Explored: originally May 23, 2002; significant updates on January 31, 2015
We first wrote about the "big building in the middle of Kentucky Lake" back in 2002. At the time we weren't aware of what it was when we first saw it, so we did some research at the local Houston County Public Library in Erin, Tennessee.
It is known as the Old Danville Grain Elevator as well as the Danville Wharf and Danville Transfer Station. It was built on the banks of the Tennessee River about 300 yards from the L&N Railroad in 1914. The purpose of the building was to transfer barges of grain and other goods from the river to railcars above.
It contained six levels with the bottom three being open for boats carrying cargo to unload their goods from the river. The lower levels accommodated the water level fluctuation of the river. Two twenty-horsepower elevators carried cargo from the lower levels to trains docked at the fourth level. Primary commodities were peanuts, grain, limestone, iron, and cotton.
It was in operation until the early 1940s when TVA began clearing out the area for the creation of Kentucky Lake. The lake would be created by building a large dam downstream at Grand Rivers, Kentucky. The waters would permanently rise 55 feet which would flood most of the building and the surrounding area.
Why TVA decided to leave this structure instead of tearing it down (like what they did with entire towns) is interesting. Some say it was meant as a channel marker. My thinking is it was just too costly to tear down, for it is a massive concrete structure.
You can read more about this building on our Danville Railroad Bridge exploration and how the two were related.
This photo, shot on April 26, 2003 from the west abandoned railroad levee with the lake elevation at normal summer pool, shows the bottom floors nearly submerged. If you look closely, you can see a boat docked on the left with people inside. We do not recommend this, for this building is 100 years old.
The backside of the old Danville Grain Elevator before the creation of Kentucky Lake.
The front of the transfer station before the creation of Kentucky Lake.