The Tennessee Tower, also known as the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, is the third-tallest skyscraper in downtown Nashville, at 452 feet. The 31-story building was originally built for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1970, but was bought by the state of Tennessee in 1994 to serve as an office for more than 1,000 state government employees.
The building is named in honor of William R. Snodgrass, a career public servant who served as Tennessee’s comptroller of the Treasury for 22 terms, from 1955 to 1999. Snodgrass received numerous accolades and awards during his long tenure of public service, including the title of comptroller emeritus, before passing away in 2008. The William R. Snodgrass Distinguished Leadership Award was also named in his honor. The award recognizes the outstanding leadership of individuals in state government who improved financial management practices, policies, systems or operations, and consistently exhibited the highest personal and professional standards through each year.
On Aug. 31, 2003, the Tennessee Tower was struck by lightning, causing a fire pump to turn on the sprinkler system. Water from the sprinklers struck an electrical unit, shorting out power in the building. While the building was closed for use by employees for two days, temporary generators were employed, allowing state workers to return to the building. It would not be possible for enough emergency power to be provided to power the building as well as power the cooling system. The generators were removed when parts arrived to repair the building’s own electrical infrastructure.
“We were fortunate to have building management that knew how to respond to this situation, and many of them worked day and night until the building was again ready for occupancy,” Department of General Services Deputy Commissioner Tom Chester said.
One of the things the building is best known for is that it was used to display messages by turning on lights in the windows on the front of the building at night. After being dormant for 10 years, a new message – “Peace” – was displayed on Dec. 17, 2007.