WHY YOU CAN TRUST JERRY
Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.
By Sarah Gray
Updated on May 4, 2022
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear, Director of Content.
From Ashlar Hall—the stately castle-turned-raucous-nightclub—to Abrams Creek Underwater Bridge—a bridge that is, literally, underwater—Tennessee is full of some of the coolest (and creepiest) abandoned places in the U.S.
Whether you’re interested in abandoned houses, an underwater bridge, or foreboding prisons, Jerry, the car insurance comparison super app, has created this guide to all the hidden history of Tennessee’s coolest abandoned places. So read on to find out where you should visit next.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever
Interesting abandoned places in Tennessee
Abrams Creek Underwater Bridge
Location: Tallahassee, TN
Abandoned since: 1957
Is it legal to go in? Yes—sort of
When engineers lowered Chilhowee Lake levels for dam repairs in 2008, they discovered the remains of Abrams Creek Underwater Bridge—a bridge that time had completely forgotten. No one knows when it was built or whether it was part of the original routing of US 129 North, but hundreds of thousands of visitors have come to see this cool abandoned place since it was rediscovered.
Its most recent appearance above water was in 2015, but visitors can often see the outline of the bridge even when it’s underwater. Located at the crossing of US 129 and TN 115 at Abrams Creek, there are several spots for potential viewers to pull off to the side to try to see the underwater bridge.
Pro Tip The lake area around the underwater bridge is not accessible for swimming.
MORE: Road trip essentials
Bear Spring Furnace
Location: Dover, TN
Abandoned since: 1928
Is it legal to go in? Yes
Just south of Dover, TN off the side of TN 49, visitors will find the old Bear Spring Furnace. Originally built around 1832, Bear Spring Furnace operated around the clock producing charcoal iron. The original furnace stack was destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War, and the new stack, which still stands today, was constructed in 1873. It remained in operation throughout the early 20th-century, but joined the ranks of Tennessee’s abandoned places when the rail line that once ran the route of TN 49 stopped running.
Visitors are welcome to visit the Bear Spring Furnace, which is located about 10 minutes north of Dover, TN on TN 49. Don’t worry, no further directions are needed—you can’t miss it.
Abandoned castles, homes, and mansions in Tennessee
Location: Clinton, TN
Abandoned since: Mid-1980s
Is it legal to go in? No
Whirlwind Mansion is the product of bank fraud and 1970s excess. Built in the early 1970s, the estate was meant to be a spare-no-expense wonderland for its owner, banker and politician Jake Butcher. Unfortunately, while Butcher certainly had money, most of it wasn’t his, and none of it could withstand the pressure of the estate’s utility bills that ran an estimated $10,000–25,000 a month in today’s dollars.
Butcher was convicted of bank fraud in the mid-80s, and the 40+ room mansion, complete with 13 bathrooms, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and even a helipad, was forfeited. The property was split into condos, but even that was insupportable due to the high utility costs, and the mansion became another of Tennessee's cool abandoned places. After sitting empty for decades, the mansion was sold, and is now under renovations by its current owner. It is a private property, and is not open for visits.
Pro Tip Whirlwind Mansion is private property, so anyone visiting without the owner’s permission will be charged with trespassing.
Ashlar Hall, aka Prince Mongo’s Castle
Location: 1397 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Abandoned since: Late 1990s
Is it legal to go in? No
Located in the heart of Memphis, the imposing Ashlar Hall, aka Prince Mongo’s Castle, was originally built by millionaire Robert Snowden in 1896 as his family estate. The “castle” features eight bedrooms, servant’s quarters, stained glass, and copper cornices.
When Snowden died in 1942, he willed his castle to his heirs, who soon transformed it into a popular restaurant. The restaurant was later purchased by the eccentric Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges, who transformed the stately restaurant into a raucous nightclub called The Castle, complete with cheap beer and wet T-shirt contests.
After rampant complaints from neighbors and pressure from the city, The Castle closed in the late 1990s, joining the ranks of Tennessee's abandoned places. After passing through several hands it landed in those of its current owner, Juan Montoya, who is currently renovating the property.
Ashlar Hall, or The Castle, is not currently open for tours or visits.
Abandoned hotels and prisons in Tennessee
Location: Reliance, TN
Abandoned since: not technically abandoned
Is it legal to go in? No
The not-completely-abandoned Higdon Hotel is located in the sleepy riverside town of Reliance, TN. Originally built in 1878 as a private residence, the home was transformed into a boarding house for railroad bosses after the Higdon family purchased it in 1883. When the railroad was completed, the boarding house transitioned into a riverside resort.
Once the passenger trains stopped coming through town, the property was sold to the Webb family, who made it their private residence. The Webbs then began campaigning to have the property and other nearby historic buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places, which finally happened in 1986 with the naming of the Reliance Historic District.
