Where in the world can you go to get an idea of what the Parthenon, the iconic temple at the centre of the Acropolis in Athens looked like in its heyday? Nashville, Tennessee of course!
The building was originally constructed for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition along with thirty-five other buildings including the Tennessee Pyramid.
The city authorities of Nashville decided to design its pavilion after the Parthenon in Greece due to its nickname, The Athens of the South.
Although the rest of the buildings were torn down after the exposition closed, the Parthenon was so popular with visitors that it remained on site and was subsequently moved to the town of Frankin.
The building was designed by architects William B. Dinsmoor and Russell E. Hart while sculptors Leopold and Belle Kinney Scholz created the pediment sculptures on the exterior of the building.
The sculptural grouping depict an important story involving Athena. The East Pediment portrays goddesses and gods on Mt. Olympus at the moment of Athena’s birth. She stands armed, facing her father Zeus, at the moment after emerging, fully grown and armed from his head, as Nike [Victory]prepares to crown her.
The West Pediment shows the contest between Athena and Poseidon for control of the land of Attica.
Originally the building was an empty shell but in 1982, Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire was commissioned to create a full-scale copy of Athena Parthenos, the Parthenon’s cult statue. His work was modeled on descriptions of the original and was unveiled to the public on May 20, 1990.
The modern version of the statue is significant because of its scale and the attempt to recreating Phidias’ original work. The statue adds an additional dimension of realism to the replicated Parthenon, whose interior east room was merely a large empty hall prior to the statue’s unveiling.
In 2002, Parthenon volunteers gilded Athena under the supervision of master gilder Lou Reed [not the musician and singer]. The gilding project took less than four months. The Nashville’s Athena stands 12.8 m tall, making her the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World.
The replica temple is still a major tourist attraction and continues to draw in visitors from all over the world.