Living in a relatively youthful country that’s a mere 241 years old, it’s understandable that some Americans might decide to import a little extra history from abroad. There is a faux-Venice in Las Vegas, and a Stonehenge II in Texas which, like all sequels, is not as good as the first one.
But Nashville, Tennessee’s full-scale replica of the Parthenon, while seemingly random, isn’t gimmicky. Instead, the structure, created in 1897, provides an awe-inspiring look at the iconic Athens structure badly damaged hundreds of years ago. Created with an incredible attention to historical accuracy—and boasting a 42-foot-tall gold-coated sculpture of Athena—Nashville’s Parthenon is simply awesome.
This American Parthenon was originally intended to be temporary. Built at the tail-end of the 19th century for the Centennial Exposition in Tennessee, the recreated Parthenon served as the festival’s art gallery and spoke to the city’s self-declared reputation as the “Athens of the South.” (Not to be outdone, Memphis built a Pyramid as a reminder that the city was named after Memphis, Egypt.)
The building restored the aspects of the original Parthenon that were lost or damaged: metopes running along the outside of the building and the sculptures on the pediment, which depict various scenes from Greek mythology.
Over the course of six months, the Exposition drew almost 2 million people—20 times the population of Nashville at the time. By the time the fair ended, the unique building had grown on the local population. “Who will be the man that will strike the first blow at the Parthenon?” asked Nashville orator Tully Brown at the time. The answer, it turns out, was no one—and the building has stood ever since.