center (the lower level is a significant art museum) and is the location of numerous civic celebrations.
While most of us think of Nashville as The Music City and home of the Grand Ol' Opry, the Parthenon is a top tourist attraction.