Relics of times past do not always last
As unfortunate as it is when once-grand structures are abandoned and fall into ruin, there is something beautiful and irresistible about them. Some opt for the full urban-exploration route—frequently trespassing on private property and breaking into a building (don’t do this: it’s illegal) before taking a look around and documenting their adventure. Others are content to gaze out the car window at the abandoned house they pass on their daily commute and wonder what it looked like in its past life. There’s also a middle category of those who specifically seek out abandoned places and appreciate them from a safe (and legal) distance. If you fit into any of these categories, you’ve probably had an experience where you get excited to visit a new (to you) abandoned spot and get yourself to the site, only to find that it had been demolished or destroyed in a fire or other weather-related incident. When a building is in ruins, it may seem like it’ll be around forever, but that’s not the case. Here are 12 examples of amazing abandoned places that no longer exist.
Hackney Wick Stadium
Though modern sports facilities may not seem like architectural gems, many of those of the past definitely qualify (look no further than the Coliseum). This was the case with the Hackney Wick Stadium, which first opened its doors in London in 1932 as a track for greyhound racing and a speedway. After being in operation for six decades, a £12M stand and restaurant was built at the track in 1994. It was also renamed “the London Stadium, Hackney.” Then, in 1997, the company that owned the stadium went out of business, closing the facility. Between 1997 and 2003, a large Sunday market was held in the abandoned stadium. In 2003, the London Development Agency purchased the structure and promptly demolished it so the land could be used to develop London’s Olympic Stadium site for the 2012 summer games. For more international ruins, take a look at these 25 photos of chilling abandoned places around the world.
The Khovrino Hospital Complex
Fans of Brutalist architecture may be aware of (or even visited) the massive Khovrino hospital complex, located in northern Moscow. Construction on the medical facility, also known as “the Umbrella,” began in 1980, but encountered a variety of problems, causing a five-year stall in progress. Though construction picked up again after that, the project was eventually abandoned in 1992 because of a lack of funding. It then became a playground for everyone from urban explorers, to graffiti artists, to local occultists, who the Moscow Times reports were rumored to use the hospital as a meeting location. The fact that from above, the complex resembled a biological hazard sign didn’t help—nor did the reports that several people died falling from the 11-story structure. The complex was demolished in 2018, making way for a new apartment building to go up in its place. Take a look at some more examples of abandoned places that were overrun by nature.
Just north of New York City, the Catskills were the premier vacation destination for those in the tri-state area in the 1950s and 1960s. Even before that, the verdant spot had been receiving visitors looking for fresh air and a break from the city since the late 19th century. There were many sprawling resorts in the area—also known as the Borscht Belt because many of the vacationers (like the soup) originated in Eastern Europe—but Grossinger’s was the most well-known. Originally operating as a private home that rented rooms to guests in 1917, Grossinger’s grew into a sprawling 1,200-acre, 35-building resort, which included its own airstrip and post office. Though at one point it welcomed approximately 150,000 guests a year, by the 1970s, Grossinger’s—along with other Borscht Belt resorts—was considered old-fashioned and closed its doors in 1986. The property was abandoned and fell into disrepair, becoming a favorite spot for urban explorers until it was demolished in 2018. Grossinger’s isn’t the only resort with this particular fate: take a look at these other abandoned hotels that will give you chills.
Temple of Baalshamin
The city of Palmyra, Syria was once one of the most important locations in the ancient world, serving as an important trade and cultural center. With art and architecture dating from the 1st and 2nd centuries, the structures of Palmyra combined Greco-Roman techniques with Persian influences and left behind an impressive collection of ruins, which drew 150,000 visitors annually, before the conflict in Syria began. Built approximately 2,000 years ago, the Temple of Baalshamin was once considered one of the most important structures at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015, militants from the Islamic State surrounded the temple with explosives, then detonating them to demolish the structure. If you’re interested in Palmyra, check out these other examples of the world’s greatest lost cities.
The once-great Roman walled city of Dura-Europos was located in eastern Syria and dates back to 330 BCE. In its heyday, the city was home to Syrians, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, and Sasanians. After centuries of abandonment, the excavation of the site began in the 1920s when British soldiers happened upon it while digging a trench. Known as “the Pompeii of the desert,” Dura-Europos became known for a remarkable collection of ancient religious architecture, including the world’s best-preserved ancient synagogue outside of Israel, and one of the earliest known Christian chapels with the oldest depiction of Jesus Christ (235 CE). In 2014, it also was a target for militants from the Islamic State, who looted the site and destroyed 80 percent of the site. Like Dura-Europos, much of the ancient world remains a mystery. Here are 8 of the most mysterious archaeological treasures on earth.
When a space-themed amusement park opened in Golden, Colorado in 1959, it was supposed to be the next Disneyland (which had been around for four years at that point)—the owners even hired Disney designers to create the park. Because of financial struggles, the Magic Mountain theme park promptly closed in 1960, but reopened in 1971 as Heritage Square—as a combination shopping district/amusement park surrounded by a faux Victorian village. In fact, it was home to some of the best examples of Old West Storybook-style architecture, which plays with perspective to create more of a fantasy experience for visitors, particularly children. But in 2015, the shops and Victorian village components of Heritage Square closed, leaving it eerily abandoned directly next to the area with rides for children, which were still in operation. The following year, the historic storybook buildings were demolished. The amusement park section of Heritage Square remained open until 2018. For more examples of empty shopping centers, check out these eerie photos of abandoned shopping malls.
