Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

A visit to Nashville, Tennessee

I spent most of Saturday in Nashville last weekend, the first time I had ever been there. I was there in order to speak on Brexit to a professional conference, but applying the Woodrow Wilson principle meant that I had some time to look around town, though not to take in any of its musical heritage. My old friend H had briefed me about one of the most extraordinary things I have seen in America: a full-scale replica of the Parthenon as it would have been in its prime (or as that was imagined in the 1890s).

It doesn't quite have the same dramatic setting as the original, but it's a striking effort. The Nashvillians of 1897 went to the trouble of getting plaster casts of the Elgin Marbles and filling in the bits that they thought were missing as best they could. It's a really striking piece of work.

But then you get inside. And, good lord, the statue of Pallas Athena, reputedly the largest indoor statue in the Western world, which dates not from 1897 but from 1990, well,

It's difficult for a mere photograph to convey quite how disturbing arresting Alan LeQuire has made it.

The detail on, for instance, the goddess's shield is incredible.
That's pretty mind-blowing. The rest of Nashville's monuments are more normal stuff. There is a nice women's suffrage monument (Tennessee's ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 was crucial to getting women the right to vote), again by Alan LeQuire, though the position of the sun made it difficult to get good shots:

Over at the Tennessee State Capitol, I was surprised to discover a dead president. Tennessee was the home state of three nineteenth-century presidents, though in fact all three were probably born in North Carolina. The most obscure of the three (despite the Mexican-American War) is the one buried in the Capitol grounds, James Knox Polk; he had also been governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841 before becoming president from 1845 to 1849. He died only three months after leaving office; his wife lived on another 42 years in their family home where he was buried in the garden. After she died, their house was demolished and they were both moved here. Apparently there are plans afoot to move them on again to the Polks' country place, in Columbia TN, 75 km south of Nashville.

The two other local-ish presidents are both commemorated with statues on the eastern side of the capitol grounds. Again, the angle of the March sun gave me some difficulty in capturing them, but here's Andrew Johnson (president from Linconln's assassination in 1865 until 1869), by Jim Gray, hidden in the trees on the southeastern corner:

And there's not much doubt about who Tennesseeans' favourite local president is; Andrew Jackson has a splendid equestrian statue outside the capitol, between the one of Johnson and Polk's tomb. It's a replica of the one by Clark Mills in Lafayette Park in DC (though the plaque at the base suggests inaccurately that it's the other way round), so I wasn't too worried about catching the detail. The capitol itself is rather nice.

So that's Nashville. I don't know if I will ever be there again, but at least I can say I've been.

The trip ended on what I thought was a flattering note: when I requested a glass of wine in the airport bar, I was asked to prove my age! Readers, I turn 52 next month. Alas, my friend Natalie (who actually lives in Tennessee, though at the other end) informs me that all customers are carded by law, so the question was not as complimentary as I thought.
Tags: world: usa: tennessee

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