WSM-AM Broadcasting Tower

Brentwood, TN
United States
WSM-AM Broadcasting Tower

Landscape Information

WSM Radio Transmission Complex

One of the oldest operating broadcast towers in the United States and the tallest when built, the 808-foot-high WSM Broadcast Tower was erected in 1932. It was originally 878 feet tall, but its height was reduced in 1939. The tower was commissioned by WSM-AM (which stands for We Shield Millions), a Nashville radio channel famous for originating the Grand Ole Opry in 1925. In 1931 the station was federally designated as one of fourteen national clear channels and was thus granted the ability to reach forty states and transmit at full power at night. The wide dissemination of the Grand Ole Opry helped cement Nashville’s reputation as America's "country music capital,” and WSM’s broadcasts brought news and public-service programming to millions of rural American families. A replica of the distinctive WSM tower crowns the concrete rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  

Located just off Concord Road in suburban Brentwood, some thirteen miles east of downtown Nashville, the tower sits on a 29-acre parcel of open, grassy meadow. The site was specifically chosen for its deep bedrock, needed to support the massive structure. The parcel is entered from the southwest through an offshoot of Concord Road and includes a Colonial Revival-style broadcasting station, designed by Russell Hart and built in 1932, and a storage shed and carport, both built in 1940. Looming over the landscape at the center of the field is the diamond-shaped, red-and-white transmission tower, positioned next to the Tower Tuning House. Eight guy-wires emanate from the tip of the tower and extend out radially to secure the structure. Two shorter towers, built in 1936 as backups in case of electrical failure, stand to the north and northwest of the complex, respectively. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.