NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Nashville native who was one of the engineers behind Tennessee’s elaborate Centennial Exposition and Parthenon did much more to shape the city we recognize today.
Major Eugene C. Lewis left behind a lasting legacy in several city parks that continue to be enjoyed by millions in the century since his death.
And, his gravesite in Mount Olivet Cemetery is also a sight to see.
There are many intricate displays on the 200 acres of historic site, which was established in 1856.
“Families would often come with picnics, and they would sit among the gravestone and share family stories,” said Jennifer Richardson, Acting Curator.
Many prominent Nashville families rest at the cemetery including Major Lewis.
William Goodale Lewis his descendent, who now lives in Georgia.
He said the lore of his ancestor has been passed down for generations.
“He was quite a socialite, and his wife was very much a socialite having all sorts of parties and things like that,” said Lewis.
Major Lewis is responsible for many landmarks.
“Even if people aren’t aware of E.C. Lewis, they’ve been to Shelby Park; they’ve been to Centennial Park; they’ve been to Watkins Park; they’ve been to Hadley Park,” said Richardson. “He was involved in developing Union Station as well as being the General Director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.”
Major Lewis attended college at the Pennsylvania Military Academy.
“He came back to Nashville knowing all about art and architecture as a civil engineer and very interested in the local community,” said Richardson.
He died of stomach cancer in 1917. His burial site is structured like a pyramid and points due North.
“I never heard really a story of why the pyramid other than he was just fascinated by Egyptians and their architecture, because it was amazing,” said Lewis.
Major Lewis created many amazing feats in his lifetime and even spoke of his love for his hometown.
“No man deserves praise for doing his duty. If I have done anything for the park system of Nashville I have done it as much for myself as I have for you. I wanted to see things grow. I wanted to see things done right,” quoted Richardson.
Mount Olivet Cemetery is just a couple of miles from Downtown Nashville, and it’s open to the public during daylight hours.