NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Gloomy, overcast skies loomed over the old Tennessee State Prison off Briley Parkway in Nashville, reflecting the aura of its dark history.
When the prison opened in 1898, it was considered one of the most modern and humane prisons in the country.
On opening day, the facility designed for 800 was overcrowded with 1,400 prisoners.
After years of inmates like Martin Luther King Junior’s assassin riots, and executions, the prison was forced to close in 1992 because of inhumane conditions.
“For me, I’ve always wanted to go inside,” said Brian Siskind.
In a twist of irony, many people have snuck onto the property in search of breaking the cloud of mystery surrounding what’s been nicknamed The Wall, Old Red Top and The Castle.
The Tennessee Department of Correction does not allow the public on the prison property. Matter of fact, our cameras aren’t even allowed beyond the railroad tracks.
TDOC says asbestos adds a safety issue too.
They commissioned Siskind to document what’s left of the prison.
The fortress-like facility served as a backdrop for The Green Mile, among many movies, and was finally getting its own close-up.
“Peeling paint, a lot of dust. Walking around, you can feel the history of what happened there,” said Siskind. “I felt a lot of empathy for people that had been in that position because everybody makes mistakes and I’m sure a lot of people spent time there that actually didn’t do anything wrong.”
Legend has it the old prison has seen its share of ghostly encounters.
“I’m sure that there are spirits of all kinds roaming through a place where that much happened,” Siskind said. “You can’t help but feel like it’s a little bit creepy.”
Siskind said he hopes people can see beyond that.
“A lot of people have been executed there, a lot of families have suffered a lot of hardships about things that have gone on there so for me what was most important was honoring all sides of the experience of what the prison system is while also making light of this is just a beautiful piece of architecture that’s very rarified in Nashville anymore,” said Siskind.
TDOC still runs the property, and there is an annual 5-k run on-site benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.
March 3rd Tornado
On March 3, 2020, a deadly tornado left parts of Middle Tennessee in shambles. TDOC reported the State Prison was also damaged in the storm.
The prison suffered extensive damage, with pictures showing piles of brick and rubble all over the historic compound.