A well-known club owner in Chattanooga, Tennessee named Billy Hull had the idea for The Swinger’s Tiki Palace as his ideal house. The mansion on Cliff Road, perched high atop Missionary Ridge, offered a panoramic view of the city. Architect Ed Ball set out to construct the most incredible house in Tennessee after spending two years developing it.
Before it was destroyed in 2017, the Swinger’s Tiki Palace in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had a shady and dangerous past.
For Bill Hull, the Tiki Palace was meant to be his ideal house. He was the proprietor of The Castaways Club and Lion’s Den, two adjacent strip clubs. Hull saw Mission Ridge, which has a view of the city, as the ideal location for his ideal house and gathering place.
The 5,600 square foot, three-bedroom home was renowned for its unusually shaped Playboy rabbit pool with swimming tunnels in the style of ears that led to the bedrooms.
However, the sleazy location was abandoned after Hull pled guilty to allegations of income tax evasion and then, in a different instance, was accused with murder for hire.
In 1951, when Billy and Gloria Hull were juniors in high school, they got hitched. Gloria Hull attended classes and worked the second shift at the Chattanooga Glass Company during their final year. Billy Hull spent a year or two working at the Peerless Woolen Mills following high school before enrolling at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee.
After earning his degree from Tennessee Technological University in 1958 or 1959, he returned to Rossville, Georgia, where he worked as a sand lab technician at Muller Company, a foundry. In 1958, the Hulls had their first child. Gloria quickly went back to work at Riviera Carpet Mill and stayed there until 1962, when their second child was born. She then started working at Concrete Forms.
Bill Hull commissioned Ed Ball, an architect, to create Tiki Palace in 1969. The most incredible mansion in Chattanooga took the architect two years to plan. Building took 14 months. When the mansion was finally finished in 1972, around 10,000 people came to its open house.
The house rose to fame for its distinctive swimming pool designed in the likeness of a Playboy, which was situated in the main living room immediately outside the front door. The pool is to blame for Tiki Palace’s appearance in the specialized magazine Electricity in Building.
The pool had a diving board at one end and was 20 feet by 40 feet and 12 feet deep. Electric heating and separate humidity controllers were installed for the immediate vicinity. To give the area a tropical flavor, live palm trees were planted all around it. A sizable chandelier was hanging from the ceiling as a last, extravagant touch.
The swimming tunnels from the pool to the bedrooms of the house, which were divided from the pool area by wide, tinted glass windows, was one particularly strange element. The two ears served as tunnels that disappeared into the bedrooms beyond since the pool was shaped like the Playboy bunny logo.
Visitors would discover a seating area with a fireplace, a bar, and an imitation rock waterfall next to the pool. This room’s walls were adorned with palm leaves, bamboo, and other animal heads from around the globe.
The entire Tiki Palace was coated in marble, including the hallways, bathrooms, and the living room in the back of the home, which had a marble bar and mirrored walls that led to a patio area. There were other amenities in the courtyard, including a 12-person jacuzzi, an open bar, and a sizable sauna.
Hull had high expectations for this huge, magnificent structure, but he was unable to take full advantage of it. Hull was found guilty in the spring of 1973 of bribing his friend Larry Parker to shoot his wife’s lover as he was leaving a competing club. Hull was given a 20-year prison sentence after four years of legal proceedings.
Although Hull was incarcerated, he continued to attend court. He was accused of corruption in 1977, but the allegations were dropped. Then, in the 1980s, Bill Hull was found guilty of tax evasion at his nightclubs as well as with regard to the fortune that his grandmother had amassed via the trade of illegal whiskey.
In the end, Hull filed for bankruptcy. Then Bill Hull passed away in 2008. The Tiki Palace was occupied by a number of persons who eventually left it empty and abandoned. It had been rather well preserved for a while, but that wouldn’t last.
Tiki Palace was placed up for sale in 2014. Unfortunately, it had suffered severe vandalism by the next year. The building was then seized by the city due to unpaid taxes. But because of the extent of the vandals’ destruction, the building had to be destroyed in September 2017.
Before the Tiki Palace was destroyed, Naaman Fletcher took the pictures. He is a Birmingham, Alabama-based photographer and explorer. Since 2009, he has recorded rural deterioration, industrial abandonments, and urban decay.
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