PETROS, Tenn. (WATE) – After decades of housing dangerous criminals, a former East Tennessee prison will officially open as a tourist attraction this weekend.

The historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary is opening as a visitors attraction this weekend after a lot of hard work and changing hands several times. The former maximum-security prison will feature a museum, distillery and restaurant. 

There will be tours with former prison guards on hand to answer questions and share stories. 

The penitentiary held infamous criminals such as James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr and Byron Looper, killer of Tennessee State Senator Tommy Burks.

In the novel The Silence of the Lambs, Dr. Hannibal Lecter makes a deal in which he is to be transferred to Brushy Mountain in exchange for information about the serial killer Buffalo Bill that would enable authorities to rescue his latest victim. 

Ground was broken on renovations three years ago after the site was handed over to the Morgan County Economic Development Board.

The new owners are hosting a special concert to celebrate the grand opening on Saturday, July 28 beginning at 10 p.m. Fairview Union and Robert Lee will perform on the attraction’s brand new concert stage. 

For more information about the history of Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, upcoming events, tour reservations and ticket info, visit