Jasper’s Gas and more.

On a sunny day in mid October of 2020 I found myself traveling to Jasper, Tennessee along with my buddy Jay Farrell. Our reason for going on this trip? To explore and document a gas station in Jasper that has been abandoned since the late 60’s or early 70’s.

The trip down from Nashville was a pretty good one and fairly uneventful, and once we hit Jasper we began out hunt for the old gas station. Jasper is a curious town. One of the major industries appears to be selling some beautiful houses located on the most prominent mountain top in Jasper which is near Chattanooga. I wont lie, if I had the money and the wish to live in a small town, a house on the mountain would be a tempting choice.

The pandemic has struck here in the Chattanooga area, plenty of fast food places are open while a number of non chain businesses are shuttered. I hate to see this. But this is the time we are in.

We tooled around Jasper until we finally found the highway we were hunting for and directly we found ourselves pulling up in front of a pill box of a building with a two door garage attached and old fashioned analog fas pumps sitting out front like tow forgotten sentinels.

After parking and walking up on the concrete pillbox that had once been a lively gas station we easily found a way in, half the far left wall of the garage had fallen in. This was to be a hallmark of the old station. In the words of Stephen King Jasper’s Gas Station was a victim of “slippage”. Slippage is what happens to everything eventually. You see it everyday. It’s the natural order of decay that happens all around us but especially in places that are abandoned and or forgotten. In short the world has moved on but Jasper’s had not.

The collapsed wall allowed us to venture in and explore. Right off the bat exploration gold is sighted! A steel dinosaur of a car, a late 60’s Chevy Impala sat buried under debris. Whatever had led to this beauty ending up here was a mystery, but battle scars stood out upon it.

I spent quite some time documenting the Chevy, then moved on to see what else was to be found. To one side was an old drinking fountain and near the right fender of the Chevy was an ancient television. Those old consoles weighed a ton, their bodies were solid and made of actual wood. The main tube and assorted smaller tubes inside weren’t light either.

a bit further up was assorted old bottles and and well, junk, assorted stuff one might find in a gas station. But above the mechanic’s well was another vehicle from the past, this one meant for the water, not the road.

The boat had wings. Wings? Why? Were they just a design feature? Why was this dry docked here? Maybe the outboard had locked up, or maybe it was meant to just sit here for a week or two and instead this garage had become it’s home? Regardless of the why, I loved shooting it and am glad to have come across it.

Our forward progress into Jasper’s had hit a snag. More “slippage” had ocured, the floor that led into the office had collapsed just like the wall that allowed us to enter. The floor sat some 6 feet below the building’s foundation, a mess of wood, glass, tile and appliances. We had little choice but to backtrack the way we’d come in if we wanted to shoot anything in the office and even that was a bit questionable.

Jay and I made our way around to the right side and began to look around for an entry point but it quickly became apparent this was not going to happen. A narrow sidewalk sat on the side of the office that led to a bathroom (floor collapsed as well), and a house out back. It must have been a convenient set up for the owner of Jasper’s Gas being able to quickly walk to and from work. But that was then and today the house looked as much a storage unit as the garage had become. Looking through a window I was able to take a shots of what the office had been like. I only wish a few sunglasses still sat upon their display.

Walking away from the widow that showed us what had become of the office of Jasper’s gas I cam across the center plate of a Cadillac’s hubcap. I liked how it still shined in the shade, surrounded by ivy and glass.

It’s always a bit sad once an exploration is done. These trips and explorations are truly enjoyable. More often than not they end up as a bust, but that’s ok. Its the getting out there and doing them that makes it almost as valuable as finding buildings where slippage is still going on but has not yet laid a location to waste. Perhaps the best part is relaying these experiences to you, the reader.

Youth caged

Marina Sepharina enjoys what light came in to her cell.

Recently model Marina Sepharina and myself shot a Dia de las Muertos (Day of the Dead) themed shoot at an abandoned Youth Detention Center, aka Children’s Warehouse.

Climb softly, watch your step. Footfalls stir the dust, our presence stirs something more?

All the doors were open yet led nowhere.

Right, left, desolation and ruin was the order of the day.

Likely Marina’s soft stare was the only gentleness seen here.

Some rooms still bore marks of expelled screams.

Don’t look too closely, you may find the fingernail marks that tore into that wall.

Marina ghosted about the floor, her freedom something others could only have dreamt of.

The light is captive too.

Pillars of gloom and rays of blue.

The oppressiveness is real, them heavy blues still extends to all.

In this dark place occsionally rays of hope make their way in.

A blast of fire, maybe something else?

Spirits can not stay caged!

Stone walls are not invulnerable.

SHOTS FIRED! Did the inmates take the asylum?

Or just another sign of abandonedment and decay?

After seeing so many doors blasted open we see some sealed tight. Why?

Finally, at least for Marina and myself.

