March 20, 2024 | Samantha Henman

Amazing Abandoned Places In Every US State


Abandoned America

The USA has a deep, rich, and complex history, and in a country this old, there are bound to be some remarkable places that have fallen into disrepair. From derelict amusement parks to former mental hospitals with dark backstories, these are the most interesting abandoned places in every state.

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Alabama

The Jemison Center in Alabama began as a plantation before becoming a mental hospital for African-American patients. Though it was at first a step up for those patients, who previously stayed in barn lofts, it soon took a corrupt turn. In 1970, a journalist exposed the horrific conditions there, leading to a multi-million dollar lawsuit, and it eventually closed.

Jemison Center, Northport, Alabama - 2017Nicolas Henderson, Flickr

Alaska

The story of the Alaskan gold rush, its boom and subsequent bust, is a classic American tale—and it comes to life in the remarkable abandoned mining camp at Kennecott. The town was deserted from 1939 to 1952, and while it’s still technically abandoned, it’s now a National Historic Landmark.

As such, the National Park Service is beginning to restore buildings to a safe condition for visitors.

The abandoned and spooky remnants of the Kennecott Copper processing mill building.Emma Rogers, Shutterstock

Arizona

The Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona has a pretty dark history. Not only was it used for housing criminals, but the guards there engaged in some barbaric practices, including chaining bad inmates to rings in what they called the “dark cell”. No wonder some people report experiencing eerie phenomena there.

Arizona Territorial Prison, Yuma, ArizonaWoody Hibbard, Flickr

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Arkansas

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner was one of the most popular syndicated comic strips in the US—so popular, in fact, that it only made sense to open an Abner-themed amusement park. And so, Dogpatch USA opened in 1968. It featured attractions like a fudge shop, paddle boats, and a “Wild Water Rampage Tower,” which is still standing today despite the park having closed in 1993.

Abandoned water slide at Dogpatch, USA themepark in Arkansas - 2014kenzie campbell, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

California

California is home to many former mining centers turned ghost towns, but its most iconic abandoned place might just be the most famous abandoned place in the US: Alcatraz. The former federal penitentiary closed in 1963 but has had a hold on the country’s imagination ever since, appearing in numerous movies and TV shows.

Alcatraz Island photo - 2013Don Ramey Logan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Colorado

Abandoned buildings can be breathtaking for a number of reasons. The beautiful architecture. The thought that they were once filled with people and now sit derelict. The mold and mildew. But the Crystal Mill in Colorado, nestled among the mountains, just beside a turquoise waterfall, is breathtaking for a different reason. Thanks to the natural beauty that surrounds it, it might just be the most stunning abandoned place in the US.

Crystal Mill in Fall - 2016Dave Soldano, Flickr

Connecticut

One of the most enduring bits of lore surrounding the Winchester Mystery House is that its owner, Sarah Winchester, built it out of the guilt she felt over the lives lost thanks to her family’s business, rifles. Well, the former owners of the Remington Arms Factory in Bridgeport, CT, probably don’t share the same guilt. After nearly a century of operation, they up and abandoned the building, and it has sat empty ever since.

Winchester Mystery House - 2004Gentgeen, Wikimedia Commons

Delaware

Fort Delaware in Delaware City has a history almost as deep as the US itself. It originally defended Wilmington and Philadelphia’s ports before becoming a POW camp during the Civil War—and as a result, it’s been featured on many paranormal TV shows for the ghosts that supposedly haunt it.

NORTHWEST AERIAL VIEW OF FORT DELAWARE AND PEA PATCH ISLAND - 1998Michael Swanda, U.S. Army Corps of Enginers, Wikimedia Commons

Florida

While Florida has plenty of interesting abandoned places to explore—including a dinosaur-themed amusement park—the most unique structure among them has to be the dome houses in Cape Romano. The houses were built in 1981 as a holiday home and originally rested on the beach there, but rising waters took over, and the houses were abandoned in 2007.

