The well-known bronze statue of university founder Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, sculpted by Giuseppe Moretti of New York, has had four homes. Planned for four years, the statue was completed and brought to Nashville in 1897 and was first displayed near the Parthenon replica in what is now Centennial Park during the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (see photo, right), a celebration of Tennessee’s 100th year of statehood (though one year late). The new statue was unveiled by Chancellor James Kirkland—as part of the 22-year-old university’s first major celebration—on Monday, Oct. 11, 1897, preceded by a long procession of students and followed by a eulogy for the venerable Commodore, who had died 20 years earlier.
When the Centennial Exposition closed that fall, the statue was brought home to the Vanderbilt campus and placed directly in front of the steps of Kirkland Hall (then known as Old Main), facing east (see photo, left). In 1949, with the completion of the grassy esplanade in front of Kirkland and a new main entrance to the campus, the Commodore was moved onto the esplanade and turned to face north, toward West End Avenue, but still in front of Kirkland. Finally, in 1986 the Commodore was moved to its current location, at the northernmost end of the esplanade, still facing West End and greeting guests at the university’s main entrance.
The photo on the History Test page shows a crane lifting the Commodore from its pedestal in April 1986 before being moved to its current location.