Why Does Nashville Have a Full-Scale Replica of the Parthenon?

Even though the United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is also one of the youngest. The oldest cities from a European standpoint date to the 16th century. Tribal cultures that were here before settlers started arriving didn’t create massive monuments or displays.

That’s why it was only natural for some cities to want to import some of the world’s history as Americans began to move west.

The full-scale replica of the Parthenon might seem like a gimmick, but it is far from it. The structure, built in 1897, was originally a temporary effort built for the Centennial Exposition. It served as the art gallery for the festival, providing a reminder to visitors that the city’s nickname at the time was the “Athens of the South.”

A 42-foot gold-coated sculpture of Athena was even part of that effort.

Almost 2 Million People Visited the Parthenon in Six Months

Over 20 times the population of Nashville came to see the Parthenon during its first six months. When the fair ended, the building had grown so much on the city at the time that no one wanted to tear it down. It has stayed up since.

The initial construction of the replica Parthenon was not intended to be a permanent structure. It began to deteriorate rapidly, eventually requiring the city to complete a massive renovation in 1920. The project included an exterior restoration that involved casts of the artifacts and marbles from the original structure in Greece for authenticity.

As the Great Depression settled in on the United States, funding for the restoration effort dried up. Several projects were shelved to finish the work within the new budget. It wouldn’t be until the 1960s when enough money got raised to put a revised sculpture of Athena in the building, with the work unveiled in 1990.

Although the attention to detail with Nashville’s Parthenon is incredible, some significant changes do exist. You approach the building from the side or front instead of intentionally through the back as the original. It is also made from concrete instead of marble, and the doors are made from bronze instead of wood.
Is the Parthenon a bit of a tourist trap? Sure, but it is also one that the locals love. It is one of Nashville’s most exciting places to visit, and that’s saying something since you’re also in the land of the Grand Ole Opry.