Cape Romano Dome House - 2016Andy Morffew, Flickr

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Georgia

In the 1950s, a collaboration between the Air Force and Lockheed resulted in the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory in Dawson Forest, where the two organizations worked on highly classified projects. It’s reported they were attempting to make a nuclear-powered airplane—but mostly, their experiments just resulted in nearby trees losing all their leaves thanks to the radiation.

Remnant of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory - 2007Mike Schubert, Flickr

Hawaii

Hawaii mania really took off in the 1950s as returning WWII vets established careers and families, and along with them, newfound wealth and leisure. During this time, the Coco Palms resort in Kauai was a popular destination—as well as the setting for films like South Pacific. Now, thanks to hurricane damage, it has sat abandoned since 1992.

Lagoon Terrace Lounge and Heritage Room buildings at the Coco Palms Resort on the island of Kauai - 2008Chrisjustus, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Idaho

In the late 19th century, prospectors flocked to an area near Wallace, Idaho when silver was discovered. The town of Burke popped up there seemingly overnight, and it included a hotel which had the railroad passing right through it. Now, it’s a ghost town filled with remarkable architecture from a bygone era.

Burke, Idaho Postcard Showing Tiger Hotel (1888)delcampe.net, Wikimedia Commons

Illinois

The Old Joliet Prison in Joliet, Illinois is as remarkable for its architecture as it is for its history. The massive, castle-like structure, built in the 1850s, quickly filled to above capacity, leading to terrible conditions. It finally closed in 2002, but has since served as a filming location for many projects, including the hit show Prison Break.

Old Joliet Prison - South Wall - 2020Joseph Gage from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Indiana

No abandoned structure in Indiana was as impressive in both its lifetime and its afterlife as the City Methodist Church in Gary, which cost nearly a million dollars to build in the 20s. Thanks to dwindling membership, it closed in the 70s, but has also served as a filming location since—including for the iconic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Abandoned City Methodist Church, Gary, Indiana - 2009Timothy Neesam, Flickr

Iowa

While there are plenty of ghost towns left over from Gold Rush and mining booms in the US, there are fewer ghost towns from more recent eras—but Buckhorn in Jackson County, Iowa, is a notable exception. The once-bustling town centered around a dairy co-op until it was bought by a large company in the 1960s. When business dried up, people left—leaving a unique and creepy ghost town in their wake.

The long-abandoned Buckhorn Creamery in rural Jackson County, Iowa.Phil Roeder, Flickr

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Kansas

Drive-in restaurants, where servers would actually come out to your car—a la The Flintstones opening credits—are distinct from drive-thrus, and were once all the rage in the US. One of the very first drive-in restaurants, Winstead's in Merriam, Kansas, opened in 1940—but now sits abandoned.

A neon sign for the famous Winstead's drive in - 2016Logan Bush, Shutterstock

Kentucky

Though there are many abandoned former hospitals to explore in the US, few are as imposing as the Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Louisville, Kentucky. The massive structure was once used as a treatment center for tuberculosis patients, but when new treatments for the disease were discovered, the population dwindled until it was eventually abandoned.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville - 2006Aaron Vowels, Flickr

Louisiana

Though there’s no shortage of grand old buildings that have been abandoned in Louisiana, the former Six Flags New Orleans speaks to a more recent chapter in the state’s history. First opened in 2000 as Jazzland, the amusement park was bought by Six Flags. Just five years later, floods caused by Hurricane Katrina forced a closure that began as temporary but soon became permanent.

Abandoned Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005Keoni 101, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Maine

Few people know, but Maine was once home to a structure known as the “Alcatraz of the East”—the Portsmouth Naval Prison in Kittery. The building was in fact modeled on Alcatraz, and used the waters of the Piscataqua River to deter escapes. It worked—except for one notable instance, where a prisoner sawed through the bars of his cell and escaped on a sailboat.

Portsmouth Naval Prison, Riverfront View - 2017Dvancecox, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Maryland

Curtis Creek is different from many entries on this list—as it’s not just an abandoned structure, but more of a floating junkyard. The area contains a network of abandoned ships, many from WWI, ranging from impressive to absolutely massive in size.