If you enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos, you might be interested in buying a copy of my book Forgotten Tennessee. Its available in most bookstores, Walmart, Target, Costco, anywhere that sells books. You may also order it by following this link https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Forgotten+Tennessee+the+book&qid=1578419500&sr=8-1

The Journey Motel Court

Jay Farrell and myself headed out one morning for Memphis, TN. Jay had a book signing at Novel for his two Abandoned Tennessee books which are available in most bookstores and here https://www.amazon.com/Abandoned-Tennessee-America-Through-Time/dp/1634990552. We left Nashville early enough to get in some exploring before the signing as well as some afterwards.

We’d heard of the Journey Motel Court, an abandoned hotel in Memphis that would be worth our time checking out especially since it was only 20 mins from Novel the bookstore we needed to be at later that day. The day was a bright one and while there were tales about the perilous nature of the area in which we were traveling we arrived unscathed. Hoping out of our car we broke out our cameras and took in the Journey Motel Court. In the center of the property stands what was a gas station with a car port and a restaurant. On the Northside of the property was the motel office and rooms. To the South was a two story structure that looked as if the bottom was a garage while above was living quarters. This was would be the first building we would explore.

The Garage House

The Garage House was a bit odd to be honest. Originally Jay thought that maybe it had been for a mehcanic but the garage itself lacked a car lift and other featues a mechanics shop would have. I fet that it was likely for the car belonging to the Manager of the Journey. It was an ideal set up really. The manager was likely on salary and was needed on the premisies so why not live next to the Hotel? The garage’s chipped and ragged paint was blue and white and obvioulsy years old. Where a car would be parked a ham sized hole was in the concrete where some plumbing could be spied along with a small drop to the ground below.

Right above our heads was what I assumed to be the living quarters. We could see the open door to the space because the wooden floor above was for the most part gone. The condition of the 2nd floor pretty much ruled out exploring it. So with a bit more of shooting this and that we moved on and shot the outside of the Garage House. It would turn out we were both right, more or less. According to JoshWhitehead’s site http://cremedememph.blogspot.com/2018/01/journey-motel-court.html the building was a service garge and it is likely the mechanic stayed in the apartment above.

Standing in the grass behind the Journey Motel we could see the back of the Journey and deciced to explore the main building next. The grass sourrounding the motel stood at knee level the gound itseld uneven.

Up close cracks in the window panes were obvious and more than a few panes were missing. Further along the back we went. In the middle of the back of the hotel a small building stood with a steeply sloped roof. The door was heavily blockaded with large thick pieces of wood with the excpetion of a 8 inch space above the door.

Using a cell phone flashlight all that could be seen were a few stairs. There was no entering here. Imeediately behind this small entry was the rear wall of the motel (at one point a chimeny stood here). A narrow horizontal window gave us a view of the sparse interior of the Motel. A little further I found a door that was open a few inches so with a qiuck scan of the floor inside, Jay and I stepped into the Journey.

There wasn’t much too see of the back room, it was dark with a greenish cast to the light, here and there were holes in the floor, mainly beneath the windows. The main room was a bit more interesting with entries into side rooms and large windows that let in a good amount of light.

One open closet on the left revealed a floor that was severly damaged and showed a short drop to the ground below, while above were the broken and rotted risers of the stairwell to the 2nd floor where the inkeeper had an apartment.

To the right was a doorway leading to short hallway and restroom. As we explored the main room of the Journey I could hear a fluttering and sure enough a small grey bird was flying arund the room. I think it was a wren. The bird was stuck in the motel and eventually ended up battering itself against window panes of one othe main windows. I photographed the little birds efforts for a bit thinking it would fly out a an empty square. No, it kept batting itself agsinst glass. Finally the little thing sat exhausted sitting on the sill. I reached dwon and cupped the bird in my hand and raised it up to the vacant space in the window and off it went. No wave goodbye, no chirp of thanks, nothing. Ah well.

Beating at a glass prison.

Into the next room. Now let’s get something straight, abandoned places are never really abandoned. People and animals still come on go. They leave evidence of their passing but with little or no context.

In the next room a window was covered with a gausey curtain on the sill a dead wasp sat with it’s head down and wings open, like a crashed fighter plane while in the corner stood a child’s bike. It stood on the floor with broken glass sourounding it while children’s clothes lay in front of it. Why? In dark abandoned places you will find such relics without context and you will always puzzzle over their origins.

Red Group One is down!
Dark rooms, dark findings? Who knows for sure?

With nothing else to explore in the main building Jay and I left to see what we could of the actual motel where the office and actual guest rooms stood. Parked backwards and blocking entrance to the hotel’s breezeway was a bar with out of state tags.

No going in here. Further down was another car this one with Canadian plates and next to it in the grass was a thick grey extension line. Apparently someone was staying here. We could not gain access to the individual rooms, each had a heavy decorative metal door which was locked.

These were not light-weight security doors.

One door had heavy black plastic over it as well as the window. So with not much left to see we were on our way back to the car. That is when we met the guy who was staying there. Out of the room with the black plastic came a guy who stood about 5’9″ or so. Bearded, dressed in camo and sporting a revolver on his hip.

A baseball fan stayed here.
Signs of habitation.

Adam was his name, and yes, he was there to try and get the hotel into shape. He’d heard us and wanted to see who was on the property. This is not as rare an occurance as you might think. In an abandoned hotel in Nashville I’d run into several homeless people and a few law officers as well. Jay and I introduced ourselves as Urbexplorers and published authors who were out looking for material to go into upcoming books.

A limited interior shot of a room. Everything has been cleared out.

Jay and I were in luck, while Adam didn’t come out and admit to beiing a fellow Urbexplorer but we got the feeling he was. We shot the breeze for 15mins or so and Adam gave us a lead to chase. He told us to look for the Snuff Distriict and there we would find an old Snuff factory that was derilect. We should check it out and for us to not be disuaded by the 12 foot fence with razor wire surrounding the place. If we were dilignet and looked around we would likely find a way in, and we did. But that tale is for another day.

Oh, another bit I learned about the Journey Motel Court, it was the subject of a book titled Journey Motel Court: John Hardin Goes to Memphis by Jeff H. Martin, Sr.. The book is about two men saving the life of a Civil Rights Activist. You can learn more about the book by clicking here https://www.amazon.com/Journey-Motel-Court-Memphis-Journals/dp/1517369169/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516135095&sr=1-1

If you enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos, you might be interested in buying a copy of my book Forgotten Tennessee. Its available in most bookstores, Walmart, Target, Costco, anywhere that sells books. You may also order it by following this link https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Forgotten+Tennessee+the+book&qid=1578419500&sr=8-1

Forgotten Tennessee the Book

That’s right! ForgottenTennessee.com will be out in print courtesy of Font Hill Media’s America Through Time series. A rough release date of late August or September 2019 . Below is the cover which features one of my first explorations the Blackman cemetery.

Inside this book are assorted tales of my explorations around Middle Tennessee and Alabama. I will update this again once I have a firm release date. I will also be updating this with book signings since this book will be available at most bookstores as well as online.

I would like to thank my good friend and fellow photographer for turning me on to Fonthill and for the amazing trips we’ve been on.

An undergound vault

Old Rutherford County General Sessions Courthouse on the Square in Murfreesboro, TN.
  • Note, the following was shot in 2019. I’d started writing about this at some point and simply got too busy to finish it until now. Enjoy.

A few years ago I went into the Rutherford County Judicial Building on business. While there I noticed a large bank vault. The door to this vault had to be nearly a yard wide. Over the years I’d thought about that vault. Mainly it’s age kept bring me back to thinking about it. On the inside of the vault’s door Fram there had been a record of each time the vault had been serviced, some of those records dated back quite some time, some in the mid-twentys. I’d always wanted to see that vault again but time got away from me and in 2017 or so the building was closed down because Rutherford County had built a new Courthouse. Great, I’d never see that vault again. Or would I?

Sitting in my car on a beautiful day it occurred t my that I might just have a way to get into the now empty court house and Forgotten Tennessee, my book might be the key. So I went to the Rutherford County Clerk’s Office to see who I had to talk to to. After hitting a few dead ends I was directed to Mr. Ben Mankin, the Facilities Director for Rutherford County, Tennessee. Initially I was just going to leave a number for Mr. Mankin but no, I decided that finding him, and talking to the man in person was the right thing to do, and as it turned out it was. Mr. Mankin was leaning against a brick wall outside his building, smoking a nice smelling cigar. Introducing myself I told him about my wanting to see and photograph the massive vault I’d seen and that I wanted to include it in my next book. Then I handed Ben a copy of Forgotten Tennessee. Ben’s face lit up as he flipped the pages. After a bit of discussion Ben informed me that He could arrange for me to see and photograph that vault, and the other vaults as well. There were five vaults in total. Five? I had no idea! And one of the vaults was actually only accessible by going through an underground hand-hewn rough tunnel. We made a date for the shoot and away I went with a smile stretching from ear to ear.

Monday morning, 8am found me on the Murfreesboro Square, parked in front of the old Court House. As I checked over the two cameras I’d brought I found myself telling folks who were trying in vain to open the doors to the building. Apparently no one had told them that the court had moved a block over. Mr. Mankin showed up and in we went. I could smell the familiar scent of abandonment. Yes, the county was keeping the lights on and keeping the place clean. But when a building becomes “abandoned” it stops breathing. The smells that say people are there, that people walk, talk, and fill the space. Those smells vanish. The floor was filled with stacks of chairs and assorted building fixtures. and while the lights were on, some had either died or were off since there was no need for the place to be brightly lit up.

Leaves sit strewn about in place of the people who once hustled up and
down the hallways.
Abandoned places have a feel, and it’s own a scent.

We immediately made our way to a room off the main corridor and here was my vault. The shelves that once held office supplies and county information and files were all bare, the counters too. Here and there was a box filled with odds and ends and old office chairs seemed sprout here and there from the old carpet. But mostly my attention is drawn to the vault door, its sheer mass demands it. I walk about the door and admire its construction and find myself that this huge door with its complex mechanisims were built so long ago.

Twenty tons of steel.
Come on in.

