Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition

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Bird's-eye view of the expo grounds. Chromolithograph by The Henderson Litho Co., 1896.
The Nashville and Memphis pavilions at night, seen over Watauga Lake, with the Commerce Building at rear.

The Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition was an exposition staged between May 1 and October 31 of 1897 in Nashville. It celebrated the 100th anniversary of Tennessee's entry into the union in 1796, although it was a year late.

Many cities and organizations built buildings and exhibit halls on the Exposition grounds, conveniently located on the streetcar line on the western fringe of the city. Among the most prominent were those of Nashville itself, and its nearby rival, Memphis. Nashville designed its pavilion after the Parthenon in Greece due to the city's nickname as The Athens of the South. Memphis's exhibit, in honor of its Egyptian name, was a large pyramid. The Parthenon is the only structure to survive the Exposition and remains a tourist attraction to this day. Major Eugene Castner Lewis was the director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition and it was at his suggestion that a reproduction of the Parthenon be built in Nashville to serve as the centerpiece of Tennessee’s Centennial Celebration. Mr. Lewis also served as the chief civil engineer for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad. Nashville's temporary Parthenon was reconstructed in permanent materials in a project lasting from 1920 to 1931 and still stands today as an art gallery on the original exposition grounds, which became Centennial Park. In the 1990s, Memphis built a new sports arena, the Pyramid Arena, in the shape of a large pyramid, by the Mississippi River.

Other attractions on the grounds were the Negro Pavilion, the gondolas on Lake Watauga (which is still a feature of the park today) and the Egyptian Pavilion with its belly dancers. The Centennial Exposition was a great success and is still considered one of the most notable events ever to be held in the state. Unlike most World's Fairs, it did not lose money, although the final accounting showed a direct profit of less than $50.

See also[edit]

The 1982 World's Fair held in Knoxville.

External links[edit]