Curtis Creek - Concrete Boat - 2014Forsaken Fotos, Flickr

Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts was home to some of the most impressive psychiatric hospitals in the late 19th and early 20th century, including Metropolitan State and Danvers State Hospital, where horror film Session 8 was filmed. While a staggering amount of these once-stately buildings have been demolished, visitors can still roam the grounds of one of the few remaining: the Medfield State Hospital in Medfield.

Medfield State Hospital - 2020AnubisAbyss, Flickr

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Michigan

Thanks to the collapse of Michigan’s automotive industry and other economic troubles, Detroit and its environs are filled with abandoned buildings and homes. But few are as impressive as Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Once a crown jewel of rail travel, the massive 13-story building has been abandoned since 1988.

Michigan Central Train Station - 2008Ray Dumas, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota

It’s no surprise that many of the most impressive abandoned places in Minnesota are former mills dotting the banks of the Mississippi River. While many have been repurposed into museums, the most notable of these is the Flour Mill District in Minneapolis—home of the Great Mill Disaster of 1878, where 18 people perished.

Mill City Museum along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota - 2013Clint McMahon, Flickr

Mississippi

Another testament to the importance of water to both life and industry is Rodney, Mississippi. The once-flourishing town nearly became state capital before the Mississippi River changed course, robbing the area of its connection to industry. Though a few people still live there, the town is mostly deserted—including the First Presbyterian Church, which still bears the scars ( cannonball damage) from the Civil War.

Rodney Presbyterian Church, Mississippi - 2015Michael McCarthy, Flickr

Missouri

In 1905, a businessman from Kansas City bought a plot of land in Camdenton with plans to build a massive European-style castle—only to perish in a car accident partway through construction. Though his family finished building it and it later became a hotel, it was abandoned after a brutal fire. The remains, now known as Ha Ha Tonka Castle, are still there for visitors to admire.

Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins, South Facade - 2010Granger Meador, Flickr

Montana

Forget the boom and bust of a gold rush—the ghost town of Garnet, Montana didn’t get away with just losing its industry. For those few who stayed on after the gold was gone, there was also a massive fire which took half the town in 1912. Nothing was rebuilt, but what remains is one of the US’s most well-preserved ghost towns.

Garnet Ghost Town, Montana - 2018Bureau of Land Management Montana and Dakotas, Flickr

Nebraska

The Israel Beetison house in Ashland, Nebraska spent more than a century as one of the great family homes in the state. Originally built in 1874, the Italian-style building housed five generations of the same family and was added to the National Historic Register in 1977. Sadly, it was sold in 1999 and later abandoned.

The Israel Beetison Home outside of Ashland, Nebraska - 2007David Keyzer, Flickr

Nevada

The state of Nevada is littered with interesting ghost towns—but only one has a connection to one of the 20th century’s most notorious crimes. Manhattan is a small ghost town in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and one of the remaining structures is an abandoned courthouse. Inside the courthouse is graffiti that reads “Charlie Manson Family 1969.”

Building in Manhattan, Nevada - 2014Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire

The ruins of Madame Sherri’s Castle in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, are just a faint shadow of the once-imposing structure that hosted glamorous parties for vaudeville star Madame Sherri—who abandoned her home in the 1940s after losing her fortune. In 1962, what was left was ravaged by fire, and now, traces of the exterior walls, fireplace, and grand staircase remain.

Madame Sherri's Castle - 2017Nicholas Erwin, Flickr

New Jersey

Much has been made of the retail apocalypse and the death of the mall, brought on by the popularity of online shopping. However, despite diminishing returns, many old malls are still chugging along—but not the former Wayne Hills Mall in Wayne, New Jersey. The now-abandoned complex has touches of its former glory, including 1980s pastel tilework.

Wayne Hills Mall in Wayne, NJ -  2012.Rob DiCaterino, Flickr

New Mexico

The town of Cuervo, New Mexico was the victim of a historical one-two punch that few could survive. It was founded in 1902 when the CRI&G Railroad expanded to the Western US, only for the company to cease operations in 1910. Cuervo got a second chance in 1926 when it became a stop along Route 66—but when Interstate 40 was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, robbing Cuervo of tourist bucks, it finally succumbed to its fate as a ghost town.

