Millennium Manor Castle – Alcoa, Tennessee - Atlas Obscura

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Millennium Manor Castle

Alcoa, Tennessee

One man’s religious convictions led him to build this stone castle meant to withstand an apocalypse. 


William Andrew Nicholson spent nearly a decade constructing this mysterious castle. In 1937, at the age of 61, he began building the Tennessee home by hand with some assistance from his wife Emma Fair. The Nicholsons believed that Armageddon (apocalypse from the Book of Revelations) was coming, and built their home to withstand whatever forces might come. Constriction was completed in 1946, and the building was dubbed the Millennium Manor Castle.

Nicholson used his flatbed truck to pick up a gray stone that can be found in the neighborhood and pink stone from a local quarry. The entire structure is made of thick stone surfaces. The exterior walls are more than two feet thick, and the interior walls are at least 19 inches thick. The floors are more than four feet of stone, and the roof weighs in at more than 400 tons. Outside the house is a well that measures some six stories deep. A stone wall encloses the castle and the surrounding land.

Unfortunately, Nicholson never got to see whether the apocalypse arrived as he expected. He passed away in 1965 and he did not leave a will, because he thought he would live for eternity. The Nicholson property was abandoned and vandalized for years.  

Current owners Dean and Karen Fontaine purchased the home for $40,000 in 1995, after hearing about the sale of the property from the local news. Fontaine was a firefighter and was intrigued by the idea of a house that wouldn’t burn down. The Fontaines reported hauling off eight containers of trash and debris before they started restoration work.

They are currently remodeling the property, they are in the process of updating all of the rooms. Fontaine has added battlements to the tops of the original exterior walls and made additions to the courtyard. Locals have stopped by and donated medieval-style weapons and swords to add to their collection and the new castle’s aesthetic. The Fontaine originally wanted to live in the home, but they decided to open it up for public tours. In 2019 they registered with the National Registry of Historic Places. 

Fontaine is currently writing a book about Millennium Manor Castle with some of the interesting things he has learned about the property. Local lore is that the Nicholsons may be buried on the property in an unmarked grave. Emma Fair is believed to be buried in the walls. The Fontaines state that the Nicholsons have been laid to rest at the nearby Clark’s Grove Cemetery.  

Know Before You Go

The Fontaines have recently decided to offer public guided tours on summer weekends from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are $15 per person, with a maximum of $40 for up to 8 people. Other times by appointment at 865-255-6970 

Outside of the tours, you can see the outside but remember it’s a private residence so don’t enter the grounds unless the sign says it’s open.

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