We spoke with David Carpenter who has been the facility manager for the State Capitol Complex for five years. The State Capitol Complex includes the Tennessee Capitol building, the War Memorial building and plaza surface and the Legislative Plaza. David is responsible for the buildings, systems and customer service.
DES: This year is the War Memorial’s 90th birthday. How have you all celebrated that milestone?
David Carpenter: Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) coordinated and hosted a birthday party in the War Memorial auditorium on Monday, Sept. 21, which was the actual 90th anniversary of the building’s dedication. It was a wonderful celebration of the facility’s history, complete with birthday cake. Governor Bill Haslam unveiled a historical marker that will soon be installed on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street. The ceremony participants represented the history of the auditorium.
DES: Does Metro DES supply both heating and cooling for the building? How long has the War Memorial been on the Metro DES system?
David Carpenter: Yes, DES provides chilled and hot water for the facility. The War Memorial was built in 1925 with a radiator heating system. From 1957 to 1958, air conditioning was installed in the War Memorial auditorium and offices. Originally, the center and atrium areas were open to all four floors with windows, but it was decided that the atrium would become mechanical space, stacked deck AHUs to heat and cool each floor from the center. A cooling tower was placed on top of the building. The building transitioned to the DES Thermal Transfer plant when the Legislative Plaza was built from 1970 to 1972. During the planning phase of this project, the chillers, boilers and cooling tower were removed. The existing AHUs were connected to the Thermal plant, and we still use them.
DES: What has been your favorite event to-date at the War Memorial?
David Carpenter: There have been so many great events. In May 2010, the Grand Ole Opry house was flooded, and the show moved back into the War Memorial auditorium for its first public performance in more than 60 years. It was a bittersweet moment; but it proved that, no matter what, the show must go on. In February 2011, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy recorded a show that was made into a DVD, and in January 2013, a tribute to Cowboy Jack Clement was performed with a star-studded lineup. The list goes on and on, so it’s hard to choose one favorite.
DES: What’s your role in managing the building?
David Carpenter: I started working at the Capitol Complex in 2009. A quick response is that I’m responsible for the buildings, systems and customer service; but the scope of my responsibilities is actually very broad. The Capitol Complex consists of the State Capitol building, the War Memorial building and plaza surface, and the Legislative Plaza. I oversee facility maintenance and life safety systems, meeting tenant needs and supporting their endeavors, event management (large and small), project management, and day-to-day operational needs and communication. My excellent staff and I aim to please and support the state employees in any way we can.
DES: Tell us an interesting fact from the history of the War Memorial building.
David Carpenter: Built as Tennessee’s monument to the soldiers who served in WW I, approximately half of the construction funding for the building was appropriated by the state of Tennessee, but the remaining half was funded by Davidson County and the City of Nashville. This was a truly joint effort from all sectors of government coming together to make a place to serve future generations. The War Memorial building is a very active venue with a diverse list of events. Lisa Budreau is the military curator for the Museum housed on the ground floor, located in the southeast corner of the building. Right now, she’s working on a history of the War Memorial building. It will open on Nov. 7, 2015, and its theme will be “Remembering the DoughBoys.”
DES: What makes the War Memorial special or unique when compared to other venues in Nashville?
David Carpenter: It really is a facility for the people of Tennessee, from its original conception. The building is half performance hall and half state office building. The War Memorial plaza in front of the building offers visitors beautiful views of the downtown buildings. The War Memorial auditorium is the second oldest theater still in use for concerts in Nashville, after the Ryman. (And the Ryman was not built for that purpose.)
DES: What are the biggest challenges you and the War Memorial face in the foreseeable future?
David Carpenter: It is 90 years old, and there are many things that still need to be addressed in the way of updates. It’s really expensive to maintain these historic facilities, but there’s no question that we have to find the money. The War Memorial building is a state treasure that has to be preserved. All of us who get to work here are passionate about our responsibility and seek opportunities to enhance the facility however we can.