Cuervo, New Mexico Usa - Abandoned TownMARELBU, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

New York

In the early 20th century, Scotsman Francis Bannerman VI built Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island, hoping to use the massive, turreted structure as storage for his weaponry business. He even emblazoned the words “Bannerman Island” in a somewhat-gaudy brick insignia on the side of it. Unfortunately, Bannerman’s death, an explosion, and a number of other incidents led to the structure’s abandonment.

Bannerman Castle, NY - 2012NatureLifePhoto, Flickr

North Carolina

Car racing has its roots in North Carolina, when bootleggers modified their cars to escape from the authorities. Before the Charlotte Motor Speedway, there was the North Wilkesboro Speedway, originally built in 1946. It even played a role in the birth of NASCAR. Sadly, the racetrack closed in the 1990s and, aside from a few events in the 2000s, has been abandoned since.

North Wilksboro Speedway - 2011Glenn Courtney, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota

The San Haven Sanitorium near Dunseith, North Dakota might not be as architecturally impressive as other former institutions on the East Coast—however, it has earned its own distinction. It’s believed to be one of the most haunted places in the US, and has also reportedly been a hotbed for “satanic” activity since its closing in 1987.

Former San Haven State Hospital - 2009In memoriam afiler, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Ohio

The Ohio State Reformatory—AKA the Mansfield Reformatory—in Mansfield first opened in 1896 and was in operation until 1990. It’s architecturally stunning not just for a reformatory, but for any building of the era, and it remains just as impressive in its current state of abandonment. If it looks familiar, that’s because The Shawshank Redemption was filmed there.

Ohio State Reformatory Mansfield - 2013Niagara66, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma

Afton, Oklahoma survived becoming a ghost town—unlike its neighbors, who had their soil contaminated with toxic lead due to the mines there. But it didn’t escape entirely unscathed, and it contains a remarkable souvenir of the past: The Avon Court Motel, which once served tourists traveling along Route 66.

Afton: Avon Court Hotel - 2013Larry Myhre, Flickr

Oregon

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is also known as “Terrible Tilly”—and it’s earned its nickname. Its isolated location and the turbulent waters that surround it have been a recipe for disaster. Lighthouse keepers have found the conditions and isolation maddening, and the Lupatia shipwreck took 16 lives nearby.

Then, in 1980, developers tried to turn it into a columbarium—AKA, a building for storing cremains. Since 1999, it’s been abandoned.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse - 2010Jwyoung, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia was home to the first institutions to use the title of “penitentiary”—and years later, the city’s Eastern State Penitentiary took on the moniker as well. It was designed for inmates to seek “penitence,” hence the title—and this was achieved through not only strict isolation, but also other barbaric punishments. Al Capone was once an inmate at this now-abandoned building, which closed in 1971.

A cell in Eastern State Penitentiary in PennsylvaniaPointa, Shutterstock

Rhode Island

From afar, the Pawtucket-Central Falls Train Station in Central Falls, Rhode Island, looks like it’s perched between two hills over the train tracks that were once bustling with activity. The Beaux-Arts style building opened in 1959 before closing in 1959. Trains still passed under it until the 1980s.

Abandoned Pawtucket -Central Falls Train station. RIPixel, Flickr

South Carolina

If you were to view a picture of Atalaya Castle, you might guess that it was taken in Spain or Morocco. Instead, the Moorish-style building is in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. The mansion was built by a New York industrialist to be a winter home for him and his wife. During WWII, the couple lent it to the Air Corps to use as barracks. Sadly, it was left uninhabited in the mid-20th century, though visitors can now tour the empty buildings.

