Tennessee State Prison, Nashville, TN


A few years ago I was tooling around the Charlotte and Whitebridge area in Nashville, TN looking for something to shoot. I decide to take White Bridge out to Centennial Blvd. and try to get some shots of the decommissioned Tennessee State Prison. I had no hopes of success it was after all heavily guarded and even had a manned guard shack with a drop gate.

I pulled up to the guard shack, and could not imagine my luck. The. shack was empty and the gate was up! I sat there and then honked my horn just to see if anyone might show up. After a few minutes I said screw it, I’m going in! I drove around and found a place to hide my car and then spent the next 3 hours happily shooting the compound.


Above: The main building


Above: Inmate housing


Above: More inmate housing


Above: Power Plant

I walked further back into the compound to what I guess were the exercise yards and and Guard Towers. What struck me was the shear size of the place. I’d no idea that the prison was so big, check out the towers and gates.


Above: Main prison yard gate “Enter freely of your own good will”!


I knocked but no one answered. 


Grim, eh?

As I was wandering around I came across one particular gate that stood out. The massive steel portal had suffered some severe damage to it, at its top. How in the hell did this happen? To say the least it intrigued me.


Did Mighty Joe Young stop by?


As I walked about I began to notice that there were a lot of very large birds flying about. I stopped for a second and really checked them out. I asked myself “Are those vultures? Yes, yes they are”. I then realized that many was an understatement there were hundreds who seemed to be concentrated in one yard in particular. I walked to this yard and shot flock after flock of vultures as they flew about the yard. I began to notice that the flock was several flocks and each took turns alighting upon a Guard tower, sitting for a bit then flying off to be replaced by another flock.


Popular Vulture hangout

FLIGHT 02 sig

Land, stand, move on. 


More of the same. 


After about three hours of shooting I decided to go to a little cottage to the side of the prison and see if anyone was inside. Once there I knocked on the door and waited. Eventually this tall and hugely built African American guard comes to the door. He stared at me in perplexity. I introduced myself as a photographer and asked if there was any way he might allow me into the prison to shoot? Yeah, bad idea. He asked how I’d gotten onto the grounds? He seemed a bit upset that there had been no one at the gate. He then proceeded to ask me if I’d like to see the inside of the local jail? I was lucky that day, the guard gave me exactly to the count of 10 to vacate the premises. I pretty much flew out of there not unlike the birds. I hope you enjoyed reading this exploit from Forgotten Tennessee. If you’d like to buy a print or two email me: Jerry@ForgottenTennessee.com

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