19 Top Abandoned Places in America

The U.S. can be a tough place to inhabit, so it’s unsurprising that changing times have resulted in many abandoned locations—from unsafe buildings and disused factories to cut-off towns and empty prisons. This article explores 19 of the most interesting abandoned places in America and why they’ve been left to rack and ruin.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California

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Once an infamous federal prison holding some of America’s most dangerous and notorious criminals, Alcatraz Island is now an eerie relic and tourist attraction. The Federal Bureau of Prisons writes, “On March 21, 1963, USP Alcatraz closed after 29 years of operation.” Visitors can tour the island and the cells, although many find the empty, abandoned spaces unsettling.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

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The story of Centralia reads like a horror movie! ABC27 reports that a disused coal mine was used as a garbage tip in 1962, starting a coal mine fire that continues to burn beneath the town, resulting in dangerous conditions and a mass exodus. With steam still venting from cracked streets and no residents, Centralia has a spooky and unappealing atmosphere.

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, says Abandoned America, this penitentiary pioneered the brutal concept of solitary confinement and was abandoned in 1971. Crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers are all that’s left of its once-revolutionary design, yet over 250,000 visitors a year are attracted to the prison’s history and paranormal reputation.

Bodie, California

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According to Mono County Tourism, Bodie is the quintessential American ‘gold rush’ ghost town. Once a bustling gold mining town in the late 1800s, its population peaked at 10,000 residents before dwindling due to depleted mines and harsh winters. Today, over 100 structures remain in a state of ‘arrested decay,’ offering a unique glimpse back in time to a bygone age.

The Michigan Central Station, Detroit, Michigan

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Historic Detroit writes that Michigan Central Station symbolizes the city’s massive automotive success and subsequent slide into economic decline. Since 1988, when the last train left its platforms, the building’s luxurious architecture has been left to decay, and it has instead become a favorite haunt of thrill seekers and graffiti artists.

Route 66, Various Locations

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Running from Chicago in the north to Santa Monica in the south, this historic ‘road trip’ route is dotted with abandoned motels, gas stations, and diners from a long-past golden age. ROUTE Magazine lists several lonely towns that died out with the route as it was superseded by the interstate system, including Depew (Oklahoma) and Alanreed (Texas).

The Salton Sea, California

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Created by accident in 1905, this manmade lake was a popular 1950/60s resort area. But the good times didn’t last—upriver divergence reduced water flow, and increasing salinity and pollution led to its abandonment. SFGATE describes the abandoned yacht club as “the most disturbing resort in California.”

Six Flags, New Orleans, Louisiana

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This theme park was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and left to decay after being severely damaged while submerged in floodwaters. Now, all that’s left of the once bustling and laughter-filled location are rusting roller coasters and decaying attractions. Still, urban photographers and explorers enjoy the post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

The Orpheum Theatre, New Bedford, Massachusetts

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According to FUN107, the theater’s opening day in 1912 “was shared with the sinking of the Titanic, so it started off on a weird note, but the years to follow were lucrative for New Bedford.”

It hosted vaudeville shows and silent films but was abandoned in 1959, leaving its empty stage and vacant rows of seats to gather dust.

Glenrio, Texas and New Mexico

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Straddling the Texas/New Mexico border, Glenrio was once a roadside stop for travelers on Route 66. Today, its abandoned motels and gas stations stand largely unchanged and act as a time machine back to an era before multi-lane roadways, when road trips were long and adventurous. Its remote desert landscape also helps add to the sense of desolation.

Pyramid Lake Naval Underwater Weapons Testing Station, Nevada

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Pyramid Lake’s official website reveals that this abandoned facility was once used by the Navy for secretly testing torpedoes and other underwater weapons. The remaining structures, including a massive concrete pyramid, give the site a mysterious Cold War-era vibe. It’s now recognized as Native American territory, so a tribal permit is needed to go there.

The Packard Automotive Plant, Detroit, Michigan

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Sprawling over 40 acres, this once-busy car factory stands as a monument to the decline of the American auto industry. Opened in 1903 and abandoned since the late 1950s, all that now remains are crumbling walls and silently rusting assembly lines. Although plans for redevelopment have been proposed, the site remains abandoned.

Elkmont, The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

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Elkmont was once a thriving resort community in the early 20th century but has now been left as a ghost town. The Tennessee State Museum reports that the abandoned cottages and the creepy remains of the Wonderland Hotel are now being reclaimed by the forest, creating a haunting yet fading glimpse into the past.

The Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio

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This reformatory housed inmates from 1896 until 1990 and is most famous for its role in filming the movie The Shawshank Redemption. It now stands empty and unused, offering paranormal thrills and history lessons to tourists and visitors, with its imposing Gothic architecture and silent halls easily generating abundant ghost stories.

Ansonia Copper & Brass, Ansonia, Connecticut

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Once a bustling factory producing brass and copper products, Ansonia Copper & Brass was left abandoned once the manufacturing boom reached its peak. As residents moved on looking for work, the town shrank, and industrial buildings like this one fell into decay and disrepair, remaining only as rusting relics of a bygone age.

The Abandoned Resorts of the Catskills, New York

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Once a popular vacation destination for wealthy New York families, The Travel says that many resorts in the “Borscht Belt” have now been abandoned. Rising travel costs and changes in the way people spend their vacation time are largely to blame, leaving the region’s swimming pools filled with debris and their once lively ballrooms eerily silent.

The Domino Sugar Refinery, Brooklyn, New York

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Once the largest sugar refinery in the world, this iconic waterfront complex shut down in 2004. It now serves only as a stark reminder of Brooklyn’s industrial past, with towering structures and rusting tanks the only signs of a long-gone, booming production economy. However, parts of the complex are now being redeveloped.

The Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California

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According to Hidden California, “The now abandoned Sutro Baths was a large, privately owned public saltwater swimming pool complex in San Francisco that crumbled after an earthquake.” Built in 1896, it was the world’s largest indoor swimming pool but was closed in the 1960s. A subsequent fire left only charred concrete and debris, albeit with a scenic view of the Pacific.

The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, Maryland

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Mallows Bay is home to the largest ship graveyard in the Western Hemisphere, with over 100 abandoned steamships from World War I sunk intentionally in the 1920s. Their ghostly hulls have created a marine oasis, and the bay is now a National Marine Sanctuary, offering kayakers and historians the chance to visit a historic site that’s been successfully reclaimed by nature.

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