Wikimedia Commons via Andy Morffew

29+ Abandoned Buildings From Around the World With Interesting Backstories

History

| LAST UPDATE 08/15/2022

By Eliza Gray

All over the world, empty buildings still stand as a reminder of natural disasters and toppled regimes of the past. We're taking a look at some of the most unique deserted structures and their layered histories.

Deserted Bulgarian Monument

The Buzludzha Monument was envisioned to be an extravagant emblem of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The enormous designs were brought forward by Georgi Stoilov and were put into action in 1974. And according to the Buzludzha Monument's historic website, the building was no small feat.

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Roman Robroek/Shutterstock

The project required 6,000 workers and 70,000 tons of concrete. But in 1981, all the hard work came to an end and the monument made its grand debut. However, in a decade, the building was rendered obsolete by the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the once hallowed grounds are covered in debris and graffiti.

Earthquake Strukken Ross Island

What Ross Island lacked in size, it compensated for in tragic history. During the British rule of India, the island was used to house convicts and dissenters in horrific conditions. But on the same minuscule island, and upper class enjoyed luxurious amenities such as ballrooms and private lodge.

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Wikimedia Commons via Biswarup Ganguly

But more tragedy came. Just four years after the prison closed, a powerful earthquake struck the island in 1941. With a magnitude of 8.1, the island was left in disarray before being captured by Japanese forces during WWII. Eventually, the abandoned island returned to Indian control and has been taken over by vegetation.

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Deserted Croatian Hotel

The Haludovo Palace Hotel was once the crowning jewel of Croatia's tourism industry. It all started when Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine visited the island of Krk. He saw potential and a year later invested $45 million into building hotels, resorts, and the Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino.

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Darko Bandic/AP/Shutterstock

The 1970s were the resort's golden years. It saw tourism from both the East and the West, and gained an international reputation as the pinnacle of decadence and lavishness. But when the Yugoslav Wars kicked off in the 1990s, the location's popularity plummeted, resulting in its closure. The place is now overrun with graffiti.

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Dilapidated New York Castle

This decaying mansion isn't exactly what you'd expect to see in the Hudson River, but it still stands on the small island of Pollepel. According to the castle's website, it dates back to 1900, when David Bannerman purchased the island and began building a "simple" family home and storage location.

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Mike Groll/AP/Shutterstock

David was a munitions dealer and wanted to use the space to store his stock. But his Scottish roots shone through in the designs, and the glorious structure came to be. The site was handed over to a local commission in 1969 but had suffered fire damage along the way. What remains, however, is still open to visitors.

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Abandoned Massachusetts Theatre

Back in the day, New Bedford's Orpheum Theatre was a shining jewel of architectural might. It opened on April 15th, 1912: The very day that the Titanic tragically sank - possibly a sign of the theatre's inevitable doom. At its peak, the space sat 1,500 guests and housed a ballroom as well. But its lavishness was short-lived.

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Wikimedia Commons via Marcbela

As times changed and grand theatres became a thing of the past, the theatre suffered. Orpheum Theatre has switched ownership many times since shutting its doors in the 1960s. And while some history enthusiasts would like to see the building return to its former glory, it remains out of commission.

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The Nuclear Aftermath of Pripyat

Forget a couple of empty buildings: The entire region of Pripyat went from a vibrant Soviet community to a ghost town in mere days. The aftermath of the Chernobyl accident ravaged the Ukrainian region, and while the city remains empty, most structures still stand.

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Efrem Lukatsky/AP/Shutterstock

Schools, residential buildings, hospitals, and playgrounds were left stranded, as the townspeople fled the toxic nuclear radiation that emanated from the explosion site. Today, the site is still inhabitable, however, it can be visited for brief periods of time and has grown to be a popular attraction for "dark tourists."

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Former German Military Hospital

The Beelitz-Heilstätten hospital has seen so much over the years. It was built initially as a large-scale treatment center for people suffering from respiratory illnesses like tuberculosis. But, when Germany entered its war years, the center was converted into a military hospital.

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Ullstein Bild / Contributor via Getty Images

And in 1916, it housed a young Adolf Hitler. At the time, Hitler had been injured by shrapnel in the Battle of Somme and sought medical help at Beelitz-Heilstätten campus. The hospital was abandoned after the fall of East Germany but had a short second life as a movie set for the Oscar-winning film, The Pianist.

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Abandoned New York Subway Station

Back in 1904, New York's City Hall station was the talk of the town. Architects Heins and LaFarge and designer Rafael Guastavino pulled out all the stops in the transportation project. Upon the inaugural ride, attendees were in awe of the sheer luxury that surrounded them.

