February 23, 1972: The exact replica of the Parthenon, built in Nashville, Tennessee in 1897 (rebuilt 1925-31), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The City of Nashville has always been nicknamed the “Athens of the South,” for the simple reason that it is home to twenty-four secondary educational institutions, comparing it to Athens, the Greek ancient city of learning and the site of Plato’s famous academy. So what better symbol of the City of Athens should be built in Nashville, but the Parthenon?
As the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was approaching in 1897, William Crawford Smith, designed an exact replica of the famous Greek building to be the centerpiece of the Centennial. The Nashville Parthenon was originally built of wood and not meant to be permanent, but it became so popular that twenty years later it was rebuilt in concrete on the original foundations. The work began in 1920, the exterior was completed in 1925, and the interior was finished in 1931.
During the early years, it was used for theatrical performances with over 500 people able to attend, but today it is mainly used as a museum, housing paintings from American artists. Theatrical performances are still held especially Greek plays.
Alan LeQuire was commissioned to make a reproduction of the original statue of Athena Parthenos by the ancient sculptor Phidias, which was house in the Parthenon in Athens. After eight years of work, the reproduction was unveiled on May 20, 1990. Athena wears a helmet, is cuirassed, and carries a shield. She also carries a six-foot high statue of Nike (Victory). She stands forty-two feet and is gilded with more than eight pounds of gold leaf. The Nashville Parthenon is painted as closely to the original in Athens was when originally built, and the Parthenon Marbles are plaster replicas and cast directly from the original sculptures.
The Nashville Parthenon was used in the 1975 film, “Nashville,” and in the 2010 film, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” It was also used in the 2000 PBS series, “The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization.”
On February 23, 1975, the Nashville Parthenon was listed on the National Register of Historic Places thus protecting the site for generations to come.