From the late 1880s to the 1930s world fairs or expositions were a very popular way to showcase the latest inventions and technological advances and also provide entertainment and education about foreign cultures. The first one in the US was held in Philadelphia to celebrate the country’s centennial. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 was a smaller, local exposition but it still had exhibits from 19 states and 16 foreign countries. The exposition covered 132 acres with buildings copying the classical Greek architectural style of the Chicago Fair of 1893.
After 6 months the exposition ended and all of the buildings, which were built of built of plaster, wood, and brick and not meant to last, were demolished except for the beloved Fine Arts Building, a full sized replica (in it’s original undamaged state) of the Parthenon in Athens. Twenty years later it was in such bad condition that it had to be completely rebuilt using poured concrete. It now houses a couple of art galleries, an exhibit about the exposition, and a giant gold leaf covered statue of Athena that was completed in 1990. The fairgrounds became a public park with a small lake and 1.5 miles of paved walking trails.
The Parthenon is accessible but the narrowed ramped hallways where the exposition exhibit is located gets crowded making it hard to view the displays. The walking trails are fairly level and accessible.