There’s more to Nashville than music. Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is a history lovers dream come true! There is so much to see and it’s a wonderfully relaxing park to just hang out in. Pack a picnic and go to the park for the day!
As Nashville hit a growth spurt in the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s, the Tennessee State Capitol building disappeared from sight on the east, west and south sides. The only reason the north side escaped the building boom was because the land between the Capitol and the Cumberland River was pretty swampy. What was bad news for skyscrapers was great news for a park!
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, locally known as Bicentennial Mall, is a 19-acre park where visitors can experience many facets of Tennessee’s history including a 200-foot granite map of the state, a World War II Memorial, a 95-Bell Carillon, a Pathway of History and the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains. The park was built to celebrate 200 years of statehood as Tennessee became a state on June 1, 1796 and was the 16th state to join the Union.
World War II Memorial ~ In the center of the memorial is an 18,000 lb. granite globe floating on 1/8 inch of water. The countries on the globe are as they were during the war. On each side of the globe are sand blasted engravings of actual photographs on the large granite markers. Each maker gives a brief history of historic events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, as well as scenes from Tennessee. The stars on the ground represent each of the Tennessean who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war. There is also a bench honoring each of the seven Tennessee recipients of the Medal of Honor.
95-Bell Carillon ~ At the far northern end of the park is the Court of 3 Stars, a circular plaza made of red, white, and blue granite representing the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee. The colors are faded by the sun but the sentiment is not.
There are 95 bells housed in 50 Greek-style columns or carillons surrounding the center courtyard, with 25 towers on each side of the courtyard. The bells represent the 95 different counties that make up the state of Tennessee. The carillons play Tennessee-themed songs like “The Tennessee Waltz”, “Love Me Tender”, and “Crazy” at the top of the hour, every hour for all to enjoy. Or if you’re lucky, played upon request.
We are very lucky people and continually stumble across some of the most amazing people in our travels. Like something out of The Wizard of Oz, we had the pleasure of looking behind the wizard’s curtain. The wizard we discovered is Chuck of White’s Clock and Carillon and he welcomed us into the control tower for a tour. Chuck just happened to be here doing bell maintenance on the carillon system.
The carillon’s “booth” is located at the front corner of the court and contains both a traditional carillon console with batons and pedal board as well as an additional keyboard. The signals from the consoles are transmitted to the antennae located at the top of each tower. You can even see Chuck the Wizard’s legs in the booth as he works his magic on the bells.
Hear the carol of the bells! Thanks Chuck for stopping your work and giving us a fascinating tour. We loved the “special” serenade too!
The Pathway of History ~ A 1,400-foot long path with granite pylons engraved with significant historical events from 1796 to 1996. Each 10-year time period is marked with one of these granite pylons. There is a “break” in the wall to represent the Civil War and how divided the state was during this period in time.
Walkway of Counties ~ 95 time capsules from each county of Tennessee were buried in 1996 and will be opened in 2096 at the Tercentennial. Underneath the marker for each of the state’s counties lies a time capsule particular to that county. Shall we plan to meet here again for their opening?
Rivers of Tennessee Fountains ~ The 31 fountains represent the 31 major rivers and waterways of the state of Tennessee. On the curved granite wall behind the fountains are inscriptions about each of the 31 waterways. It’s also a great place for kids to cool off in the heat of summer while learning about history!
McNairy Springs ~ Just south of the WWII Memorial is a fountain that represents the founding of Tennessee and the 16th State to enter the Union. The monument sits on top of the original spring that was fed by the Old French Lick Creek.
Tennessee State Capitol Building ~ From the park you have the last remaining view of the beautiful state capitol building and what a view it is! It’s quite a hike up many sets of stairs but so worth it! The Tennessee State Capitol was completed in 1859 and is one of the oldest working capitals in the nation. It is the work of William Strickland who, by the way, is entombed within its walls.
The 96th bell, located on the grounds of the State Capitol Building, rings once in answer to the 95 bells in the Bicentennial Mall at the top of each hour, to symbolize government answering to the people. This bell is at the opposite end of the 95-bell carillon and is referred to as the People’s Answer Bell. At 6pm, the carillon bells sounded 6 times and then the Answer Bell located on the capital building grounds sounded once in return (see video below).
This and so much more awaits you at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. So grab that picnic basket and enjoy the beauty, music of the bells and a whole lot of history all in one park!