With its location on the beaches of Normandy, France, the village of Pirou-Plage was poised to be a popular vacation destination. Unfortunately, it never really happened. It started when a developer purchased a 17-acre plot of land from local authorities, with the intention of constructing a 75-cottage holiday village, which also included a hotel and club, and two tennis courts. After selling the properties to holidaymakers, the developer ran out of money in 1992, at which point 25 of the small houses were (at least somewhat) complete. The cottages were abandoned, then promptly looted, and served as a home to squatters. In the 2000s, artists began moving into Pirou-Plage and by 2014, it was a well-known artists’ colony. But the local authorities wanted their land back and razed the unique village in 2016. It’s not only resorts that can be left to rot; here are some abandoned airports that will give you chills.
Today, Barham Park in London’s Brent neighborhood is a beautifully manicured modern version of a Victorian garden. But before its current use, it was the location of a stately mansion named Sudbury Lodge, built in the late 1840s. Then in 1895, George Barham, the founder of the Express Dairy Company, purchased the mansion and renamed it Sudbury Park. Barham left both the home and the dairy to his son Titus, who took over when his father died in 1913. Soon after, Titus created a garden on the property—not only for himself, but for the local community to enjoy when he hosted charity events. Titus died in 1937, leaving both the mansion and gardens to the local government council, who opened a park on the site, which is still known today as Barham Park. Though Titus wanted the mansion to be turned into a museum, it was used for civil defense purposes in World War II, then sat abandoned and neglected, resulting in local authorities demolishing the mansion in 1957. If you’re wondering what would have happened if Sudbury Park was brought back to its original glory, check out these examples of abandoned houses that would look great if they were restored.
Enchanted Forest Amusement Park
Though the Enchanted Forest opened one month after Disneyland in 1955, it didn’t enjoy the same longevity. Located in Ellicott City, Maryland, this roadside attraction housed a collection of nursery rhyme and fairy tale locations and characters and was geared towards younger children. The park later added mechanical rides, and the Enchanted Forest eventually grew to 52 acres, and at its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had around 400,000 visitors each summer. By the mid-1980s, people weren’t as interested in their low-tech offerings, and the park closed in 1989. Right away, a section of the park was demolished to make room for a shopping center, while the rest of the Enchanted Forest sat abandoned until it briefly opened up again in 1994, only to close the following year. Some of the fairy tale structures were moved to a nearby farm, and the park was bulldozed in March 2017. If you missed your chance seeing Enchanted Forest Amusement Park, check out these 13 other abandoned amusement parks that will give you the creeps.
When Olympia Stadium opened in 1927, Detroit was experiencing a major growth spurt, thanks to being the center of the newly emerging automotive industry. This imposing redbrick Romanesque Revival building—nicknamed the “Old Red Barn”—hosted everything from sports, to presidents, to rodeos, to the Beatles. Detroit’s professional hockey team, the Red Wings, played in the stadium from 1957 to 1979. Beginning in the late 1960s, the team started to decline alongside the surrounding neighborhoods. The Olympia closed to the public in 1979, then sat empty, and fell into disrepair before it was demolished in 1987. Want to add some places to your agenda that are still standing? Check out the spookiest place in every state.
Ever since Bedrock City opened on Route 66 just outside of Williams, Arizona in 1972, a large sign featuring cartoon favorite Fred Flintstone has welcomed people to the unusual campground. Providing RV parking as well as places to camp in a tent, Bedrock City was best known for its brightly colored buildings and large statues and locations from the TV show. Though it was technically still in operation as a campground until the summer of 2019, it was best known as a quirky abandoned site and roadside attraction that people could explore while reliving childhood memories. Now under new ownership, it will reopen as Raptor Ranch, a park displaying birds of prey. And while most of the iconic structures have been demolished, a few—including the popular brontosaurus slide—will become fixtures in this new iteration. And speaking of roadside attractions, here’s what happens to cars abandoned on the highway.
Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium
The Gary Public Schools Memorial Auditorium—known to locals simply as Memorial Auditorium—opened in 1927 in Gary, Indiana to serve as a tribute to the veterans of World War I. It combined Italian Renaissance and Spanish Colonial Revival architectural styles and was built using brick, limestone, and terracotta. The Memorial Auditorium hosted everything from political events (including one with Harry Truman) to concerts featuring Frank Sinatra, as well as an act made up of five local brothers who went on to become a Motown sensation (the Jackson Five). Memorial Auditorium closed in 1972, though there was always the expectation that it would one day reopen, considering its cultural and architectural significance to the area. That never happened, and in 1997 a portion of the building was destroyed in a fire. Though many people came to visit the abandoned auditorium, local efforts to preserve the building weren’t enough to save the local landmark, which was demolished in August 2020. Have a look at other stately buildings left in ruins with these photos of abandoned castles around the world.
- Wick Curiosity Shop
- The Moscow Times: “Moscow’s ‘Gloomiest Building’ Demolished, 26 Years After Being Abandoned”
- Hudson Valley Magazine: “History of Borscht Belt Hotels and Bungalow Colonies in the Catskills”
- BBC News: “Islamic State photos ‘show Palmyra temple destruction”
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science: “Ancient History, Modern Destruction: Assessing the Status of Syria’s Tentative World Heritage Sites Using High-Resolution Satellite Imagery”
- CPR News: “Heritage Square Is No More, But The Amusement Park Still Lives (For Now)”
- Brent: Sudbury: “Then and Now”
- The Baltimore Sun: “Shuttered park hampers stores Enchanted Forest, landmark since 1954, will not open this year”
- Historic Detroit: Olympia Stadium
- AZ Central: “A summer-long goodbye: Bedrock City welcomes final visitors before it becomes Raptor Ranch”
- The Architect’s Newspaper: “Demolition of long-abandoned historic Gary Memorial Auditorium underway in Indiana”
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