As I walked around the interior of the vault Mr. Mankin explained a some of the more colorful aspects of the vault. For one, I had noticed the door was anchored open. Why? Because according to my guide the building had settled over the years and over those years the door had developed a habit of swinging shut, not entirely but close enough that one day an employee of the City had placed a chair at the entrance to the vault. The 21 ton door slowly shut and predictably crushed the chair. Mr Mankin mentioned that at the time there would have been no danger in the door closing and trapping someone in the vault, after all air was continuously pumped into the vault by a an air pump and generator in the basement. However, recently the generator had stopped working. If a person were trapped in here now, they’d be ok for at least a day. I had begun shooting around the vault and thought maybe that while I was happy to get in the building and shoot, it was a bit of a let down, that was until Mr. Mankin asked if I’d like to see the other vaults?

We left the big vault and went out a side door into what was a lobby for a bank, I’d no idea had been in existence. In this lobby I’m shown two smaller vaults, one no bigger than a closet, and can not be opened because at some point the combination had been misplaced (hopefully no one was inside).

The “Smaller” vault. Probably only 12 tons!

The second vault was much smaller, a wall safe basically, still the door is 3ft by 3ft. and hidden behind a wall panel. Up a flight of stairs we go to another vault, this one had served as the evidence room when the bank had become the Court House for Rutherford County.

I wont lie, I wish it was still full of evidence but sadly it had all been removed and all that was left were filing cabinets. Sensing my let down Ben, asked if I was ready to see the original vault for the bank, it had been built in the years just before the Civil War. I was of course thrilled to see it!

Down the stairs we went all the way to the basement then to a sub basement. I had no idea that such a space existed beneath Murfreesboro’s Square, but it did. At the base of the stairs a regular looking door stood before us, to the right was the entry to the sub basement. I stepped inside this dark barely illuminated space and gawked at the largest air pump/generator I’d seen. The pump was as large as a VW Beetle, and looked like it was built maybe in the 20’s. I was to find out that I was correct, it was indeed that old. Amazingly this anciemt pump had run every year for decades up until 6 years ago when it’s oil pump died and there was no way to replace it. I spent quite some time shooting the pump and the rest of the room. I was stoked! But we weren’t done yet. We went back to the ordinary looking door.

Mr. Mankin opened the door and my breath was taken away by the sight before me. Before me lay a long dirt tunnel lit only by a light at its end. To enter we had to step down onto the dirt floor and watchout for the very real chance of bumping our heads on the foundation of the building next to the one we were in. Down we went and forward the tunnel was no more than three and half feet wide and low enough that we had to walk hunched over. Halfway through the forty foot long shaft was a space on the left in which a plastic jack-o-lantern had been placed. Mr. Mankin’s crew had a sense of humor and liked to leave such morbid little knick knacks for him to find.

As we neared the end of the tunnel I could see there a larger space had been cleared. I took a moment to look around myself in awe. Directly in front of me was a wall of partially excavated dirt. The excavated part showed the foundation for the building above us. Only thick wood and stone columns were holding up the ceiling above us!

To the right of us was an ancient looking array of old wires that I assumed had been a phone switching bank. and beyond that was an old, pitted, rusting steel door that stood partially open. On its front was a combination dial and a large circular steel handle used for opening the vault. I stopped and just drank in the sight, then started shooting. This vault had been built just before the Civil War, and had been used throughout the years as extra storage. Inside the vault was a concrete room filled with old shelves, upon which were a few childrens toys. Creepy? Oh yes. But not as creepy as the dead bird I found in a drop down depression in the vault. How in the hell did a bird find its way into this place?

The original vault. Not at all daunting, is it?

During my exploration Mr. Mankin told me the vault was rumored to be haunted. While I didn’t see anything beyond what I captured with my camera I will admit the atmosphere was oppressive, and close. Was it ghost or just the fact we were in an underground vault built 159 years ago with tons of dirt and concrete above us supported by wood, river rocks and dirt? I’ll let you decide.

I really hope you enjoyed this exploration below the Murfreesboro, TN Square. Please leave a comment and follow me for more adventures. Be sure to buy my book Forgotten Tennessee, it can be found anywhere books are sold and at


Harlan, Kentucky. School is out, forever!

Lynch School, part I.

Harlan County, Kentucky is a county of stark beauty and bleak sadness. Once a bustling coal town it is in the process of a population exodus, and has been for decades. Jay and I had just finished shooting at The United  Supply Co. Corporation, a defunct company store, and we were now in search of the Lynch High School. It didn’t take long to find the school and like the company store and the Lynch Colored School, it sat in the middle of a neighborhood.

Look at the hand hewn blocks, amazing!

Pulling up to the school we parked in the gravel lot beside a school bus and quickly unpacked our gear. I slung on my pack and grabbed my tripod. Honestly, I seldom use my tripod, it’s big, cumbersome and heavy. However it was needed it because I had no doubt that I’d end up having to do some long exposures to capture a decent image, one can only hold their breathe so long. We didn’t have to try hard to find our way in. A door that at first looked secure was in truth easily opened. Into the darkness we went.

The Stygian darkness held secrets.
I wonder if anything is left inside of these?

