NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Travelers have the chance to walk within the walls of the infamous former maximum security prison Brushy Mountain, once known as “the end of the line” for the state’s most dangerous criminals. Visitors can now take self-guided or guided tours of the prison and museum in Petros, between Nashville and Knoxville.
The facility also includes the Warden’s Table Restaurant, which serves barbecue and other favorites on metal trays and butcher paper. Nearby is a gift shop for visitors to take home prison moonshine, tee-shirts and other memorabilia.
Other experiences at this new East Tennessee attraction include their unique End of the Line Tennessee Moonshine distilled on-site. End of the Line sources local grains and water from the mountain’s natural springs.
Guests can also hear live music on the newly-built stage located in the former “back yard” of the venue. Country singer and songwriter Jamey Johnson will perform Saturday, Aug. 18. Johnson penned George Strait's "Give it Away," Trace Adkins' rowdy hit "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" and others. Johnson’s Top 10 hit “In Color” won Song of the Year at the 2009 CMA and ACM Awards.
The Museum at Brushy allows visitors to peer into the history of Tennessee’s most notorious prison. Inside the former inmates’ chapel are artifacts ranging from shanks and homemade tattoo guns to prison uniforms and bibles. Even the ladder James Earl Ray used in an attempted escape is on display. Ray was convicted in the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When the prison was decommissioned in 2009, the former employees and locals had the monumental task of preserving thousands of these artifacts.
Three interactive touch-screens display history, videos and archival news coverage from the 1950s-1970s. There’s also an 18-minute documentary with first-hand accounts told by former guards shown twice an hour in the movie theatre.
Tours of the former prison will be self-guided, with former prison guards nearby to answer questions or share brief stories. Each of the 14 stations contains a story about what happened in the particular spot, from violent histories to moments family members came to visit. Others will give you a glimpse inside the troubled minds of criminals who served time at Brushy.
About Brushy Mountain:
In 1896, Brushy began operations as a state operated convict-lease prison. In later years, convicts were enlisted to operate mines around state property. They even built their own prison, which was originally a large wooden structure. That was replaced by the castle-like fortress you see today. In 1969, Brushy Mountain was reclassified primarily as a maximum-security prison. The prison closed after 113 years of operation on June 11, 2009. Its functions were transferred to the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
The stone wall surrounding the prison was built in 1934. Standing at 18 feet high, it is constructed entirely from hand-carved stone. The north side of the prison wall is a natural bluff. Brushy is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only U.S. prison to have a natural bluff as a prison wall. The total cost for all the labor and materials was $45,960. Several buildings are constructed from hand-carved stone mined by inmates from a rock quarry above the prison.
For more information, visit www.tourbrushy.com/history.
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