Preserving Haunted History–Tennessee

N.B. This article originally included a section on the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville. That has since been moved into a new article.

Temperance Building
Walden and Roane Avenues
Harriman, Tennessee

Historic preservation and hauntings go hand in hand. Most often, those places known for their paranormal activity are also places that have preserved a great deal of their history: Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; St. Augustine, Florida and Natchez, Mississippi would most certainly qualify. This notion has made strange bedfellows at times with historians, scholars and preservationists teaming up with ghost hunters and paranormal investigators to help preserve historic locations. This was recently seen in an article from Britain’s Daily Mail, though the author takes it in more of a tongue in cheek fashion.

Temperance Building, 2010. Photo by Brian Stansberry, courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’d be interested to know how the citizens of Harriman, Tennessee and their efforts to restore their city hall reached the ears of the British Press. One wonders if they hacked the cellphones of the local city government in order to extract some of the details. Really, a story made the rounds via the Reuters News agency in a more respectful article by Tim Ghianni.

Harriman, Tennessee is a quiet town in East Tennessee, just off of Interstate 40 near Knoxville. The town was founded in 1889 by leaders in the Temperance Movement, the Victorian movement to free the country from the vise-grip of the vice of alcohol. Hopefully this utopia would provide a cleansing presence among the moonshiners of Appalachian Tennessee. In the Panic of 1893, the East Tennessee Land Company, which had been established to create the city, was forced into bankruptcy, though the Temperance leaders involved in the town marched forward. The large Romanesque revival structure on Roane Avenue was constructed to house the land company and with its closure, the building became the main hall for American Temperance University.

In the second year of the university’s existence (1894), it boasted some 345 students but that number dwindled by 1908 and the university shut its doors. The large building then served as a jail and went through a number of other uses before being occupied by the City of Harriman as a City Hall. Recently, the over 120-year-old building has required more and more maintenance; work that a city in the grips of the economic recession that has plagued the US can ill afford.

Locals have described the antique edifice as haunted for quite some time. The building is listed in John Norris Brown’s encyclopedic Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee website. Brown mentions that shadowy apparitions have been reported in the structure which have been identified as some of the early city leaders. These reports brought out the investigative team from G.H.O.S.T., the Ghost Hunters Of Southern Tennessee to investigate the building recently.

During their investigation, the team captured possible video evidence of spiritual activity as well as EVPs which they presented to the city council. In displaying this evidence, they have suggested that the city consider hosting tours and paranormal investigators with the city taking half of that revenue for use in restoring the building. This is a concept which has been employed successfully elsewhere including the Old Jail in Charleston, South Carolina.


  • American Temperance University. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 January 2012.
  • Brown, John Norris. “Temperance Building.” Ghost & Spirits of Tennessee. Accessed 18 January 2012.
  • Ghianni, Tim. “Ghost Hunters to raise money for ‘haunted’ Temperance Building in Harriman, Tenn.” The Huffington Post. 15 January 2012.
  • Harriman, Tennessee. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 January 2012.
  • Keneally, Meghan. “Modern-day ghostbusters hoping to save their haunted house with guided tours may have a problem: lack of scary ghosts.” Daily Mail. 17 January 2012.

3 Replies to “Preserving Haunted History–Tennessee”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *