Located high atop Missionary Ridge overlooking Chattanooga, the Swinger’s Tiki Palace began as a dream home idea of a prominent strip club owner, Billy Hull. Hull owned The Castaways Club and the Lion’s Den which were next door to each other. After two years of planning, architect Ed Ball set out building the most fantastic house in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Anticipation grew as the house took 14 months to complete. Finally, in 1972, close to 10,000 people attended the open house.
The 5,600 square-foot home had three bedrooms and 4.5 baths. The house received a bit of notoriety after being featured in a 1972 issue of the trade publication Electricity in Building Magazine for its unique Playboy-style pool. The pool had swim tunnels leading to separate bedrooms. The bedrooms were modest in size compared to the large indoor living room/pool area.
In the early hours of May 3, 1973, Larry Parker, a friend of Billy Hull, shot and killed Roland Hargis, Gloria Hull’s boyfriend, as he was leaving the Tradewinds Night Club. A victim of his lifestyle, the evidence was overwhelming. Billy Hull was found guilty of murder-for-hire and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Parker was found guilty of manslaughter. Hull fought his conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which affirmed it four years later. During the trial, Parker brought forth another unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot implicating Billy Hull on a second murder charge.
In the summer of 1976, a former Chattanooga police officer made allegations of corruption in the police department and city attorney’s office. One of those claims was that the assistant district attorney picked up alleged sex workers at Castaways and brought them to Billy Hull’s house. The officer making the allegations had worked at some point at Castaways Club. During Hull’s murder trial, allegedly the same cop had set up the victim, so Hull could get his mug shot to give to the hitman.
A six-month investigation into the corruption allegations concluded in March 1977, and no merit was found in the claims. A report from the investigation said that people paid by Billy Hull were the source of many of the allegations in an effort to take down the sheriff. No charges were filed against Hull since paying people to lie wasn’t against the law, and no one made the allegations in open court.
Hull was acquitted on an arson charge in November 1977 when the star witness for the prosecution recanted his statement that Billy Hull had paid him to burn down a competing club in April 1973. Another witness – who was also involved in the murder-for-hire plot Hull orchestrated – said Hull had talked to him about burning down the club. However, Hull’s lawyer attacked the additional witness’s credibility due to his extensive criminal record.
The Playboy pool was the focal point of the home and the first thing you would see once you entered the front door. With a chandelier overhead, the massive 12-foot deep, 20 x 40-foot pool was electrically heated and had separate humidity controls. A faux rock waterfall and diving board sit on the far side with a fireplace with a sitting area and full bar. Large tinted glass walls separated the bedrooms from the pool room over the swim tunnels.
In April 1979, 32-year-old James Corvin’s body was discovered in the trunk of a stolen car at a Chattanooga hospital. Corvin was shot, and the body had likely been in the car for several months. Sixteen years later, a Crime Stoppers program led to the arrest of James Steven Turner of Ringgold, GA. Turner was charged with Corvin’s murder. Years earlier, Corvin had been a defense witness in Billy Hull’s murder trial.
Live palm trees were planted around the pool area. The walls were covered in tiki-style bamboo, palm matting and animal heads from around the world. Each bedroom also had closed-circuit tv monitors with feeds from the pool room as well as an intercom system. The hallways and bathrooms were covered floor to ceiling in marble. The living room in the back of the house had another full marble bar and mirrored walls leading out to the patio area. The patio area featured a 12 person jacuzzi tub, copper top outdoor bar as well as a large sauna.
The 1980s were no easier on Billy Hull. Charges of tax evasion of his night clubs while being incarcerated led him to go bankrupt. At one point Hull told the court that he made a substantial amount of money from helping his grandmother with her whiskey bootlegging business. He claimed she gave him a lot of money and extravagant gifts, explaining why his lifestyle did not add up to what he told the IRS he was making. Hull also claimed that on his grandmother’s deathbed she had the presence of mind to tell him where she had buried jars containing large amounts of money.
It is unclear if Billy and Gloria remained together or ever divorced. Billy Hull passed away in 2008 from cancer. It is rumored several families may have moved in and out of the home over the years before it was vacated. The house was listed for sale in 2014. By 2015, the home had been severely vandalized and was in foreclosure. The property was condemned and seized by the city for unpaid taxes. On September 7, 2017, the swinger’s tiki palace was demolished.