Ben Kweller's Falling.
At age 19, Ben Kweller was already on the brink of has-been territory. His band Radish had signed a record deal with Mercury Records when Kweller was just 16. Mercury released 1997's Restraining Bolt that same year, but, just a couple years later, the label left sophomore effort Discount Fireworks unreleased. So the Greenville, Texas, native moved to New York to live with his then-girlfriend, Liz Smith, and find himself. Two years later, his solo debut for ATO Records not only featured a song about Smith (“Lizzy”), but also the album's closer, “Falling,” in which the homesick ex-Dallas resident took a trip back to town and remarked about spotting the first signs of coming back home.
Driving to Dallas on I-183, coming from the DFW airport, it's obvious which beacon in the night cured Kweller of his homesickness. The song's opening lines couldn't be more evident: “Wind is cold alright back in Dallas. The neon light from the building lets you know you're home.” Without even mentioning a specific color of neon, it's obvious. Anyone who has ever driven into the city at night can confirm that the green glow emanating from the Bank of America Plaza is the most eye-catching feature in the Dallas skyline.
At 921 feet (or 72 stories) tall, it's easily the tallest building in the city, which makes it visible from quite the distance. It's no wonder, then, that it can be seen from so far away, feeling like a beacon guiding a weary traveler home. To further put its impressive height in perspective: The skyscraper, located at 901 Main Street, is the third tallest building in Texas, the 22nd tallest in the United States and the 123rd tallest in the world.
It's not just a pretty facade, either. Beyond the glow of green argon tubing and the horizontal aluminum spandrels that add a sense of pattern to the art deco-inspired design, the Bank of America Plaza also serves some important functions for the city. For one, the building itself functions as a broadcast tower structure. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW each operate television transmission facilities on the top floors of the building. Perhaps even more importantly, so too do most federal law enforcement agencies.
As pretty and eye-catching as we imagine the Bank of America Plaza must be “from a DC-9 at night,” the building actually wasn't around in 1972 when The Flatlanders released their song “Dallas” featuring the iconic lyric about the lights of Dallas (more on that song in the coming weeks).
Construction on the building, designed by the firm Jarvis, Putty, Jarvis of Dallas began in 1983 and was completed in 1985. It was originally called Dallas Main Center, then became InterFirst Bank Plaza, Republic Bank Plaza, First Republic Bank Plaza, North Carolina National Bank Plaza and NationsBank Plaza before finally becoming the Bank of America Plaza in 1998 when Metropolis Investment Holdings acquired the building for $320 million.
Here's one more interesting note about the building: A twin tower was at one time proposed for the structure, but plans fell through after a downturn in the economy in the late 1980s. Considering the fact that the sitting president at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks was, like Kweller, a Texas resident, it's possible that Dallas' lack of a second enormous, neon-lined building might have saved our city from being targeted on that tragic day. Thankfully we'll never know for sure.