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Abandoned Places: Eastern State Hospital Farm Dorm

Explore the grounds of the former mental hospital farm dorm that eventually became an agricultural research campus.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — John A. Kreis was the son of Harmon Kreis, a member of the 59th General Assembly and a wealthy marble manufacturer. Between 1910 and 1917, he purchased some of the land and established the Riverside Dairy.

In 1943, the creation of Fort Loudoun Reservoir inundated a portion of the Lyons View Mental Health Hospital's farm, also known as Lakeshore Mental Health Facility, and Kreis arranged for the hospital to trade what remained of their farm on Post Oak Island for his Holston River property.

On Jan. 9, 1943, the United States, acting through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), purchased the Kreis Farm, along with Boyd Island and the H. F. Wattenbarger Farm.

The land was deeded to the State of Tennessee and ultimately combined to form the Eastern State Hospital Farm.

Then the Tennessee State Department of Corrections, which oversaw state psychiatric hospitals prior to 1953, constructed a complex of buildings on the eastern end of the property near the Holston River, including a large dormitory and water storage tank.

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Known as the Eastern State Hospital Dairy Farm, mental health patients were housed in the dormitory and worked on the farm.

It is unknown whether Kreis sold his dairy herd to the state or a new one was acquired. However, between 1950 and 1955, the Eastern State Hospital dairy was listed in the City Directory as part of Eastern State Hospital.

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This facility closed in the late 1960s and was deeded to the University of Tennessee in 1973. However, the City of Knoxville used a portion of the Eastern State property for the Knoxville Community Release Center for a period.

Center director Dr. Bobby Simpson started working for UT Agriculture during this time. He remembers seeing people around, but said they mostly kept to themselves.

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“I can faintly remember someone at the gate, and I can faintly remember people at the picnic tables,” Simpson said. “We had work to do and didn’t think much about it really.”

Today, the UT East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center Holston Unit operates the property as an outdoor agricultural teaching and research laboratory. The main areas of study include beef cattle, forage production and weed management.

Farm crew leader Derick Hopkins said former workers and patients have come back to see it and reminisce.

“We have a lot of older people that spent time over there that drive out just to reminisce,” Hopkins said. “To be honest with you, I wouldn’t be a bad place to stay, if you’re looking out the front door at the view. It’s a beautiful view.”

While the property is still used, the dormitory remains shuttered and unused, a slowly decaying reminder of the Eastern State Hospital Farm.

Reporter’s note: Though many of these buildings are unused and empty, they sit on private property that is still actively used in some cases. DO NOT attempt to unlawfully enter any of these places without permission. Many of them are structurally unsound and pose potential health hazards, like asbestos and lead paint. 10News contacted all owners prior to visiting.

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