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Nashville's Parthenon Replica: History and Preservation

The purpose of this research is to examine the history and the preservation of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, from the time of its first appearance in 1896 to the present day. The plan of the research will be to set forth the social context out of which the construction of the building occurred and then to discuss the features of the building, with reference to its provenance, the Parthenon of Athens, Greece, which was constructed some 2,500 years ago, 447-438 BC.

The reason that the Nashville Parthenon was constructed in 1896 is connected to the centennial celebration of Tennessee's admission to the Union in 1796. By the end of the 19th century, Nashville had long been referred to as the "Athens of the South," principally because of the large number of colleges in the greater Nashville area, including Fisk and Vanderbilt universities, and because the city was the first in the South "to establish a public school system" (Duke). Nashville was the venue for Tennessee's Centennial Exposition in 1897, and the Parthenon was the architectural showcase of the event.

The original purpose for building the Parthenon in Nashville was to create an art gallery to house an art show for the Exposition. It was originally conceived as a temporary structure and was constructed out of plaster, designed to last for one year. Known during the Exposition as the Gallery of Fine Arts, it was distinctive because it was a full-size replica of the structure in Athens (Robbins 44-45). At the end of the Exposition, demolition crews proceeded to dismantle its various pavilions and other structures. The Parthenon replica had proven so popular with visitors, however, that public opinion clamored for the preservation of the structure. For the next 23 years, the Parthenon remained a durable attraction in sync with the Athens of the South.

By 1920, the plaster structure was somewhat the worse for wear, and demolition plans were ...

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