NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Centennial Park is a popular destination for Nashvillians and tourists alike. However, many don’t realize the Parthenon, which is a focal point of the park, was part of an elaborate Centennial Exposition held in 1897.
“It’s as close as you can get to time travel,” said Jennifer Richardson, Acting Curator of the Parthenon.
The Centennial Exposition marked 100 years of statehood for Tennessee.
To celebrate in 1897, Nashville played host to the Centennial Exposition that lasted six months.
“The Parthenon was chosen because, at that time, Nashville was thought of as the ‘Athens of the South.’ We were not Music City,” said Richardson.
The Parthenon was one of 30 temporary structures created to showcase the state’s achievements.
For 50 cents, visitors could explore the elaborate displays and be entertained by amusement rides.
“Groups were in charge of designing their own building and filling it with things they felt expressed best the progress that they’d made,” said Richardson.
While the exposition was meant to be temporary, one original structure still exists.
“Somebody purchased the Pythias headquarters and moved it out towards Franklin and turned it into their home,” said Richardson.
Generations of Tennesseans have lived in the private residence of Carlisle Lane. A nod to each family is proudly displayed along the center gathering place.
The Parthenon also remains, but the original structure was made of temporary materials.
“When all of the other buildings were torn down, the city of Nashville just couldn’t bear to take a sledgehammer to this building,” said Richardson.
In 1920, the city made the decision to tear it down and rebuild it from lasting materials. It reopened as a museum for the public in 1931.
“A lot of people come to the park, they see the building, but they don’t know that you can go inside. They don’t know that we have a 42 foot statue covered in real gold, and they don’t know that we have four art galleries, and that it’s all owned by the city of Nashville,” said Richardson.
The Parthenon is open to visitors, but its hours vary. Click on this link to check times and information on admission.