THis is a good post on the history of nashville by Michael Thornton
Nashville, TN - The Athens of the South
Nashville, Tennessee has had many nicknames. Because of all the rocks strewn over the landscape, it was known as "Rock City". Today, it is known as "Music City USA" because of its ties to Country Music and the Grand Ol Opry. But before Nashville was dubbed by its current nickname; it was known as and is still referred to by many as: the "Athens of the South".
Nashville earned the nickname, "The Athens of the South" by the mid 18th century. Nashville established numerous higher education institutions which were unusual for the South. Furthermore, Nashville was one of the first Southern cities to establish a public school system. Under the influence of several prominent citizens, the concept offering a Classical Greek education was embraced by many.
The curriculum included courses in philosophy, Latin, logic, and rhetoric. Nashville’s progressive pursuit of establishing itself as a center for higher education, earned it the tile of the "Athens of the South". Prior to the Civil War, Nashville was known to be one of the most elegant, refined and educated Southern cities, filled with wealth, charm, theaters, and all the culture of the antebellum era.
Wanting to live up to the "Athens of the South" nickname, the State decided that a centennial exposition be staged. This exposition was to coincide with its 100th anniversary of Statehood. The site for the exposition was held at the old West Side Park a former race track located on the outskirts of Nashville.
Because the Parthenon was to the pinnacle of exposition, it was the first and the most important building to be erected. The exact replica of the Parthenon of ancient Greece was started in 1895 to allow ample time to finish the construction. The "politically delayed" expo was held in 1897.
When the original wood, plaster and brick structure was to be torn down a few years after the expo, the community outcry was intense. Demolition was stopped and the building sat in a state of disrepair. In the early 1020’s, the City decided to rebuild the Parthenon on the site of the original structure. The project took 11 years to complete. The 7 ton bronze doors that adorn the east and west entrances are the largest of their kind in the world today.
Today, the Parthenon stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park. Nashville's Parthenon is the only full size replica of its kind in existence. The piedmont reliefs on the east and west sides were cast from the original ruins that are now housed in the British Museum of Art.
In the early 1990's, a massive renovation project was started. Local Nashville artist, Allen LeQuire, was hired to sculpt the almost 42 foot tall gold leaf statue of Athena that adorns the central hall. She is the height of the original Athena and is the largest indoor statue in the western hemisphere.
Today, Athena stands high on a hill and looks over Nashville much like she did several thousand years ago when she resided in ancient Greece. Just like she did in days of old, Athena faces east guarding and protecting the city that bears her name and likeness; Nashville, TN ~ "The Athens of the South"
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