Classical Nashville: Athens of the South provides readers who are classically defunct in the areas of classical architecture, and also those knowledgeable on the subject of classical architecture, a vigorous and enlightening journey into the origins of classical architecture in Nashville. Classical Nashville does not merely offer an insight into the architectural makeup of the city. Far from it, Classical Nashville stems back to the earliest beginnings of Nashville, before it was a wild frontier town, to the year of John Donelson’s discovery of the future site of Nashville in 1780, in order to establish a firm base for which to rest on while looking to assert Nashville’s right to the title, “Athens of the South”. The land was new, undeveloped, and therefore could be molded into a conceptualized city, which is exactly what the early founder’s intended to do. Much like the strong base with which a classical architectural building tends to establish itself as part of its design, Classical Nashville attaches the historical base origins of classical architecture in the city of Nashville to the idea that the city would be committed to the principles of the Athenian education in its design. The prospect of a city committed to the standards and principles of a classical, Athenian style education was at the heart of the founders intentions for the city of Nashville. The concept is fascinating and quite observable when one drives through Nashville, and within a large radius of Nashville one can observe classical influences. The Tennessee State Capital being one of the most recognizable of these classically influenced structures. Classical architecture is easily observed for those looking for it, and Classical Nashville gives meaning to the observable.
The authors of Classical Nashville intended for the book to be both informative and revealing. I say revealing due to the fact that before reading Classical Nashville, not many individuals would likely know that Nashville was, in its earliest concept, a conceptualized city geared towards the foundations of a solid education. Therefore, to the general public, Classical Nashville is an incredibly enlightening book. The authors, through their revelations, intended to prove that Nashville was indeed deserving of its title, “Athens of the South”. This was to be accomplished by revealing that Nashville was not only committed to the study of classical literature and the Latin language, but also that Nashville garnered a respect for the Athenian principles of education. The authors state, “The most important reason for the identification of Nashville with classical Athens, however, lies squarely in the city’s early commitment to education.” It is therefore the authors’ intention to prove that Nashville is well deserving of the title “Athens of the South”.
The purpose of the book was answered most intensively. Is Nashville the Athens of the South? According to Classical Nashville, the answer is yes. Classical Nashville had a tendency to shift from history to architecture quite nicely and in an effective way. Chapter 1, for instance, spends a majority of the time proving through historical analysis and fact, and reiterating from the introduction, that Nashville was indeed conceptualized on the base of education. When one proceeds to chapter 2, one will notice that the writing style shifts. The authors no longer write in a historical, almost narrative manner, but instead they write in a style that is almost typical of a tour guide pamphlet, but with far greater detail intellectually, and observably due to the many pictures and illustrations that are meant to guide one through the reading. Indeed, Classical Nashville does take one on a tour through Nashville. The base has already been established, the concept that the founders had for the city had been revealed, and now it was time to take a tour of Nashville. That is the feeling and sense of order that one gets when...
Bibliography: Kreyling, Christine, Wesley Paine, Charles W. Warterfield, Jr., & Susan Ford Wiltshire. Classical Nashville: Athens of the South. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1996.
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