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Phil Bredesen, Governor Department
Bicentennial Capitol Mall Header links back to Bicentennial Capitol Mall home Click for information on reservations

Historical Significance

With the urban building boom in downtown Nashville during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Tennessee State Capitol disappeared from sight on the east, west and south sides. The northern side of the Capitol was not conducive to the construction of skyscrapers due to the swampy conditions that existed in many areas between the Capitol and the Cumberland River. Ironically, the historic French Lick that attracted wildlife, Indians, trappers and settlers to what would become Nashville also preserved the remaining view of the Capitol and became the home of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. In order to save the one remaining view of the Capitol and to commemorate Tennessee's 200th birthday, the concept of a mall similar to the one in Washington, DC, took shape.

Zero Mile Marker

This is the point from which all state mile markers are zeroed.

Small Tennessee Granite Maps

Topography: In understanding the topography of the state, it is easy to see why Tennessee has three Grand Divisions. West Tennessee is flat and has delta-type terrain due to its location along the Mississippi River. Middle Tennessee is rocky and hilly, as it is home to the Eastern and Western Highland Rims. East Tennessee contains the most rugged landscape, including the Appalachian Mountains and parts of the towering Cumberland Plateau. These three Grand Divisions are symbolized by the three stars in the center of the State flag.

Music: The music map illustrates the prominent musical influences of each portion of the state. Tennessee is noted for its country and western music, but has been influential in blues, jazz, bluegrass, rock, gospel, and many other types of music as well.

Parks: The Tennessee State Park system, which manages 53 of our state’s best natural and historical resources, won “Best in the Nation” in 2007/2008. Anywhere you travel in Tennessee, you are within thirty minutes of a state or national park. This map shows the locations of these invaluable resources.

Populations: The populations map shows the distribution of people across the state of Tennessee. The cities with the highest populations as of 1996 were Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

Trails: The trails map shows Native American and pioneer trails, as well as interstates since they are our modern day trails. The map is overlaid with the best map that was available in 1796 when Tennessee became a state. Also shown are the regions inhabited by Native Americans, with the Shawnee coming from the north, the Chickasaw from the west, the Cherokee from the east, and the Creek from the south.

Geology: Much of the history of Tennessee can be attributed to the varied geological compositions and features. This map shows the different geologic foundations of the state. Middle Tennessee shows Ordovician Limestone. Ordovician is soft and porous and is noted for having caves and sinkholes. During World War II, Middle Tennessee was selected for the largest War Games in the history of man due to our geology and topography.

Tennessee Map Plaza

Located at the southern entrance of the park on James Robertson Parkway, the 200-foot granite state map highlights our 95 counties, major roads, rivers, interesting geographic formations, and other state features. It is designed to scale, with 12 inches equal to 2½ miles.  

The Railroad Trestle

The railway trestle stands as a reminder of the importance of railroading in Tennessee's history. The trains have traveled here since 1859 and were an important strategic point during the War Between the States.

Under the west end of the trestle are restrooms, and under the east end is a visitor center.

The Rivers of Tennessee Fountains

Visitors, after passing under the railway trestle, enter an area containing 31 vertical water fountains, one for each of the predominant waterways in Tennessee.

The River Walk is accented with a bowed and arched granite wall with inscriptions about Tennessee's waterways.

Current status of fountains
The May 2010 floods caused quite a bit of damage to the park, including to the fountains, park office and other structures. The first order of business was to restore the basic functions of the park -- namely, the park office. In addition to repairing the damage to the fountains following the flood, we learned that the fountains must also be redesigned to incorporate new health code standards. While we have started the redesign process, we do not anticipate the fountains will be restored during the 2011 season. We appreciate your patience during the park's ongoing flood recovery and repairs. We will continue to update the website as we receive new information.

Tennessee Flags

Located on each end of the River Walk are clusters of Tennessee flags. Each cluster contains one large 12 x 18-foot flag, and eight smaller 5 x 8-foot flags for a total of 18 Tennessee flags. The 16 small flags represent Tennessee being the 16th state admitted to the Union June 1, 1796. The two large flags represent the state's bicentennial celebration.

The American flag is not flown in the mall since the park is an extension of the State Capitol, which flies the American flag high above the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

Pathway of History

Along the west side of the park, a 1,400-foot Wall of History is engraved with historic events that have occurred over the past two centuries. A granite pylon marks each ten-year period along the wall. The wall 'breaks' at the time of the Civil War to represent the divisive nature of the war on the state.

Read the engraved items from the Wall of History (pdf)

McNairy Spring is a monument and fountain that represents the founding of Tennessee. The fountain is on top of the sulphur spring that fed the Old French Lick Creek. The greenway trail is located on top of the creek today and leads to the Cumberland River.

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1997. It features 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. There is a small map of Tennessee with lines showing the mileage to different theatres of war. Visitors may stop the globe and turn it with their hands.

The Memorial also has large granite markers that give a brief history of such historic events as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, as well as scenes from here in Tennessee by using sand blasting engravings of actual photographs on the markers.

There is a bench that lists the seven Congressional Medal of Honor winners from Tennessee. A time capsule will be opened on November 11, 2045 and contains lists of donors, persons who served, and a separate list of the 5,731 Tennesseans who served and were killed in combat.

The Memorial is located near the north end of the park at the 1946 marker and is a must-see for any visitor.

Carillons and the Court of 3 Stars

The Court of 3 Stars is a focal point of the park located at the northern end near Jefferson Street. Made of red, white and blue granite, this area represents the three Grand Divisions of the state - East, Middle and West Tennessee. This is also the site of a 95-bell carillon representing Tennessee's musical heritage. The 95 bells represent the citizens of Tennessee's 95 counties. A 96th bell, known as the answer bell, is located on the grounds of the State Capitol and rings in answer to the 95 bells, symbolizing government answering to the people. The carillons are some of the largest in the world. They play Tennessee-themed songs at the top of the hour, every hour.

CCC Memorial

The Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial is located at the north end of Bicentennial Mall on 7th Avenue. CCC Veterans and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's grandson David dedicated the memorial in April of 1998. The beautiful granite marker serves as a reminder that this unique program laid much of the groundwork for what we enjoy today in our state and national parks.

Planters each represent East, Middle and West Tennessee. You will notice as you walk the Walkway of Counties the plantings will change from East to West Tennessee symbolizing what a diverse state we live in from the mountains of East Tennessee to the flat farm land of West Tennessee.

The Walkway of Counties

The east side of the park features the Walkway of Counties that contains a time capsule from each of Tennessee's 95 counties. These time capsules will not be opened until the Tercentennial in 2096. This 95-county historical journey highlights the topographical features of each region of the state, depicting the flat, mountainous and rolling hills sections of the state. Native trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and wildflowers along the walkway represent the diverse vegetation found across the state. Time capsules will be opened on June 1, on the state's three-hundredth birthday.

Path of Volunteers

As part of the Bicentennial celebration, many Tennesseans reserved their place in history by purchasing commemorative bricks. These granite bricks engraved with their names are placed along the Path of Volunteers, a central tree-lined granite walkway extending down both sides of the park and terminating at the Court of 3 Stars.