Montgomery Bell Tunnel

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Montgomery Bell Tunnel
Montgomery Bell Tunnel.jpg
Montgomery Bell Tunnel (interior view)
Montgomery Bell Tunnel is located in Tennessee
Montgomery Bell Tunnel
Montgomery Bell Tunnel is located in USA
Montgomery Bell Tunnel
Nearest city White Bluff, Tennessee
Coordinates 36°8′48.6″N 87°7′19.4″W / 36.146833°N 87.122056°W / 36.146833; -87.122056Coordinates: 36°8′48.6″N 87°7′19.4″W / 36.146833°N 87.122056°W / 36.146833; -87.122056
Built 1819
MPS Iron Industry on the Western Highland Rim 1790s-1920s MPS
NRHP Reference # 94001188
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 19, 1994[1]
Designated NHL April 19, 1994[2]

The Montgomery Bell Tunnel, also known as the 'Patterson Forge Tunnel, in Cheatham County, Tennessee, is a 290-foot (88 m) long tunnel through limestone rock which was the first "full-scale" water diversion tunnel built in the United States. It is also apparently the first "full-scale" tunnel of any type in the United States, according to histories of tunneling. It was built in 1819 by Montgomery Bell using the labor of slaves.[3]

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.[2][3] It is now included in Harpeth River State Park.[4]

It was built at about the same time, but apparently slightly before, the 450-foot (140 m) Auburn Tunnel of Pennsylvania's Schuylkill Navigation Canal, which began use in 1821

In the late evening, on September 2, 2011, a fire was lit in the tunnel. The amount of driftwood from 2010's flood in the tunnel enlarged the fire. The fire was eventually extinguished in the early hours of the morning. The tunnel, and the road passing over it, were damaged. It and the road were stabilized, however, and Montgomery Bell Tunnel is again safe.


  1. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Montgomery Bell Tunnel". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  3. ^ a b Robie S. Lange (October 1993). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Montgomery Bell Tunnel / Patterson Forge Tunnel" (pdf). National Park Service. 
  4. ^ Harpeth River State Park." Retrieved: 2 July 2008.