To say the least I was damned glad I had decided to bring my tripod and tethered trigger, because while my eyes were fine at discerning details in the near darkness we found ourselves in, there was no way my camera was going to capture anything here without some shaking on my part. After quickly affixing my camera to the tripod and hooking up its trigger I began to shoot. Now keep in mind that even with a tripod none of the following shots would be easy. The floor under and before us was covered in inches of debris.

The muddy debris lay “inches” deep.

Dust covered trash, and broken tile work. Tile work similar to the kind Jay and I found while exploring an abandoned insane asylum in Alabama. Covering both was a film of condensation, rendering the dust and finer broken tile into an ugly and at times slippery slurry. Ah well, we knew this was not going to be a cake walk and the best explorations are filled with risk.

Yes, the stairs were as slick and tricky to navigate as they look.

Cave-like, is the word that came immediately to mind as I walked down the school hall we found ourselves in. Light fixtures hung from above. Before us, a semi darkness that barely hinted at another hallway. Behind us, on a landing was our only source of light, which wasn’t saying much since the day was overcast. On either side of us, were rooms of varying light or dark. Which way should we go? Forward, we decided to go further into darkness. Before we took too many steps though I decided to grab a flashlight from my back pack. If you ever get into Urbex invest in a couple of flashlights, they are invaluable additions to your kit, and just might keep you from a nasty end. As we started to explore we decided to check out the first room we came across, it was on our right, so in we went. Looking at the setup I figured this must have been used for a science class. The floor was a bit clearer except in the far corner. Light fixtures were dangled from the high ceiling while many others had succumbed to gravity and now lay across the floor.

Institutional green, how I loathe thee.

With the first room explored it was time to move on down the murky hall. For the next hundred feet or so there wasn’t much to see, visibility without a flashlight had dropped to almost zero. At last on our right we found a bathroom, I passed this up, there just wasn’t enough light for me to work with, and it was a bathroom. I didn’t feel the urge to go (get it?). The bathroom was at the top of a flight of stairs and we could see light coming from a doorway at the bottom! The stairwell’s treads were of course covered by debris and even more broken tile. This combined with the low light made a scene that practically begged for a rolled ankle, or slide all the way to the bottom of the stairs!This likely would have shredded pants, skin, and ego alike.

The light was ethereal.

Emerging from the stairs Jay and I found ourselves in the school gymnasium which was easily the width of the building and all things considering, it was in good shape. Now I’m not saying I’d suggest playing some ball, but the hoops were still up. Our luck was in, The floor was stable, and the light we had was amazing! There was just enough light to make walking safe since we could plainly see where the floor had buckled and or fell in.

There was an ethereal quality about the room, I could almost picture the people who must have filled the bleachers and ran across the floor during games. There are a few constants that we’ve come across in our Urbex adventures. They are; badly rendered graffiti dicks mostly, decades of litter from those who’d come before, and fire extinguishers. Lots fire extinguishers.

One of the constants an Urbexer will find whilst exploring.

Across the gym floor were bleachers and a very dark hall way, of course that was where we went. Only the smallest amount of light was coming in from doors that had to be at the end of the corridor. I decided to forgo going into the hall and decided to do some very long exposure shooting. Jay took the flashlight from me and waved it down the hall to help add a bit of creepiness to the shot.

Looks comfy, eh?
What lies within the dark?
Only a long time exposure and a flashlight knows.

Yeah, a creepy feel to a photo of a creepy assed corridor with a floor strewn with an accident waiting to happen and bring an end to a good day. This is why I said earlier to pack a flashlight.

End of Part I.

Harlan County, You’ll never Get Out Alive! But we did.

One of my favorite shows Justified, was based on Harlan County.

A little backstory on Lynch in Harlan County. Lynch was established in 1917 by US Steel. It built the town, it built the roads. US Steel owned the mines and everything in the town including the people. Miners were paid not in money  but in script. Script was only redeemable in one place, the US Steel Company Store. At its hey day Cumberland, Benham and Lynch made up the Trip-Cities. At one point there was enough of a population to boast the name. Sadly today the population has dropped to around 700 citizens. It’s the type of region where the residents are mostly above 65 and the youth leave as soon as possible.  

Sunday, March 16, 2020. They day before the pandemic pretty much shut everything down, Jay Farrell and I decided to take a trip to Harlan County, KY. There we hoped to find several abandoned sites to explore and shoot. 8am found us on the interstate driving up into Bluegrass country and then beyond that to mountain country. The slip from the from the relatively flat to hill country was subtle but after 4 hrs of driving our view became one dominated by mountains. Mountains grey, where uncountable small waterfalls cascade into culverts and gullies by the road. Skeletal trees marked our progress, as well as raging creeks and rivers, nearly swollen beyond the confines of their banks. The sky remained gray, birds chased one another and fog crowned every mountain before us. 

The mountains bring to mind Tolkien’s Misty Mountains

Highway 119 took us past Totz, Hiram, Chad, then a right onto E. Main Street through the small town of Benham which in opens up to Lynch. E. Main St., really is the Main Street of Lynch which is a surprisingly narrow road that winds like a ribbon through the town.

A coal shuttle, these stretch over the highway in many places.

