NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On the afternoon of September 5, 1992, as kids across the country finished up the school day and turned on the television, they were greeted by the opening bars of Danny Elfman’s theme for a brand-new cartoon—Batman: The Animated Series. For fans, the show would go on to become a beloved and iconic symbol of the Caped Crusader’s lore.
That same year, construction began on a building that would go on to become an iconic symbol of Music City. The structure was completed in September 1994. While its official name these days is the AT&T Building, most know it by a different one—the Batman Building.
According to the portfolio on the project from Earl Swensson Associates, the “client wanted to make a statement in Nashville with its headquarters building to demonstrate high-tech communications.”
Standing at over 600 feet tall—with a set of twin spires shooting up into the air—the structure was an immediate presence over Nashville.
It also didn’t take long for the building to earn its “Batman Building” nickname. Nashville historian, David S. Ewing, told News 2’s Erin McCullough, the comparisons to the DC Comics hero started early.
“If you look at [news] coverage at the time when the Batman building opened in 1994, everybody saw this iconic image of Batman. Even months before the building opened, on the front page of The Tennessean, there was an image of the building and an image of Batman side by side that said, ‘Holy High Rise!’” Ewing said.
The building was unlike anything in Nashville at the time. Ironically, the structure would have looked right at home in the Gotham skyline on Batman: The Animated Series as its unique design bears an unintentional, but striking similarity to the show’s “Dark Deco” art style.
For Batman fans, BTAS’s legacy extended well beyond the show’s initial run which culminated in 1995. Much like the show’s impact on superhero fandom, the Batman building’s impact on the Nashville skyline is hard to ignore.
“It’s a landmark,” said AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips. “You’re driving into town when you can first see that, you know—we’re home or always notice when I’m on a plane coming into Nashville, people looking at the window to find the Bat building.”
Phillips said the design and placement have helped make the building become an icon in Music City. “Think about every time you see a television broadcast, the [Nashville Predators], or the [Tennessee Titans] or something about Nashville—you sort of can’t show a picture of Nashville—without seeing the Bat building.”
An iconic visual that’s hard to forget. “I just thought it was the coolest thing,” said Rob Harris.
Harris and his family moved to Tennessee in 2000. “When we were thinking about moving to Nashville, we were driving into town from Kentucky…And when we saw the skyline, and I saw the Batman building, I even commented to my wife. I said, wow, that building looks like Batman.”
The musician—and Nashville’s own Batman—continued, “I thought it might be a sign. Maybe this is where we’re supposed to be. And now we’ve lived here 22 years and it’s by far my favorite part of the Nashville skyline.”
For Nashville, it’s more than just a construction of glass and red granite. “It’s just such a combination of things that I associate with Nashville. It’s got its own style. It’s big, and it’s kind of bold, but it’s also right there connected to things that make us Music City,” said Joelle Phillips.
For Harris, a lifelong Batman fan, the building has reaffirmed his love for the character. “I don’t know of another city that has a building like that. And for me, personally, it merged my Batman fandom with this city I’ve grown to love so much, and now they’re kind of intertwined with each other,” he said.
The AT&T Building may have never dawned a cape or cowl—it is a building after all—but that hasn’t stopped the structure from becoming an icon Music City needs.
“Some people say Batman Building, some people say the Bat Tower, some people say Bat Building, we all know what we’re talking about,” said Phillips. “It’s that special.”