Goodness sakes! I remember as a twelve year old child being dazzled by the stark bright whiteness of such a huge sprawling Nativity scene with the only replica of the Greek Parthenon as a backdrop. The awe and wizardness of such a sight, impressing upon my imagination. I’ve always wondered why would they take such an impressive masterpiece down? I suppose that’s one reason for my crèche collection. The dazzling Nativity scene erected in front of the Parthenon drew people to Centennial Park for nearly 15 years.
The Nashville Christmastime tradition was a sight to behold in the 1950s and '60s.
The iconic Christian display depicting the birth of Jesus stretched for 280 feet and glowed with tens of thousands of lights while seasonal songs blasted from loudspeakers, according to The Tennessean and Nashville Banner archives.
The 75-foot-deep scene also featured hundreds of alabaster white sculptures, including 75 animals, palm trees, sand dunes, a manger and dozens of shepherds and wise men.
The man behind the holiday scene was Fred Harvey Sr., the founder of the former Nashville-based Harvey’s Department Store chain. The Nativity was inspired by a permanent one near Innsbruck, Austria. Harvey went to see it while on a European road trip.
Italian-born sculptor Guido Rebechini was commissioned to create the Nashville scene. Harvey invested about $250,000 in the Nativity.
People came from near and far to see it from about 1953 to 1967. Officials estimated nearly 1 million people from 40 states and several countries stopped to enjoy its dazzle.
While it was beloved by many, some criticized the unique Nativity as being kitschy and argued city money should not be used to support the overtly Christian display. The city paid for the salary of a security guard after incidents of vandalism, and the Harvey family covered the cost of setting it up, upkeep and electrical bills. It was eventually taken down and stored in a warehouse, then sold to Cincinnati.