Atalaya Castle - Georgetown County Murrells Inlet South Carolina - 2022Watts, Flickr

South Dakota

The town of Capa, South Dakota, is technically a ghost town—though it still has a population of one (two if you count that resident’s dog). Philip O’Connor lives in the same house his father and his grandfather once lived in—but otherwise, Capa lies empty. It was once the home of the Capa Hotel, which lured guests in with its hot mineral baths.

Capa, South Dakota - 2008Jerry Huddleston, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Tennessee

Here’s a twofer: Two of Tennessee’s most notable abandoned buildings, Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in Petros and Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, have one thing in common. They both used convict leasing in order to force prisoners into providing free labor. This led to revolts across the system and both suffered from overcrowding. Now, these two massive structures sit abandoned.

Brushy Mountain PenitentiaryLifeArt Images, Shutterstock

Texas

One of the most remarkable abandoned buildings in Texas has its dark history intertwined with that of another state: Louisiana. The Houston Astrodome opened in 1965, was the world's first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium. It lost its primary tenants before it was infamously used as a shelter using Hurricane Katrina. Later, the building was partially demolished, and what’s left sits abandoned today.

Constructed in 1964, the Houston Astrodome - 2016Jonathan Haeber, Flickr

Utah

The Home of Truth, Utah, is located in San Juan County and was once a community centered around a utopian cult. Its leader, spiritualist Marie Ogden, promised to resurrect a woman from the dead. Mostly, she and her followers just kind of…mummified it, effectively. After the ensuing scandal, many of its members left.

By the 1970s, the desert community was abandoned by the last of its residents, who left behind buildings, burial sites.

Entrance to the Ntsimp, Wikimedia Commons

Vermont

The beautiful mountains and scenery in Vermont are a lure for skiers and leaf-peepers alike—but not all of the state’s many hotels and resorts have withstood the test of time. The quaint and picturesque town of Sudbury is home to the former Hyde’s Hotel, which was once a beautiful resort featuring Victorian-style architecture. The now-crumbling building has been abandoned since the 1970s.

Hyde's Hotel, Sudbury, Vermont - 2010Flickr user 

Virginia

The original site of the Virginia Renaissance Faire lived a brief, if full, life. The Faire actually purpose-built a site to resemble a medieval village, complete with buildings, deep in the forest of Fredericksburg. It was completed in 1996, but visiting a fair atop a humid swamp in medieval clothing left something to be desired for visitors. The Ren Faire relocated just three years later, leaving the first site abandoned.

Virginia Renaissance Faire - 2012Jack Parrott, Flickr

Washington

What was the final nail in the coffin for so many of the ghost towns in the US? It wasn’t the loss of the mines, or the construction of an interstate highway—those are often the first signs. Often, what predicts the end for a once-thriving town is when the US Post Office pulls out. Govan, Washington, is just one example of this. The Post Office closed in 1967, heralding the end. The Old Govan Schoolhouse is one of the few remaining buildings in the town.

Govan, Washington - 2008Andrew Filer, Flickr

West Virginia

It’s probably a good thing that the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in Rock, West Virginia closed. It was the site of many deaths over its four-decade run, culminating in the loss of two children on one of its rides in 1966. It’s been abandoned since, though the current owners offer spooky tours around Halloween.

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park - 2013Forsaken Fotos, Flickr

Wisconsin

The Maribel Caves Hotel was once an illustrious resort with European-style architecture—but it also has a terrifying history. It burned three separate times, each on the exact same date. Stories spread about witches who opened a portal to the underworld through an old well. Al Capone once stayed there. The stories seem nearly endless for this remarkable building.

Maribel Caves Hotel in Maribell, Wisconsin - 2010Elvis Kennedy, Flickr

Wyoming

The Smith Mansion in Cody, Wyoming has a heartbreaking backstory. Builder and engineer Lee Smith first built a relatively simple home for his family—but he found he couldn’t stop there, and kept adding porches and porticos and staircases made from logs he salvaged. Smith’s obsession led his wife to lead him—and years later, he fell to his death while working on one of the upper floors in 1992. The Smith Mansion has been empty ever since.

The Smith Mansion, also known as the Smith Family Cabin - 2013Jonathan Haeber, Flickr


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