Chances are, there’s an abandoned eyesore of a building somewhere in your town. You know the one. Mesozoic-era trees wrap and gnarl around its gutters and chipped, sun-baked paint squashes any semblance of luster or sheen.
And with every abandoned building there’s no shortage of questions that hang over its roof: what caused someone to just get up, walk away, and leave this building behind? Who lived there? What has this building been through? Why hasn’t it been demolished yet?
The truth is, there are handful of abandoned buildings all over the world with pasts as picturesque as their facades. Some may be eyesores, but some are real architectural beauties. See for yourself…
1. Ross Island (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India): Originally a British settlement nicknamed “Paris of the East,” the vegetation-dominated island now functions as an Indian Naval Base and a tourist destination. In its heyday, British officials called the island home and lavished it with dance halls, clubs, pools, and gardens.
2. The Pontiac Silverdome (Pontiac, Michigan): Once the home to the Detroit Lions and a concert venue for some of the world’s most legendary bands, the Silverdome—now slated for demolition—is littered with trash. An eyesore, the Silverdome is an ugly stepchild compared to this next belle of the ball…
3. Graun Church Tower (Lake Reschen, Italy): Tasked with providing a nearby town with electricity in the 1950s, the Italians dug an artificial lake that inadvertently flooded this once-active church. Now, only the bell tower breaks the water’s surface.
4. Military Hospital (Beelitz, Germany): The Germans built this hospital late in the 19th century to treat and rehabilitate tuberculosis patients. Years later, in 1916, the hospital admitted a young Adolf Hitler; doctors treated him for a thigh injury suffered during World War I.
5. The Haludovo Palace Hotel (Krk, Croatia): In 1971, Krk needed to bring in some tourism and the Haludovo Palace did just that. Thanks to a $45 million investment from the founder of Penthouse Magazine, the hotel continued to expand. The Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s, however, put an abrupt end to Krk tourism, and the hotel was abandoned.
6. Buzludzha Monument (Bulgaria): It started as the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party. When the communist government lost power in 1989, though, they left the monumental house abandoned in the Bulgarian mountains.
7. Maunsell Sea and Air Forts (Thames and Mersey estuaries, United Kingdom): No, those aren’t AT-ATs ripped straight out of The Empire Strikes Back. They were air forts designed during the height of chaos in World War II as defense systems against the German air force. Speaking of war…
8. Abandoned Submarine Base (Baklava, Ukraine): This aquatic facility was designed for something sinister: nuclear ready submarines, built by the USSR during the Cold War. Thankfully, this base’s purpose was never fully realized, and the Russian Federation gifted it to the Ukrainian Navy in 2000.
9. The City of Pripyat (Ukraine): Appearing to be frozen in time, the city of Pripyat remained practically untouched since 1986, when a disaster at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant forced the town to evacuate. This is one you might want to stay away from.
10. Kolmanskop (Namibia): Germany brought their architecture to Namibia when their miners arrived to hunt for diamonds. As the British did with Ross Island, the German miners furnished the city with luxuries like bowling alleys. When gold was discovered elsewhere, however, the miners abandoned the city, leaving it to be slowly consumed by sand dunes.
11. The Orpheum Theater (New Bedford, Massachusetts): Opening the same day that the Titanic sank in 1912, this theater was every bit as luxurious as the doomed cruise ship. However, even the large ballroom and shooting range couldn’t keep the place from shutting down for good in 1962.
12. Michigan Central Station (Detroit, Michigan): Once the world’s tallest train stations until it was dethroned by Japan’s Nagoya Station, Michigan Central Station became a shell of its former self once Amtrak stopped service there. Still, it’s in better condition than the next abandoned building…
13. Rum Orphanage (Büyükada, Istanbul, Turkey): The Rum Orphanage started out as a casino-hotel project, but the idea was scrapped in the early 1900s after a few permit issues. In went an orphanage, which ceased operations in 1964. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe…
14. Bannerman Castle (Beacon, New York): A Scottish arms dealer once used this abandoned building—then fully operational—for munitions storage. That proved to be the fatal flaw for the castle, as a powder explosion in the 1920s and a few ownership changes have left the castle a husk of its former glory.
15. Pompeii (Italy): You’ve likely heard the story of Mount Vesuvius erupting and covering this ancient Italian city in a blanket of ash and lava. Today, many of the original structures stand uncovered.
16. Prora (Rügen, Germany): It may not look like much on the outside, but this three-mile-long structure was supposed to be a luxury hotel, commissioned by Hitler in 1939. The construction stalled, and the resort never opened; however, recently, construction has begun again. Would you pay a visit?
17. Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): In its heyday, this prison housed some of the most notorious villains history has to offer—Al Capone and Slick Willie, to name a few.
18. St. Nicholas Church (Mavrovo Lake, Macedonia): This submerged church in Macedonia can be explored during a period of drought, when the water of this man-made lake recedes. Built in 1850, it was abandoned about 100 years ago.
19. City Methodist Church (Gary, Indiana): When the steel industry took a hit in the 1970s, Indianans were forced to cut some losses, one of which was this $1 million church erected in the 1920s. Abandoned since 1975, this church has been on Hollywood’s radar and has acted as a filming location for quite a few box office hits, like Pearl Harbor.
20. Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, Kentucky): Until an antibiotic was created in 1961, this hospital, completed in the 1920s, treated tuberculosis patients. Allegedly, some of these not-so-lucky patients never left and haunt the premises to this day.
21. Sathorn Unique Building, “Ghost Tower” (Bangkok, Thailand): The breathtaking views from this tower inspire travelers from all over to take the dangerous climb up to the top. Built in the 1990s, the Sathorn building’s life didn’t last long, and it was abandoned in 1997.
22. Ryugyong Hotel (Pyongyang, North Korea): Standing dominantly over the rest of the city, this hotel is 105 stories high and shaped like something out of a sci-fi film. While construction of the hotel—meant to hold clubs and casinos—ceased in 1989, it may resume soon.
23. Bodie (California): As Will Smith once rapped, “It’s the wild, wild, west,” and in Bodie, California, that still rings true. A happenin’ place in the thick of the gold rush, Bodie has since been abandoned and now attracts tourists interested in ghost tours.
24. Teufelsberg (Berlin, Germany): On top of a hill built from the rubble of World War II—known as “Devil’s Hill”—this abandoned structure once served as listening stations for the United States. With this tower, the U.S. intercepted radio signals from East Berlin.
25. New York State Pavilion (Flushing Meadows, New York): Observation towers, theaters, and more more suspension cables than you can throw an acrobat at, these structures once comprised a fairground constructed by some of architecture’s top minds.
26. Nara Dreamland (Nara, Japan): This once-bustling theme park was inspired by Disneyland, but its brightly painted attractions couldn’t compete. In 2006, the park shut down thanks to declining visitors.
27. Centro Financiero Confinanzas (Caracas, Venezuela): Construction of this would-be financial center took a big hit in the 1990s when its central investor passed away. Left abandoned, squatters took over and created a community there—until they were all evicted in 2015. Decrepit as it is, is it in better shape than our next abandoned building?
28. Centralia (Pennsylvania): Up until 1962, Centralia was bustling with coal miners. Disaster struck when a landfill fire wiped out local mines and cleared residents out of their homes. Steam still wafts up from the ground, including from the famed “Graffiti Highway.”
29. Garnet (Montana): Tucked away in lush, green pines, this former mining colony was abandoned once the gold dried up. Only 1,000 people lived there at its peak, but today, you can visit and get a supposedly authentic ghost town experience.
30. Craco (Italy): This hilltop ghost town might have been thriving in the 8th century, but today, it’s been a victim of some of Mother Nature’s most destructive forces: a landslide in 1963, a flood in 1972, and earthquake in 1980.
31. Canfranc International Railway Station (Canfranc, Spain): Nazis took over this train station in the 1940s, which put a damper on its use as a train hub. In the 1970s, a train crash damaged some of the station’s tracks, effectively ending its run.
32. Floating Forest (Sydney, Australia): To the naked eye, the Floating Forest may look like an overly lush sand barge, but it’s really a retired aircraft carrier that’s taken on a new purpose: serving as a home to mangrove trees.
33. Letchworth Village (Rockland County, New York): Unlike the other hospitals on this list, this once-expansive campus didn’t shut down with a tuberculosis cure. Used to test polio vaccines, Letchworth closed in 1996 when abuse and hazardous conditions ran rampant.
34. Hotels in Varosha (Famagusta, Cyprus): In 1974, Turkish troops invaded Varosha, which put an end to these tourist hotspots, as potential occupants weren’t fond of vacationing in hostile territory. Today, the beachside hotels remain empty.
35. Spreepark Amusement Park (Berlin, Germany): No, it’s not Jurassic Park, but this dinosaur-themed amusement park did offer Tyrannosaurus rex-sized fun to patrons when it opened in 1969. However, it faced a bitter demise in 2002, shutting down due to lack of interest.
36. Hashima Island (Japan): You might recognize it from the James Bond film Skyfall but it hasn’t seen a ton of action, outside of Hollywood films and daily tours, since the undersea coal mines ran dry in 1974. Created as a place to house miners, this island was home to as many as 5,000 people in 1959.
37. Chateau Miranda (Celles, Belgium): Fleeing the guillotine and the reign of terror that followed its invention, French aristocrats built this palace as a safe haven. Soon after, it became an orphanage before shutting down completely.
38. Gwrych Castle (North Wales): In the 1800s, this castle was equipped with 128 rooms that included dedicated smoking and billiards rooms. Though plans are on the table to turn this abandoned building into a luxury hotel, no steps have been taken towards that goal.
39. Holy Family Orphanage (Marquette, Michigan): Though it only closed in 1965, this orphanage has accumulated enough rumors and stories about its operations to fill a book. Legend has it you can still hear children playing on its grounds.
40. The Moynaq Ship Graveyard (Uzbekistan): Beached ships are a strange sight in their own rights, but how about beached ships over 100 miles from the nearest body of water? The ships rotting in this graveyard once floated dormant on one of the world’s largest lakes, the Aral Sea—until it dried up.
From deserted mining cities to rundown orphanages, the world has collected a number of abandoned buildings that pique curiosities around the globe. Which of these would you dare to visit?
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