- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

PETROS, Tenn. (AP) - The transformation of a once-notorious prison into a tourist attraction and distillery in dry Morgan County is moving forward.

Developers have laid most of the groundwork for converting the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary into a huge moonshine distillery complete with a museum, prison tours, RV park and music festival venue, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (https://bit.ly/1M9aO6G).

Chattanooga developer Brian May said he can’t give a timetable for when he expects construction on the Petros property to take place.

May, along with entrepreneur Pete Waddington and former Chattanooga mayor Jon Kinsey, made dozens of trips to Nashville to get the state’s go-ahead to transfer the property to Morgan County in January, May said.

The prison’s small cells, festooned with the inmates’ graffiti, will remain essentially unchanged, May said.

Visitors “want to see prisons as close to the way they were” as when they were in operation, May said.

Other details, from utility changeovers to where to place the RV park, are still works in progress.

In 2013, voters in dry Morgan County approved a proposal to allow the distillery.

Morgan County Mayor Don Edwards praised the developers’ progress, saying the developers have thus far fulfilled their promises. The project is expected to create more than 100 new jobs.

Residents “may not necessarily be for liquor, but they are for jobs and development,” Edwards said.

Designed in the shape of a Greek cross and resembling a castle, Brushy Mountain Prison opened in 1896.

During the prison’s long history, some of the state’s most violent and notorious inmates were housed there, and on-site troublemakers were sent to “the hole” - small, dark, solitary cells beneath the prison chapel.

The prison gained national fame in 1977 when James Earl Ray, convicted killer of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and six other inmates escaped for four days.

Remaining inmates were transferred out of the prison in 2009.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com



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