Today, the Higdon Hotel is not technically abandoned, but is still one of Tennessee’s coolest unlived-in places. Webb, his family, and a business partner continue attempts to complete renovations on the historic Higdon Hotel in hopes to someday reopen it to the public. In the meantime, the property is closed to visitors and tours.
Pro Tip The buildings in the Reliance Historic District all rest on private property, so do not attempt entry without permission.
Tennessee State Prison
Location: Nashville, TN
Is it legal to go in? No
Located 6 miles west of downtown Nashville on Cockrill Bend, the Tennessee State Prison has been closed since 1992, but it’s far from completely abandoned. Originally opened in 1898 to replace the overcrowded original state prison, the Tennessee State Prison is an imposing Gothic fortress-like structure built to keep people in rather than out.
The prison features 800 small cells, each designed for a single inmate, plus an administration building and other small office buildings, warehouses, and factories, as well as a working farm outside the walls.
The Tennessee State Prison closed in 1992 due to overcrowding, but it has since been used as the site for several major motion pictures, including The Green Mile and Walk the Line. Until recently, ghost-hunting groups often hosted tours of the property, which is said to be haunted by myriad ghosts, including those of over 100 inmates put to death in the prison’s electric chair.
The prison sustained massive structural damage from an EF3 tornado in March 2020, and is not currently safe for tours or visits.
Location: 153 S. Main St., Bulls Gap, TN
Abandoned since: 2003
Is it legal to go in? No
It’s now owned by the Bulls Gap Railroad Museum, but Gilley’s Hotel was once a bustling hotel serving railroad workers and tourists alike. Originally called the Smith House, the hotel was built after the Civil War, but the exact year of completion is hard to pinpoint. In 1920, R.H. Gilley bought the property and renamed it Gilley’s Hotel.
Throughout the 1920s and 30s, the hotel became a hub for Bulls Gap community activity, as it featured a barber shop and a large dining room, and even housed the local post office. After Gilley’s death in 1969, the hotel changed hands several times and began to fall into disrepair as declining rail traffic led to fewer and fewer guests.
Gilley’s was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and was even rented as apartments until 2003, when the owner’s health issues led him to donate the property to the Museum. While they attempted some repairs, the building’s needs far outweighed the museum’s resources, and it quickly joined the ranks of Tennessee’s abandoned places.
Though the Bulls Gap Railroad Museum teamed up with the Knox Heritage East Tennessee Preservation Alliance in 2017 for help with preservation, work is still ongoing, and the Gilley’s Hotel is permanently closed at this time.
Tips for exploring Tennessee’s abandoned places
Before starting your road trip through Tennessee’s abandoned places, consider these pro tips for urban exploration.
- Find out if it’s legal to visit—and ask permission if you’re not sure. All of the locations featured on this list are legal to visit, but not all abandoned places are open to tourist traffic.
- Dress comfortably, but leave the flip-flops at home. These places weren’t abandoned because of their super-convenient location, so it’s a good idea to wear sturdy footwear if you’re walking around.
- Leave it as you found it!. You’ll be tempted to take souvenirs, but the unique objects you find at these sites are what make them so fun to explore. Don’t deprive future visitors of the chance to experience these treasures.
- Don’t go alone. Though most of these places are fairly safe to visit, it’s always a good idea to bring someone along or let someone know before you head off the beaten path.
- Consider bringing some protective gear. Consider bringing a mask or face cover, gloves, and other equipment if you’ll be entering a building that might be contaminated with toxic chemicals or materials.
Yes, exploring abandoned places in Tennessee is super fun, but unless you’re safe and respectful of the location, it’s super stupid. Be safe, and leave things as you found them for the next visitor.
How to find affordable car insurance in Tennessee
When you’re visiting Tennessee’s coolest abandoned places, you’re doing a lot of driving, so you need to make sure you’re prepared with the things you need to stay safe before you leave—and that includes car insurance.
Before you head to the Volunteer State, download the Jerry app, answer a couple of quick questions, and let Jerry find you the best car insurance at the best price.
Jerry can even include roadside assistance when searching for your options to ensure you’re covered in case of a breakdown during your road trip through Tennessee’s abandoned places.
“This was and is great service! Jerry saved me $400 on my renewal. I was super shocked!” —Jackson M.
Compare insurance quotes from 50+ carriers with Jerry in under 45 seconds
Is it illegal to visit abandoned places?
It depends on the location. Most of the locations on this list are not open for visits, but you should check with the current owners to see if you can get permission.
Why are there abandoned houses in Tennessee?
Every abandoned place has its own unique tale. Some were abandoned due to the expense of upkeep and others due to the end of a particular industry. Others are more of a mystery.