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If you were passing through downtown Nashville this weekend and happened to look over at the skyline at exactly 9:30am Saturday morning, you might have thought we were under attack. Depending on your vantage point, you might have seen a huge cloud of dust, or you might have seen an iconic Nashville building crumble to the ground. That iconic building was the LifeWay Draper Tower which was under a planned demolition and not under a planned attack.

While I was cleaning out my garage and listening to the radio the day before, I heard one of my favorite talk show hosts talking about the demolition. I was immediately interested as I had never seen a live demolition of a major building. However, my first thoughts were that I would probably have to park and walk to get a close view of the demolition and it was going to be extremely cold. I don’t like the cold and I definitely don’t like the extreme cold. After some debating, I figure this was a chance to see something I might not get to see again or at least not for a long time.

I heard about the road closures, so I headed out early to find a spot. When I got to Nashville, I saw that the road closures in the downtown area had already started. However, I had a vantage point in mind from my past photography endeavors. The place I had in mind was the vantage point from the bridge on Broadway or the bridge on Demonbreun. With the access to the bridge on Broadway blocked, I decided to drive to Demonbreun street. When I drove across the bridge, I noticed someone with a tripod setting up at the same location I had envisioned. Next, I had to find a parking place as close as possible. I ended up parking below the bridge down in the Gulch. It wasn’t that bad of a walk, but the extreme cold can make a short walk a long one.

When I finally made it to the spot, I began setting up my tripod. I also met the person who had already claimed their spot. Her name was Ava. She was shooting video. We talked about a little bit of everything while we waited in the cold for 09:30 to arrive. Our tripods were in a shadow, so we spent a lot of time standing in the sun away from our gear. I learned that Ava has a youtube page. I will leave a link to her demolition footage at the end of this post. Check it out, it’s a cool video. You will notice the similar composition in Ava’s shot and mine. We both thought the idea of the Union Station building in the foreground was a nice touch. The other attribute that makes this a nice spot is that the buildings face the sun at this time of day, so it was easy to get a nice exposure at high shutter speeds.

As we waited, a crowd of people gradually started to assemble at our location. More tripods and cameras began to emerge. I’m glad I got there when I did because within the last 30 minutes before the demolition, I would estimate that a crowd of at least 30 to 40 people assembled around us. I had kids bumping into me while I stood behind my camera.

I did not know what to expect seconds before the demolition. Was there going to be a countdown? Would sirens sound off? If I remembered correctly, I heard sirens that appeared to come from emergency vehicles. I then heard what sounded like the faint boom of fireworks exploding in the distance. During each boom, I could see the reflections on the LifeWay tower shimmer, but the building still stood intact. After a few more booms, the West side of the tower began to collapse. The rest of the building followed like dominoes. Huge clouds of dust began to build as the tower crumbled to the ground. The dust cloud was impressive as the demolition itself. Below is a short time lapse video of the demolition. When you start the video, look carefully at the shimmering glass of the LifeWay building. Each shimmer represents an explosion.


LifeWay Draper Tower Implosion – 09:30 January 6th, 2018 – Nashville, Tennessee


Wow! That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. As an engineer, I was impressed by the precise use of explosives to drop a building without harming people or the surround buildings. It’s like a work of art. The demolition crew of D.H. Griffin Companies did an awesome job. Here are a few photographs of the demolition. Be sure to check out the photographs in the lightbox and the end of this post.















I captured the shot below back in 2014. I shot this on Kodak Portra 400 film using my Olympus OM1 SLR. Those of you who are not familiar with the LifeWay building might not noticed that that the East face of the building has a large cross. The shots above show the cross hidden. Below is how it normally looks.


LifeWay Draper Tower – Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak Portra 400 / The Film Box Lab


With regards to the covered cross, I wondered if it was done to hide the symbolism of the cross falling to the ground. I would imagine that this imagery could be used in a negative light and LifeWay Christian Resources did not want their brand being used in this manner. That’s my speculation. If anyone knows the real reason, please let me know. The other thing that struck me during the demolition was 911. I got a tiny glimpse of what it may have been like on that day in New York City back in 2001. I say tiny, because the World Trade Center terrorist attack was on a much larger scale and it was unexpected.

