20 Bustling Industrial Towns That Once Thrived in America but Are Now Ghost Towns

Cities can rise and fall with the blowing of the breeze. The fall is often due to changes in industry or moving businesses but sometimes begins with a specific event or tragedy. These 20 ghost towns in the U.S. were once thriving industrial cities until fate turned against them.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

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Centralia was once a thriving coal-mining town, but an underground mine fire that started in 1962 has been burning ever since, causing most residents to leave. The fire is expected to burn for another 250 years, leaving Centralia nearly deserted.

Kennecott, Alaska

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This remote Alaskan town was once the center of copper mining activities, with the Kennecott Copper Corporation generating over $200 million worth of ore. By 1938, the copper was depleted and the mines closed, turning Kennecott into a ghost town now preserved as a National Historic Landmark.

Thurmond, West Virginia

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Thurmond thrived during the coal and railroad boom, hosting the world’s longest-lasting poker game. One of two hotels in Thurmond, the Glendun Hotel, with a second story that allowed guests to cross the river to the station via a viaduct to the railroad bridge, burned down in 1930, beginning its decline. Today, it’s known for its haunting remains and ghostly ambiance.

St. Elmo, Colorado

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Founded in 1880, St. Elmo was a bustling mining town for gold and silver. The decline of the mining industry and the abandonment of the railroad in 1922 led to its desertion. Despite a fire in 2002, many buildings remain, attracting visitors to this well-preserved ghost town.

Bannack, Montana

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Bannack was a significant gold discovery site in 1862, becoming Montana’s first territorial capital. As the gold ran out, the population dwindled, leaving Bannack deserted by the 1970s. It now hosts historical re-enactments, offering a glimpse into its Gold Rush past.

Bodie, California

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Bodie was a unique mining town that flourished with gold mining activities. However, as mining declined, so did the city, becoming one of America’s most famous ghost towns. Its preserved state offers a snapshot of life during the Gold Rush era.

Garnet, Montana

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Known for its beauty and well-kept nature trails, Garnet was once a thriving mining town. Today, it hosts public activities like Garnet Day and offers rentable cabins for visitors, making it a ghost town with a touch of life.

Ashcroft, Colorado

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After discovering silver in 1880, Ashcroft quickly grew to over 3,500 residents. The depletion of mining resources led to its decline by the end of 1885, and now it stands as a ghost town, reminding visitors of its fleeting prosperity.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

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Once a thriving industrial hub during the Colonial period, Pine Barrens is now known for its ghost towns and the legendary Jersey Devil. The area’s transition from industrial prominence to a forested, abandoned landmark has its place in ghost town history.

Gilman, Colorado

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Established in 1886 as a mining camp, Gilman was once bustling with activity due to its rich deposits of silver and lead. Environmental concerns led to its closure in 1984, turning it into a ghost town with remnants of its mining past.

Rhyolite, Nevada

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Founded in 1904 during the gold rush, Rhyolite’s population quickly soared. However, the financial panic of 1907 led to its decline, and by 1920, it was deserted. Today, its ruins are a tourist attraction.

Jerome, Arizona

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Once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West” according to The Travel, Jerome was a copper mining camp that boomed in the late 19th century. As the mines closed, the population dwindled, leaving behind a ghost town that now attracts artists and tourists.

Pyramid Lake, Nevada

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The town near Pyramid Lake flourished due to nearby mining activities but was abandoned as resources were depleted. Today, it’s an eerie reminder of the transient nature of mining prosperity.

Goldfield, Nevada

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Goldfield was the site of Nevada’s largest gold strike in 1902. Its population peaked at around 20,000 before the mines declined. A catastrophic fire in 1923 hastened its demise, leaving it a shadow of its former self.

Calico, California

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Founded in 1881 during the most significant silver strike in California, Calico had over 500 mines. By the early 1900s, silver had lost its value, leading to Calico’s abandonment. It’s now a county park.

Oatman, Arizona

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Oatman’s gold mining success in the early 20th century was short-lived. By the 1940s, the mines closed, and the town faded into obscurity. It now serves as a quirky tourist spot, with wild burros roaming the streets.

Virginia City, Montana

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This town emerged as a booming mining community in the 1860s. When the gold ran out, there was still enough left to occupy homes and businesses, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it stands to preserve the whole Victorian era. Virginia City is the authentic and original Old West.

South Pass City, Wyoming

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South Pass City experienced rapid growth during the Wyoming gold rush in the 1860s. The depletion of gold led to its decline, and it’s now preserved as a historical site, showcasing the life of its mining past.

Copperfield, Oregon

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Founded in 1907, Copperfield thrived due to nearby copper mining operations. “Fern Hobbs and the Snake River Showdown weaves together the story of a governor’s crusade, a lawless town in the wilds of Eastern Oregon, and a young woman pioneering her own path in life,” in a story told by Oregon Public Broadcast. The legal and environmental issues led to its decline, and it was eventually abandoned in the 1950s.

Ludlow, Colorado

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Ludlow was a coal mining town that became the site of the tragic Ludlow Massacre in 1914. PBS writes, “The face-off raged for 14 hours, during which the miners’ tent colony was pelted with machine gun fire and ultimately torched by the state militia.” The conflict contributed to its decline, and it was eventually abandoned, leaving a poignant historical site.

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