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The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Nashville has a nickname that many people might not know about, "Athens of the South." So, when Tennessee celebrated its 100th year of statehood with the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville took advantage of its nickname and built this Fine Art Building as a copy of Athens' most famous building and the epitome of classical Greek architecture. The Parthenon in Nashville is the world's only exact-size and detailed replica of the original temple in Athens, Greece.

The original building was meant to be temporary. The exterior, sculpture, and decorative work were initially made of plaster and did not take long to deteriorate. Repeated patching kept destruction at bay for several years. Eventually, the decision had to be made; tear it down or rebuild it with more sustainable materials. The decision to rebuild involved local architect Russell Hart and architectural historian William Bell Dinsmoor.

The permanent Nashville Parthenon was built between 1920-1925 on the foundation of the original temporary one and cost about $1 million. The roof, expanded walls, and load-bearing columns were made of reinforced concrete. The brick walls and non-load-bearing columns of the 1897 building were retained and incorporated into the new construction in 1920. To assist them in creating figures as close to the original as possible, the Park Board purchased from the Victoria and Albert Museum a set of casts of the original marble fragments. The originals of these marble fragments are now housed in the British Museum in London.

More Fun Facts

The 24-foot-tall double doors at each end of The Parthenon are one foot thick, and each weighs seven and a half tons, but almost anyone can open and shut them with minimal effort!

Local sculptor Alan LeQuire's 1990 Athena Parthenos statue stands 42-feet tall inside the Parthenon. Covered in gold leaf, she is a reconstruction of the long-lost original Athena.

Athena's spear was created out of a McDonald's flag pole.

The 42-foot tall Athena Parthenos sculpture is the tallest indoor artistic work of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Inside, you will find an art museum containing sculptures and paintings by 19th and 20th-century American artists.

The Parthenon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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