You see the huge columns first, part of an overall classical design that harkens back millennia. It’s the Parthenon, and it’s the most impressive structure we’ve seen this trip. Now before you question how the Junior Fellows made it across the globe in a matter of hours, it should be known that Nashville, TN hosts an exact replica of The Parthenon found in Athens, Greece.
It was created for the 1897 Centennial Expo in Nashville, rests in the center of a large public park, and boasts an impressive museum within. Ancient Greek artifacts, historic paintings, and enormous statues line the halls; standing among huge statues within a huge building definitely made us feel very, very small. Two sets of fourteen ton bronze doors guard the entrance to a 41 foot tall statue of Athena.
The room is lined with exact replicas of various sculptures from Athens, created from molds of the originals. We definitely felt that we were in Greece, soaking in the local culture. But sooner or later we had to return to the outside world of good ol’ Tennessee.
Speaking of which, we got to see the Grand Ole Opry!
More in line with the theme of our trip, we visited and toured yet another Presidential home, this time our Nation’s 11th President, James Knox Polk. Polk has frequently been ranked as one of our greatest Presidents; his greatest contribution was the expansion of the United States to the Pacific Ocean. The Polk home is located in the quaint town of Columbia, Tennessee and is the only Polk residence that has been preserved (obviously excluding the White House).
Polk and his family grew up in this federal styled home. Built by Polk’s Father, James not only grew up in the home, but would return back for one-week with his wife a few days after being elected President of the United States. Brick paths unfold in serpentine fashion through a garden (not original to the home) that connect the 4 or 5 structures that make up the Polk Museum grounds.
One of the more interesting parts of the museum was the exhibit covering Polk’s life. Of particular interest to me an exhibit explaining President Polk’s inauguration day. Just coming from the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama, this part of the exhibit explained the many ceremonial firsts that were implemented for his inauguration, and were thus used in subsequent inaugurations to the present. For instance, President Polk’s Inauguration was the first to play the song “Oh hail the chief,” and the first to utilize the telegraph to report the day’s activities in real time. We were also able to see various artifacts of Sarah Polk, who took a very active role in Polk’s political life.
From here we made our way to Memphis for a quick bite to eat on Bealle Street…
…and a stop by a couple of historic landmarks. We first made our way a few blocks over to the infamous Lorraine Motel. If you are a student of history, you know that the Lorraine Motel was the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th of the year 1968.
The original motel has since been preserved, complete with the exact cars, colors, and feel of the time period when the assassination took place. Atop the second floor balcony where Dr. King was fatally wounded hung a large wreath, paired with a stone marker below signifying the importance of the spot: a respectable memorial for a very respectable man.
Following this we made sure to swing by Graceland, the massive estate of The King of rock and roll Elvis Presley. Although after touring hours, we were able to grab a few pictures of the large home and private jet collection.
It’s not often you enjoy a trip that takes you from the Parthenon to James Polk to Elvis Presley, but the Junior Fellows are covering all the bases!