The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance has just issued its 2014 list of the most endangered historic places in East Tennessee. You may see the list and read about these properties by clicking on the links below. Please be advised that the best news story on these properties was published today by the Knoxville News-Sentinel, but this particular newspaper now keeps many of its best on-line newspaper articles behind a pay wall. Therefore, you will only be able to read the full story if you are one of their subscribers. Here are the links:
The Archaeology in Tennessee blog notes with some amazement that the infamous Brushy Mountain State Prison in Petros, Tennessee, is being considered for some form of adaptive reuse, most notably as a distillery that produces drinkable spirits. If you have ever passed by this place while driving up or down the mountain, you know that it is a huge, stark, lonely, and foreboding-looking facility nestled among mountain peaks that fairly well counsel: “Okay. You just busted out of the prison walls. Now what? Surely you are not going to try hiking over my slopes to freedom.”
Arguably, the most famous inmate of this prison was James Earl Ray, who was convicted and given a life sentence for assassinating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. He tried an escape in the 1970s and actually got outside the walls, but he was unable to surmount the obstacles posed by the mountain slopes and was captured a few days later.
Using the old prison for a distillery would both preserve the facility and put some sort of happier continuing historical face on a place with a very unhappy past. Just speaking personally and knowing absolutely nothing about the detailed plans for the distillery, some part of me hopes that future bottles in liquor stores will not bear labels saying “Old Prison Brew No. 2” or “Jimmy Earl’s Firewater.”