Centennial Park (Nashville)
The Parthenon is the centerpiece of the park.
|Area||132-acre (0.53 km2)|
|Operated by||Metropolitan Nashville Department of Parks and Recreation|
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 in 1903, and blacks were banned from the park until the 1960s.
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. 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. She was the first woman to be given a land grant in Tennessee.
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. 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, designed by William Crawford Smith, became the most prominent feature of the park. The park was officially dedicated in May 1903.
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. Eventually, the pool was closed down and reopened as an arts center.
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.
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.
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. Since then, the park and other areas of outdoor gathering in the Nashville area have been equipped with storm-warning sirens.
On November 11, 2005, Centennial Park became Nashville's first wireless internet park by offering free Wi-Fi internet access to park patrons. 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.
In 2015, workers relocated 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.
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.
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.
- "Southern Land breaks ground on Elliston 23," Nashville Post, Aug. 30, 2011
- "ParkCentral Under Construction in Nashville’s West End," Multi-Housing News, Sept. 7, 2012
- Bucy, Carole Stanford. "Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Tennessee Historical Society and the University of Tennessee Press. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
- Stanford Bucy, Carole (December 25, 2009). "Ann Robertson Johnston Cockrill". The City Cemetery. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- Coleman, Christopher K. (Fall 1990). "From Monument to Museum: The Role of the Parthenon in the Culture of the New South". Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 49 (3): 140. JSTOR 42626877. (Registration required (. ))
In May of 1903, Centennial Park was officially opened to the public.
- "Counting Up The Cost. Executive Committee Considers Plans For Buildings. Several Architects Explain Their Pictures and Discuss Possible Changes, Cost of the Buildings and Other Matters of Interest -- Hearing to be Resumed To-Day". The Nashville American. Nashville, Tennessee. November 19, 1895. p. 5. Retrieved November 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Negroes Seek Admittance To Swimming Pools". The Kingsport Times. Kingsport, Tennessee. July 19, 1961. p. 6. Retrieved April 22, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. (Registration required (. ))
Jack Spore, city recreation director, said attendants at Centennial Park Pool refused to sell the Negroes tickets and the group left quietly.
- "Public Pressure Expected To Open Swimming Pools". The Kingsport Times. Kingsport, Tennessee. July 21, 1961. p. 10. Retrieved April 22, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. (Registration required (. ))
On Tuesday, six negroes were denied admission to a Centennial Park pool reserved for white persons.
- Evans, Jim (July 16, 1964). "'Music City' Tour Set Up". The Kingsport Times. Kingsport, Tennessee. p. 11. Retrieved April 22, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. (Registration required (. ))
The folks are shown where Pat Boone attended school and told how Pat got his start with the Sunday concerts in Centennial Park.
- Bliss, Jessica (August 24, 2016). "Alan LeQuire's Women Suffrage Monument unveiled in Nashville's Centennial Park". The Tennessean. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
LeQuire has created numerous public commissions in his 35 year career. At age 26, he began Athena Parthenos, the looming sculpture inside the Parthenon at Centennial Park. It took eight years to complete and was unveiled in 1990.
- Ian Demsky. "Tornado sirens go unheard in many areas". The Tennessean, June 9, 2004.
- "Centennial adds wireless service". The City Paper. November 10, 2005. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- Ferrier, Dennis. "Underground spring to help transform Centennial Park". Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- 5:33 PM, Aug 26, 2016. "Women's Suffrage Monument Unveiled - Story". Newschannel5.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
- "Nashville's Newest Monument Celebrates State's Role In Women's Winning The Right To Vote". Nashville Public Radio. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
- Johnson, Leland R. (1986). The Parks of Nashville: A History of the Board of Parks and Recreation. Nashville: Metropolitan Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation.