BicenTENNial: A park in Nashville celebrates the state
One of the state’s most popular tourist attractions is barely a teenager.
The Bicentennial Mall was dedicated for the 200th birthday of the Tennessee, June 1, 1996.
At first glance the park seems like it should have always been there. A green space heads northeast from the Capital and it seems to be the gold standard for the landscape architect’s ideal of an open space. But where the Tennessee rivers fountains now stand- a fountain representing the state’s rivers- was once a Days Inn with railroad tracks directly behind. The railroad is still there, but now above the rest of the park, providing shade.
Bicentennial Mall’s perhaps greatest asset is that it provides several attractions in one.
Most obvious it is a green space. A wide, expansive strip of land broken by paths shaded by trees is a natural destination for tour busses and for residents. Picnics, Frisbee or just a chill-out space, this spot is best for what is not there rather than what is there.
It is a museum. The west side of the mall shows the history of the Volunteer state from prehistoric times to 1996 and how world events shaped Tennessee. There is the prehistory of some fourteen thousand years ago when nomadic tribes first began moving into the area, there was 1796 when Tennessee became a state. Walk a bit more and reach 1861, when the state succeeded. 1920 when the general assembly passed the nineteenth amendment giving women the right to vote and into the 1990’s when Albert Gore became Vice President under Bill Clinton.
It is a memorial. Several prominent Tennesseans are commemorated here, but not the traditional statues like what is seen at the Capital. The bell tower area lists something like a Tennesee Hall of Fame showing off those who stood out in the state’s history and a special area is dedicated to the World War II era when someone in little more than a blink of an eye could go from farming in Giles County to flying the skies of Europe.
IT is architecture. Ninety five bells (for each county) make semi-circle playing tunes of Tennessee every fifteen minutes over a mosaic floor of the three stars of the state flag.
It is geography. A two hunderd foot mosaic map lays out the cities, counties and and features of the state at the entry of the park near the Capitol. And what first looks like a wooded area on the east side of the mall is much more.
The area closest to the capitol is the slightly rolling topography of the West. The Middle part of the state becomes more hilly and further down the steeper hills represent the mountains. Native plants and trees show of the flora as much as possible though at some higher elevation the trees are more suited to New Hampshire than to Nashville.
It is a hub for events with an amphitheater lowered into the park for special events.
A visit on a recent Sunday afternoon demonstrated how the people of Tennessee use their park.
Kristy Jones-Wagner and David Shipman, along with other 21st century knights used the greenspace for fencing practice.
Christina Rodriguez-Fierro and her mother, Ingrid, were visiting from New Orleans and examining the globe at the World War II memorial, remembering the places they had visited.
Sorelle Schafer, who will become Sorelle Schafer-Skelton in September, was there with photographer Tyler McGee shooting her wedding photos. It is a popular spot with many professional photographers with its architecture and landscaping.
Mayde Enriquez of Nashville was attracted to the “very powerful circle” by the bell tower. Striking a tuning fork on a crystal, she said she was taking advantage of the spot’s natural energy. And, perhaps unconsciously, so was everyone
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