Centennial Park (Nashville)

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Centennial Park
The Parthenon is the centerpiece of the park.
Type Public park
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Coordinates 36°08′56″N 86°48′43″W / 36.149°N 86.812°W / 36.149; -86.812
Area 132-acre (0.53 km2)
Created 1903
Operated by Metropolitan Nashville Department of Parks and Recreation
Confederate veteran William Crawford Smith, who designed the Parthenon in Centennial Park.

Centennial Park is a large urban park located approximately two miles (three km) west of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, across West End Avenue ( U.S. Highway 70S) from the campus of Vanderbilt University and adjacent to the current (2016) headquarters campus of the Hospital Corporation of America. It was dedicated as a public park in 1903; however, blacks were banned from the park under Jim Crow-era regulations until the 1960s. It includes the Confederate Private Monument.

This area of Nashville is known as the West End. Its vicinity includes two large-scale apartment developments—Elliston23 and ParkCentral. [1] [2]


The 132-acre (0.53 km2) park was originally farmland that had belonged to Anne Robertson Johnson Cockrill (1757–1821), the sister of General James Robertson. [3] She and her family came from Wake County, North Carolina to Fort Nashborough (now Nashville) in the Donelson Flotilla, led by Andrew Jackson's wife Rachel's father, John Donelson. [3] She was the first woman to be given a land grant in Tennessee. [4]

The land was turned into the state fairgrounds after the Civil War. From 1884 to 1895, the site served as a racetrack and was known as West Side Park. In 1897, it was the site of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition and was renamed Centennial Park. [5] After the exposition ended, most of the building and exhibits were dismantled, leaving in its place a landscaped open area with a small artificial lake (named "Lake Watauga" after the region, then in western North Carolina, where many of Nashville's early settlers moved from), sunken gardens, and a bandshell. The Parthenon, honoring Nashville's status as "The Athens of the South", was designed by William Crawford Smith, [6]and became the most prominent feature of the park. [5] The park was officially dedicated in May 1903. [5]

The Confederate Private Monument, designed by George Julian Zolnay, was dedicated in 1909. [7]

This area became an important recreation site for white Nashvillians; " Jim Crow" laws forbade its use by African Americans until the 1960s, which resulted in disagreements. For example, on July 18, 1961, six African-Americans were turned away when they tried to use the swimming-pool in the park. [8] [9] Eventually, the pool was closed down and reopened as an arts center.

Steam engine
F-86L Sabre Jet

The Parthenon replica, built largely out of plaster as a temporary exhibit building (the Nashville pavilion of the Centennial Exposition) began to fall into disrepair and was proposed for demolition on several occasions, but public sentiment in favor of this symbol of Nashville as the "Athens of the South" precluded this. Finally, in the 1920s it was agreed to replace the temporary plaster building with a permanent, concrete and steel replacement which remains today and has been refurbished on several occasions.[ citation needed]

From 1954 to 1967, the Parthenon was the backdrop for an enormous nativity scene sponsored by the now-defunct Harveys department store. The scene was approximately 280 feet (85 m) long, 75 feet (23 m) deep and was flooded with colorful lights. However, by 1968, it was sold to a Cincinnati shopping center. According to the Nashville Banner, the nativity scene was shown only two Christmas seasons in Cincinnati before it collapsed and was discarded.[ citation needed]

The park was the site of Sunday concerts in the 1960s; Pat Boone was one of the early performers. [10] By 1975, the climactic scene in Robert Altman's Nashville was shot in the park.

In 1990, a statue of Pallas Athena designed by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire was added to the art gallery inside the parthenon. [11]

Lake Watauga is a small artificial lake in Centennial Park.

There were many mature shade trees in the park until the 1998 Nashville tornado outbreak; most of them were damaged or destroyed in the storm. The park was also the site of the storm's sole fatality, a Vanderbilt ROTC cadet. [12] Since then, the park and other areas of outdoor gathering in the Nashville area have been equipped with storm-warning sirens.[ citation needed]

On November 11, 2005, Centennial Park became Nashville's first wireless internet park by offering free Wi-Fi internet access to park patrons. [13] The park's bandshell is also the site of the annual "Shakespeare in the Park" presented by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival from late August to early September.[ citation needed]

In 2012, workers found the source of the spring that was a major feature during Anne Robertson Johnson Cockrill's ownership and excavated it. It is a significant feature to the land that had been capped and piped to the sewer for 100 years, piping more than 100 gallons of water per minute. [14] [15]

On August 26, 2016, as part of Women's Equality Day, a monument by Alan LeQuire was unveiled in the park, featuring depictions of Carrie Chapman Catt, Anne Dallas Dudley, Abby Crawford Milton, Juno Frankie Pierce, and Sue Shelton White. [16] [17]

The park also contains a recreation center and is the home of the administrative offices of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation; however, these are currently in the process of moving to the East Bank of the Cumberland River adjacent to Nissan Stadium in the offices of the former Nashville Bridge Company.[ citation needed]


Centennial ... Park ... Nashville ...



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