Rounding a bend we stopped at the Lynch Colored School. Yes, I said The Lynch Colored Public School. Built in 1923 by US Steel the school sits right smack in the middle of Main St. This massive brick two story structure is imposing and  proud bearing. The grounds are surrounded by plaques dedicated to the Black Miners of Benham (https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/05/03/they-will-remember-us-the-miners-of-black-harlan/).  African American miners were quite often given the most dangerous jobs. 

Stretching our legs was our first concern upon exiting the car, it had been a long drive on our muscles needed to limber up as we gathered our cameras. One thing we noticed was that all the windows of the school had been boarded up, and whomever did it, did a damned good job. Usually a short walk around an abandoned property usually net us a small overlooked entrance into a building. This was not the case today though.

It was somewhat puzzling, there had to be a reason. Circling to the back it was plain to see that not all of the building was closed. Some local outfit a community group, still used the property and that  might be why the building was sealed so tightly. Still it was a little odd. With a rueful shrug I and Jay got back on our ride and went in hunt of our next site, the Lynch Graded High-School. 

On our way to the school we came across another abandoned building we’d been looking for. The United  Supply Co. Corporation, a company store.

I don’t think they wanted any tourists.

Clothes, food, mining equipment, and more could be had at the store. But there was a catch. Nothing could be purchased here with the dollar, no, the mining company had their own currency called Script. This is what the miners used in lieu of actual money. What’s worse is that the goods within the store were outrageously expensive. The goods were so expensive that miners and their families would be in constant debt to the store. Let’s face it, this was little better than indentured servitude. 

Parking in the adjoining lot of the Lynch Post Office we gathered our cameras and after an appreciative look at the building before us, we approached. We stood in the valley of the surrounding mountains and next to us stood a building made of hewn stone, almost resembling a small castle. Windows stood staring out at the world with vacant eyes. The walls were scorched in places, large pieces of plywood had closed ooff what must have been long impressive show windows. Here and there burn marks peeked out from the edges of the plywood. At first glance it looked as if there’d be no way oof entering the building, and to an extent this was true.

But Jay and I are dogged about what we do and are seldom quick to lose hope. As it was there was an awful lot of abandoned building eye candy to be had and shutters clicked away. On the right side of the old company store we found a loading dock of sorts with what looked like a collapsed tunnel that ran along the back of the store and behind that another structure stood right beside the river that flowed quickly alongside it. Splitting up Jay went his own way as did I. I made my way along the front of the store then down a bank into what looked like another smaller parking lot on the left side of the store. A small wing lay before me a doorway open black and gaping to the world.

I’d look into that later, right now it was the structure nearer the river I was interested in. There stood an alley of sorts between the two, the floor of which was now a vibrant moss green. This combined with the sparse foliage, and massive stone structures to either side the alleyway had an almost mystical look, with a bit of menace thrown in. I decided this would keep too. 

No, I wanted to find a way into the the smaller of the two buildings. Carefully ,I climbed down to the buildings entrance and stood looking at a massive mound of debris and could steel wire almost as tall as myself.

Beyond it was a wonder of destruction. The building stood empty, minus a roof. All the flooring was covered in green moss and hardy weeds and creepers. There was almost magically floating a small squarish room, that stood upon a few girders and below that what looked to be a square metal lipped entrance to the underground. If it had been possible I’d been happy to climb over the mound of wires to more fully explore the room before me. But, sometimes it’s best not to tempt fate too much.

None of the mound of debris before me looked stable, it was rife with small holes that could easily swallow a person’s foot and boom, like that we’ve a frigging trip ending accident. Thanks but no thanks! So with a regretful sigh I scrambled back up to higher ground and went left to expire the alley I’d spied. I loved the look of the alley far more than I did going thru it.

The stunted trees, bushes, creepers and roots poked, pulled, stabbed, and ensnared me forward movement. With a surge I emerged from the alley and stood beside the back of the company store. There wasn’t a lot to see, but I did like the look of the one metal roll-up door that had been tagged with the obligatory legend “ Do not enter”.

Well, at least it was better than a badly rendered dick. I stood there shooting the concrete lip of the loading dock wondering just how long the store had been empty and how bad the fire must have been? From the empty windows on the left and the right it was easy to see that parts of the ceiling had collapsed at one point and likely so had the floor beneath it. What about the ground floor? Had it fallen into the basement? There was no way to tell, it would remain a mystery. 

With a few more shots from the parking lot Jay and I began to hike back to the car and begin looking for main reason we’d come to Lynch, which was the old Lynch High-school. 

More to come from our Harlan County trip.

If I really know you I might share my locations. Otherwise, no.

