Sept 30th, 2019 is the drop date for Forgotten Tennessee Backroads and Roadside Surprises! This is a pictorial journey of some of my explorations in Tennessee and Alabama! It will be available in actual physical bookstroes and on Amazon!
and one day, one day that building is going to fall.
This is the United Warehouse building in Memphis Tennessee. From a distance you can see that on top of this sealed up building is a water tower. A very big water tower who’s contents leaks constantly like a waterfall. On the top floor there can be seen greenery. Trees and more have taken root and I can only imagine what has grown inside on the walls even as the floors themselves weaken from this watery assault. As I said one day, one day this building will fall. The sound will be deafening, the bricks and dust will not settle, rather it will be swept away by the countless gallons of water that pour forward from the buildings water supply.
A few weeks ago Jay Farrell and I decided to take a trip to Memphis Tennessee to hunt and photograph ababndoned buildings. Almost imnmediately we had to detour from the interstate to a rural country highway due to a wreck. Our detour took us through Dickson, TN which is where we came across a trully sad sight, an abandoned Driv- In Movie Theatre. These theatres were special to me, I remeber living in Wyoming and going to the Drive In at least 0nce a month from early spring til early fall.
Parking we took some time to shoot the entry and then we meandered off towards the concessions/projector building. I found a door that had been left open so I walked on in and began to expore. There wasn’t much to see though, the place had been picked clean.
Outside there were rows of poles that once held the drive-in’s speaker (these would be hung inside the car via the driver’s door window), and in the distance stood the big screen itself.
Walking back to the car I could only hope someone at some point might re-open this spot. Drive-In’s were so much fun to go to, it’d be nice to see today’s kids enjoy them too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.