The 132-acre Centennial Park has been called "Nashville’s premier park." It is also the city's oldest and most visited park. The area, which began as a farm and became, briefly, a racetrack, was designated as the site for Nashville's historic centennial (1897), and then redesigned as a full-scale park in 1903. Major enhancements have since been added, such as, in addition to the famous Parthenon (which see), a walking trail, the Centennial Art Center, a sunken garden, a band shell, sand volleyball courts and two dog parks. Many special events, such as the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, take place there. The park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Backstory and Context
The Centennial Park Master Plan was approved in 2011, which will result in the major development of two areas within the park: 1) the Cockrill Spring Zone, a revival of the historic Cockrill Spring that existed when the site was still farmland, and 2) the Parthenon Zone, consisting of the area between the Parthenon and Lake Watagua. Among many other additions, an entry plaza and a formal events lawn will be added to the Parthenon Zone when construction is completed.
Many cultural events are associated with the park.The climactic scene of one of director Robert Altman’s most celebrated films, Nashville (1975), was filmed there. The first Shakespeare in the Park production took place in 1988 and, by the following year, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival was fully established. Soon after, the festival developed an educational outreach program for the public schools, and later adult programs and other services were added. In the summer of 2015, the festival will be presenting Shakespeare’s famous history play Henry V, but with a little Nashville history thrown in, as the actors will represent American Civil War soldiers putting on a 19th Century production of Shakespeare's play.
"History and Mission." The Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Accessed April 9, 2015. https://www.nashvilleshakes.org/history-and-mission.