I titled this blog “Material Things” because of an article I read from the Tennessean about the man for whom the LifeWay Draper Tower was named, James “Jimmy” T. Draper Jr. The 82 year old was once the President of LifeWay Christian Resources. He was asked how he felt about the tower coming down. He replied by saying that he never viewed the Draper Tower as being his legacy. Here is a quote from Mr. Draper.


“The buildings have never provided one resource. They’ve never won anybody to Christ,” Draper said. “It’s the people that did that. LifeWay is the people, and LifeWay will always be LifeWay wherever the people are.” 


That statement sums up how material things are just that, material things! Material things fade and eventually vanish. Putting stock into material things is a fools errand. It’s the people that makes the difference in whatever we do. People also don’t last forever, but their legacy does.

So what is going to replace the old LifeWay campus? Did you guess residences or retail space? That’s typical, right? If you did guess this, then you are correct. This 15 acre campus will soon become known as Nashville Yards. Below is an excerpt from their website and just so you know, the new LifeWay store and corporate headquarters opened back in November at their new campus in the North Gulch area of Nashville.


The Nashville Yards vision revives and reimagines the gateway to Music City. Architecturally, the Yards will present a mix of leading-edge modern structures that create a truly walkable live/work/play neighborhood centered around Nashville’s culture of education, the arts, and entertainment. In total, the project’s master plan calls for more than four million square feet of new construction that will be environmentally sustainable, technologically advanced, and extraordinarily service-oriented.


As always, thanks for dropping by! I will have to keep my eyes and ears peeled for more projects like this. This was cool to watch. Check out the video from “According 2 Ava”.


Images Best Viewed in Lightbox Below!


2 thoughts on “Material Things

  1. Avatar
    Paula says:

    Congratulations to taking part at this event.
    Around here it’s all about bird feeders, sky watching and evenings on the sofa = January. 😉

    I enjoyed this posting very much! And I mean everything – the story, the series of photos, the focus on some details like the cross and the single Portra400 photo at the ending.
    This Portra photo looks good! I dont know why, but I always end up have issues with the pink/pastell-tones this film delivers. My landscapes always look desaturated when using Portra 400.
    Could be the light in Tennessee suit the film better than the light in Vienna? Warmer, more intense?

    I always love to study your photos. Do people in the US use coal for heating their homes ? Do you have an idea where the coal as seen on the train is heading to?


    1. Travis
      Travis says:

      Hello Paula. I hope all is well. I’m glad you like this post. I would say there’s several things that can make Portra 400 look different. From the original exposure and lighting to the final processing, things could turnout one way or another. I always try to overexpose 1 stop or 1.5 stops. One of the things I love about Portra 400 is that it has a lot of latitude, so I’m not afraid to overexpose to keep my shadow detail because I know I can recover highlight detail in post processing. On the color side, Portra 400 is designed to have muted colors. That’s its signature look. It was designed for producing nice skin tones for portraits. If you want more saturated colors, you might look at Ektar 100. I love Ektar! The colors really pop! Be careful, Ektar 100 really saturates the reds. If you use it for portraits, it can bring out the red in fair skin. There are also other Kodak color films that you might find in the department stores as well as some from Fuji. Oh yea! I almost forgot. Kodak is bringing back Ektachrome! I can’t wait to get my hands on a roll of this legendary film. It’s supposed to hit the market this year.

      The coal in this picture is probably heading to a power plant. While we burned coal in our home when I was a kid, fewer and fewer people burn coal in their homes today. Coal is used mostly to generate electricity at power plants. The use of coal is then followed by natural gas and then nuclear power.

      Keep me posted on your future film photography endeavors. I have not used my film cameras for a while now. Spring is around the corner, so I’m looking forward to more film work. Thanks for stopping by!


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