Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park: Nashville, Tennessee


Created to commemorate Tennessee's 200th anniversary, the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park was planned, designed, and built as a concise reflection of the state's geography, history, people, and musical legacy. Tuck-Hinton Architects in Nashville designed the park, modeling the former landfill site after the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They incorporated classic Greek principles as well as Baroque and Beaux-Arts influences into the park, creating a unique civic space that is able to grow, change, and evolve over time.

Designated Area

600 James Robertson Parkway. The park is bordered by Jefferson Street to the north, Sixth Avenue to east, Seventh Avenue to the west, and Robertson Parkway to the south.

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park was inspired by the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Planning Excellence

Dramatically framing the Tennessee Capitol, the mall has four paths that reveal thousands of features and details about the state and its people. The two outside paths include a 1,400-foot-long engraved granite wall that defines the Pathway of History along Seventh Avenue, and 95 engraved granite discs that make up the Walkway of Counties along Sixth Avenue. On the inside is the Path of Volunteers, two 1,400-foot-long diagonal sidewalks made from 17,000 brick pavers with engraved names of ancestors, citizens, and descendants.

Other features include the Tennessee Plaza, a 200-foot map representing every county, city, town, railroad, highway, and river in the state; a World War II memorial with huge black granite pillars that surround an 18,000-ton black granite globe that floats and rotates on a shallow bed of water; and a 95-bell carillon with some of the largest bells in the world, located on 50 large Greek-style columns that symbolize Tennessee's musical heritage and 95 counties.

Home to numerous local, state, and national events throughout the year, daily visitors use the expansive lawn for frisbee, picnicking, kite flying, or just enjoying themselves. There is always something to see, do, or learn about at Tennessee's Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

Once a landfill, this linear park is landscaped with monuments and art that reflect Tennessee's history, together with pathways and trees that change with the seasons. The park provides an unobstructed view to the state capitol. Photo courtesy of Tennessee State Parks.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Master Planning, Joint Funding

  • Ideas for a park north of the State Capitol suggested by landscape architect Joe Hodgson in 1985 and John Bridges of Aladdin Industries in 1988; idea of a linear park proposed to former Gov. Ned McWherter and his staff in 1989
  • City of Nashville adopts a downtown "City Center" plan November 7, 1991, which includes a sketch of an open lawn in front of the State Capitol designed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Tennessee statehood (June 1, 1996)
  • Tuck Hinton Architects hired in August 1992 to lead master planning team, which includes staff from SSOE Engineers and Ross/Fowler Landscape Architects; State Building Commission approves park master plan in July 1993
  • $23 million in federal Transportation Enhancement funds used for park; local match is $5.8 million, including brick paver sales for Path of Volunteers; Tennessee 200, Inc. (1993) helps secure funds for mall, bicentennial events

Unique Design

  • Mall's long, green lawn provides unobstructed view of the State Capitol; meadow narrows from the southern end to the Court of Three Stars at northern terminus
  • Court of 3 Stars (northern end near Jefferson Street) represents the state's East, Middle, and West Grand Divisions. The 95-bell carillon also located at this end of park; plays "The Tennessee Waltz" every hour
  • Tennessee Plaza features a 200-foot-wide map of the state, one of the largest accurate renditions of a geographic area ever produced; includes every county, city, town, railroad, highway, and river in Tennessee
  • Southern edge of the large map has eight smaller maps, each featuring an informative lesson about the state's geology, early inhabitants, territory, transportation, land cover, recreation, music heritage, and topography
  • Rivers of Tennessee fountain inscribed with information about the state's 31 major waterways; trough at base of fountain wall represents Mississippi River
  • An outdoor amphitheater made with perrons, or stepped lawns, located in the middle of the park north of Harrison Street

Cultural Activities, Events

  • Time capsules from state's 95 countries simultaneously lowered into the ground April 27, 1996; park opens May 31 in time for Statehood Day's 1996 celebration
  • Popular Nashville Farmers Market, dating back to 1828, located adjacent to park; includes international food court and ethnic vendors
  • Numerous festivals and special events held at the park throughout the year including candlelight vigils, charity walks, country music marathons, annual Tennessee History Festival, 2011-2013 National Folk Festivals

The Rivers of Tennessee fountain, one of the many informative and unique attractions in the park, gives visitors a chance to escape from the hot Tennessee sun.