Friends, fans, colleagues and more. Please stop asking me for my locations. The answer will be no. There are maybe 2-3 photographers who do what I do that I would share my locations with. But, the thing is, they don’t ask. As for “why” I’m not sharing? I’ve several reasons. Look at the photos I’ve put up. That portable tv, the Electrolux and more are outside the building, someone took them out. My worry is that sooner or later someone gets noticed or the the volume of people going in gets noticed and the location burns down, or becomes inaccessible. Then there is safety to be considered. There is physical risks, sometimes from people. Homeless folks. I’ve run into them. Some harmless, some scary. I thank my size and “Friendly” looks, they keep many at bay. Police? Yes, several times I’ve been approached by them . Police have seldom hassled me because I’ve learned how to deal with them. Also, my Dad was a Homicide Detective. I really don’t want people going to a location I’ve told them about and find out they’ve come to injury, arrest or are dead. Finally, while I do post my photos from my explorations, they are NOT all of the photos I’ve shot at a location. I have more. In the end they are all content for my next book(s). Ya know, one o the ways I pay my bills. In short, “y’all asking for the 11 secret herbs and spices”. It’s not, gonna happen unless I have gone exploring with you.
Thanks, this has been my Jerry talk.

-Jerry Winnett, ForgottenTennessee.com

An old mansion hidden from the eyes.

Before me stood an old mansion skeletal trees giving it a sinister aspect. .

It was one of those Sunday mornings when all signs practically shouted “GO SHOOT! GO! EXPLORE”! So I did. My target was an old mansion a friend of mine had told me about. She said that the house was only visible during late Fall or better yet the start of Winter. She was not wrong. I’d driven by the old house, several times, and damned if it was enticing. All I could see from the side of the road was a peeked rook and columns.

That Sunday I did a few drive-byes, looking for the best route to approach from. It pays to do this if you’re going to explore the abandoned. Once I decided on a course I parked my car well off the road, grabbed my Canon 1D with its 17-40lens. Inside my go-bag sat my flashlight, water bottles, protein bar, knife and my Fuji Xe1. With everything ready I slung my camera over my back, inhaled the fresh air and trekked down around some boulders and into a clearing. I hiked for a few minutes and then entered a small copse of woods. The grass was tall, yellow and dead, many of the trees had gone bare, but those that still had their leaves provided excellent cover. Not too much longer I found myself pushing through some brush, finally I could see the house. The house stood dark and foreboding, around it lay half a dozen dead and rusting hulks.

Fully entombed.
The welcome mat was not out, nor was a comfortable seat offered.

Slowly I began making my way through the creepers, vines and saplings that entombed several cars, I ad no idea how long they’d sat around rusting away, but the fact that trees had begun to form rings around them spoke of decades gone by. An old light blue chevy pick up sat by itself and slightly behind it was an old AMC station wagon.

Sky blue, rusty red, its days of running have fled.

Crossing from one copse of trees I made way a little further from the the house looming behind me. To the left about thirty yards or so I could see some more older cars. An old Plymouth was on the ground, its passenger door wide open.

Wings baby!

Crouching down I shot some of the Plymouth’s interior, moved around to the left and shot some of the old car’s body then with a smile moved over to the even older 30’s era Dodge Coupe. Oh, my. This car must have been a real beauty in the past. Not that I didn’t find it beautiful now. I did. I loved the rusted patina, the curves that no car possess today, especially the fenders! I was in love.

Dodge Brothers
My eyes kept going back to that benighted roof line.

Back into the clearing I moved, not stopping until I stood in the yard. In front of me sat a plastic chair, to the left of my another old car and truck. A 60’s era Dodge of huge proportions, and a little Datsun with a magazine open on the trucks hood.

A dinosaur from Detroit sat in the yard.
This dates back to the Truman era.

I had to stop and shoot said publication, it was old. It was a great find. It gave some kind of a timeline of those who had lived in the house. The porch was a wreck. Old magazines, tools, papers, and the like made an unsteady carpet all the way into the gloomy interior. Pausing in the doorway I took a deep breath let is out and bracing my camera firmly I began to shoot the first room.

An ocean of detritus.
You’ve no idea how long I had to hold my breath.

An ocean of detritus dominated the main room. I walked around a bit, but the light was sparse and the floor was sketchy in the best places. Room two was something that looked like the entrance to hell itself.

Bottom floor, the Gate to Hell, all off.

Going through this room was a nerve tingling endeavor. Parts of the floor were firm, other parts were “squishy”. Yes, squishy. Fun times. I took the door to the left (the right was an exit), stepped through into a room with an enormous hole in the far wall.

Sit a spell before you go upstairs.
I really love discovering old pianos!

I spied another door and went into the Music Room! Where another piano of sorts dominated one wall. I’m really not sure the instrument was a piano or something else. Whatever it was, I liked it!

I loved the light that played across the surface of this beauty.
Wonderful light filled the room, that door with its stained glass was a favorite.
The way back out.

I walked out that door onto the front porch. Here I felt my hair rise. Did a ghost flick my ear? No, the boards under me sagged from age. Luckily for me they held. I sighed in relief. I stepped off the porch and starred for a bit at the wrap around balcony was built upon the porch’s roof. I imagine the balcony afforded a wonderful view.

I walked around to the side of the the house to better check out that enormous hole in the wall. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, what I got was truly a shock. The massive hole was caused by a collapsed chimney! bricks lay like a ramp leading up to the house. It was quite a sight! I loved it!

The chimney lay vomited upon the grass making a ramp leading into back into the house.

