Former LifeWay Christian Resources landmark Draper Tower is now a pile of rubble.
Photo by Jim Veneman
The Draper Tower began to collapse at approximately 9:30 a.m. EST Jan. 6 following detonation of some 600 pounds of explosives.
The 12-story building on LifeWay’s former campus in downtown Nashville was demolished Jan. 6 with an implosion the demolition team’s leader said went “100 percent perfect,” The Tennessean newspaper reported.
Following a series of loud bangs made by some 600 pounds of explosives, Draper Tower crumbled in sections to make room for a 380-unit residential building, two office buildings and retail space – all part of the forthcoming Nashville Yards development, which will span the area that used to house LifeWay’s nine-building campus.
Charles Willis, who retired from LifeWay’s communications department in 2003 following a 35-year career there, told Baptist Press (BP) Draper Tower will be remembered as a Nashville landmark.
“People could see [Draper Tower] from the interstate,” Willis, 71, said, “and could find their way to the LifeWay campus just by keeping it in view even if they didn’t know which street to turn on.”
The tower opened in 1991 as Centennial Tower to commemorate LifeWay’s 100th anniversary. It was renamed Draper Tower following former LifeWay President Jimmy Draper’s 2006 retirement.
“Seeing it go up,” Willis said, was “a slow process. Seeing come down was really, really fast.”
Draper told The Tennessean that people, rather than buildings, are LifeWay’s chief legacy and focus. Still, he recalled fondly seeing the cross-emblazoned tower each morning on Nashville’s skyline as he approached downtown.
“It was just a source of great pride and of gratitude that we would have the opportunity to have that kind of witness in downtown,” Draper told The Tennessean.
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, said the tower’s demolition is among life’s many transitions.
“Ministries, ministers and institutions go through seasons of transition,” Page said according to a Jan. 6 article posted on TalkCP.com. “LifeWay is certainly in the midst of a major transition in their relocation. The key is to focus on the mission and the person behind that mission.
“It is the Lord Jesus Christ who should remain our focus,” Page said. “Buildings come and buildings go. Leaders come and leaders go. However, our central focus must always be on our Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!”
LifeWay’s corporate headquarters moved in November 2017 to a 277,000-square-foot facility about a half-mile away from its former campus, which sold in 2015 for $125 million.
The nearby SBC Building suffered no ill effects from Draper Tower’s demolition, just some extra dust, building superintendent Phil Baker told BP.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)