A lush green lawn leads to towering staunch columns. Without surrounding buildings for scale, it can be hard to understand the monumental proportions, until you enter the Naos, the east room, and stand under a glowing 42-foot statue of Athena, with towering 7-ton bronze doors at your back.
This full-size Athenian Parthenon is a dream for history buffs, but you won’t find it on your trip to Greece. No, it’s not in any of the countries that once belonged to the Greek Empire. This magnificent structure in actually in the land of honky-tonk and cowboy boots: Nashville, Tennessee.
Built as a temporary structure for the Centennial Expedition in 1897, Nashville’s Parthenon was intended to embody the city’s nickname of the "Athens of the South." The other buildings in Centennial Park were taken down after the expedition, but in 1921, the city decided to keep the Parthenon a permanent monument.
Over the last century, the city has continued to invest in the permanence and historical accuracy of the structure, commissioning a local artist to build the statue of Athena just like the original statue in Greece, covering it with more than eight pounds of gold leaf. Athena holds Nike, the goddess of victory, whose 6-foot structure helps to provide scale to Athena.
The Parthenon now acts as an art and history museum with rotating exhibits in its basement. Plaster replicas of the original Parthenon marbles that embellish its pediment can be found in the top floor Treasury Room. With the unfortunate and significant deterioration of Greece’s Parthenon, the second-best spot on any Greek history-buff's to-do list must be Nashville, Tennessee.