By this time I was growing a bit tired and decided to shoot just a little longer. I rounded the back and discovered another wrap around porch. This one was littered with discarded appliances and assorted brick a brac.

How this chair continues to stand is beyond me.
There’s a tea pot, short and stout.
Nothing sucks like an Electrolux!

Finally I felt I had shot all I really could and began the trek back through the trees. On my way though I stopped as I spied yet another old rusting truck that during the spring and Summer would have been consumed by the greenery. Walking over I began to shoot this latest find from the 40’s or 50’s.

Yet another TV, this one was portable.

Finally with one last look back at this house that was too proud to fall, I left with a feeling of contentment and an itch to look at what I had captured.

I hope you enjoyed this Forgotten Tennessee exploration into the abandoned. You can see more in my book Forgotten Tennessee available in most bookstores or simply click on the link https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=forgotten+tennessee&qid=1580969569&sr=8-1

A special book signing

I stopped by the Rutherford County Historical Society this morning at the invitation of James Allen Gooch. The occasion? To sign his copy of Forgotten Tennessee. I was happy to do so, after all, he is in the book.

And it looks like I will be a speaker at the Historical Society Feb. 16th, more info to come.

Green Machine

Walking up on this building the first thing we noticed is that the walls had for the most part fallen away.

In 2019 I and a fellow explorer Jay Farrell, decided to explore a derelict furniture factory in McKenzie, Tennessee. Below are photos taken from an out building that cut glass and mirrors for the factory. Gettinginto the structure still was no easy feat. The front of the building was cluttered with old and broken wooden frames and other random bits of this and that. But once in, we could see a building that was dominated by one large green machine.

On top of the walls having fallen away the ceiling wasn’t faring much better.

At first I’d no idea as to what the machine did but soon that question was answered. The green machine was a glass and mirror cutter.

I was amazed to find these mirrors unbroken. Another pallet was not as lucky.

Looks were deceiving though. What I thought to be a large machine turned out to actually be a very large machine indeed that took up two stories and had its own elevated walkway.

I walked along the gangway and shot the mirror cutter from afar but now I was wanting to get some detail shots in. This old machine is to be honest, damned cool.

Green for miles….
Looking up from below its still a stunning green machine.

No machine lasts forever, rust eats them all, eventually.

If you enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos, you might be interested in buying a copy of my book Forgotten Tennessee. Its available in most bookstores, Walmart, Target, Costco, anywhere that sells books. You may also order it by following this link https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Forgotten+Tennessee+the+book&qid=1578419500&sr=8-1

Mud Hollar Rd.

The front looked as if it had burst open.

Recently on a photo expedition with my buddy Jay Farrell we came across a road called Mud Hollar. Mud Hollar? with a name like that we were sure we’d find an abandoned house or shack of some sort. We were not wrong.

It looked “burst open”, that was my first impression of the little White House that sat on the side of the road. In front was a massive tree, its placement giving an idea as to how long the house had stood empty. While jay made to go and photograph a small gnome like shack a little further up the road, I moved to check out the main building. To be honest the footing beneath me was loose, spongey and disturbing.

Ever see a backyard made up of rusty sheet metal? Here you go.

Rusted sheets of metal were also underfoot and more sheets lay about further up a hill and into what was a heavily wooded space.

The side of the house we’d found was really odd. A window was in the side of the wall but the ground was almost even with the sill and just a little further down was a roof covered porch of some sort with trash strewn about.

This is of course where I made my entry into what had been the site of a pretty bad fire. The walls were charred black, ash and mud and assorted junk made up the floor, and while this place would win no awards for cleanliness there was a table with a cleanish looking frying pan. The little burned up shack was making an effort at hospitality if nothing else.

What must have been a living room at some point was nearly impassible, with the ceiling and roof having fallen in. These too were charred. On the far wall a calendar was tacked to the wall, Jay informed me that the calendar was from 1978. From the state of the walls and the amount of dirt-mud-gunk that now made op the houses floor it was easy to believe this place had been empty since ’78, well, of humans. I’ve no idea squirrels and raccoons had made this place their personal Air BnB.

I spent a good half and hour walking around inside shooting this and that but eventually made my way outside to the backyard. No, not a yard, rather a hill. A hill that had likely been growing larger and slowly moving to envelope the house? Another 20 years or so might see the back of the house consumed by the mound of dirt and grass.

Here the footing was no better than the footing on the side. I had to keep readjusting my stance to keep a foot from sinking into the loam, or from going ass over tea kettle. Here in the back stood more junk, old glass jars and bottles, large rusted cans that could actually be mistaken for pony kegs.

Finally I had made a full circuit of Casa de Charred to Hell and Back. Leaning back on the car I went through the photos I’d taken and wished that there’d been a few more personal affects left inside, but after 41yrs of being abandoned I was just surprised the house was still standing.

If you enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos, you might be interested in buying a copy of my book Forgotten Tennessee. Its available in most bookstores, Walmart, Target, Costco, anywhere that sells books. You may also order it by following this link https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Forgotten+Tennessee+the+book&qid=1578419500&sr=8-1

Until next time.