ORIGINS OF NASHVILLE'S PARTHENON
One of the first questions visitors and newcomers to Nashville have is "Why does Nashville have a replica of the ancient Parthenon?" This building, so beloved by the city, has a fascinating history. It's hard to imagine Nashville without the Parthenon, but there were many years when its future was uncertain.
A new installation about the Parthenon explores its fascinating origin story, as the Fine Arts Building for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, held in what is now Centennial Park to celebrate Tennessee's hundredth year as a state. The exhibition delves into the Centennial Exposition (similar to a World's Fair), exploring how Nashville presented itself to a national audience a generation after the Civil War.
After the Exposition ended, the Parthenon was in danger of being torn down. Nashvillians, enamored with the idea of their city's nickname "The Athens of the South" made permanent in building form, clamored for it to remain. For over twenty years, the plaster and wood Parthenon stood in Centennial Park, until it was rebuilt out of concrete in the 1920s.
In 1931, renovation was complete, and the Parthenon has been open ever since, honoring the city's legacy as a center of learning-much like ancient Athens-as well as the building's origins as the Fine Arts Building, with its art galleries on the lower level.
The exhibition features many rare and seldom exhibited objects, artifacts, and souvenirs from the Centennial Exposition and the Parthenon over the past 115 years. Local lawyer, collector, historian, and ninth-generation Nashvillian David Ewing has loaned his entire collection of Exposition and Parthenon memorabilia, amassed over the past twenty years, to the Parthenon for this exhibition.
The exhibition will also feature props from the film Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, part of which was filmed in Centennial Park in 2009. In the movie, the main characters make a trip to Nashville to retrieve a pearl from inside Nashville's Parthenon. Through a generous loan from the 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, several items from the movie, including a script and a pearl, will be on view for several months.
The new installation opened on November 8, 2011.