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Wikimedia Commons via Rhododendrites

However, the magic wouldn't last long. By 1945, the station could no longer handle the hoards of commuters, and an alternative was found. Though largely closed to the public, the station can still be seen as an "active turnaround for the 6 line," according to the New York Transit Museum's website. Keep scrolling for more...

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Neglected Town of Simacem

According to The Atlantic, the Indonesian volcano of Mount Sinabung has recently become active once again, threatening the lives of nearby villagers. In efforts of safety, towns like Simacem have been abandoned, as scorching lava threatens to flood in at any moment.

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Binsar Bakkara/AP/Shutterstock

Families packed up and fled in such a hurry, that they left the majority of their large belongings at home. The once-bustling town is now completely unoccupied, and the furniture-ridden homes stand as a haunting reminder of what once was. Want to read more stories of abandoned buildings? Keep scrolling...

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Ghost Town of Lynch

Lynch got its start as a privately-owned mining town under the U.S. Coal and Coke Company in 1917. During its early years, the coal mining community experienced major successes. According to Kentucky's State history website, "Lynch set the world record for coal production during a single nine-hour shift in 1923 at 12,820 tons."

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Mario Tama via Getty Images

But the industry boom wouldn't last forever and the town's 10,000 residents would face the consequences. Business dried up and the town's economy collapsed as coal became the energy source of the past. The town was eventually incorporated, but with little financial prospects remained largely abandoned.

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Former World's Fair Sight

In honor of the 1964-1965 World's Fair, renowned architect Philip Johnson designed the New York State Pavilion for the festivities. The structure was a feat of architect might and gained major notoriety amongst the estimated 51 million visitors that attended the fair. It gained the moniker "Tent of Tomorrow."

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Wikimedia Commons via Purpleturtle52-KH

But like most items on the list, the once-glorious structure was rendered obsolete in the coming years. It currently lies in the hands of local authorities and is undergoing restoration efforts. However, the National Trust for Historic Preservation pegs full renovation costs at $72 million.

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Chile's Abandoned Mining Town

Deep in the Atacama desert stands a relic of South American - and British - history. Humberstone was a former saltpeter mining community named after James Humberstone, an English scientist who moved to the region in 1875. He sparked a booming industry of saltpeter mining, which was used in fertilizer.

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Heiner Heine/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

The town was occupied by workers from all over the continent and beyond, and even resulted in a communal subculture called pampinos. Even after the town was abandoned, its importance was still recognized, and in 2005 it was registered as an official UNESCO site to help preserve the remaining structures.

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Detroit's Former Train Station

From 1913 to 1988, the Michigan Central Station in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood was the city's shining glory. Remind you of New York-style buildings? That's because the station's architects were behind famous buildings like the Grand Central Station. But unlike New York's station, Detroit's wouldn't last as long.

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Carlos Osorio/AP/Shutterstock

As highway development increased, the city's station saw a stark decline in usage. And despite several efforts to tear it down, it still stands thanks to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. While currently out of use, the station is undergoing a costly rejuvenation, according to Detroit's local archives.

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Turkey's Rum Orphanage

Rum Orphanage, or Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, was a children's home that operated on the Turkish island of Büyükada. During its years in operation from 1903 to 1964, the residential building housed an estimated number of 6,000 children. But the home was forced to close due to mounting animosity between Turkey and Greece.

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Wikimedia Commons via Jwslubbock

It stood empty as time raged on and suffered damage from a fire in 1980, according to Business Outsider. But despite its dilapidated state, in 2012 the Greek church announced it wanted to revitalize the space and turn it into an educational institute. Until then, the wooden structure remains, for the most part, unoccupied.

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Ruins of Pompeii

Safe to say that the people of Simacem, Indonesia feared that their beloved town would meet the same fate as this next entry. The famed town of Pompeii was obliterated by the volcanic explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE and an entire community was buried under 16 feet of debris, according to Britannica.

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CESARE ABBATE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The ruins were later discovered in the 16th Century, and since then, the area has been picked apart to piece together what life looked like before the eruption. With such a rich and tragic history, it's no surprise that this abandoned city was added to the UNESCO heritage list as well.

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Prora Resort's Military Past

Despite the Third Reich's planned construction projects, few blueprints ever resulted in actual action. But the Prora resort on the shores Baltic Sea was one exception. According to The Guardian, the project was built throughout the 1930s and was envisioned to be an idyllic vacation resort for Nazis.

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Hans Blossey/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

But Promo never opened its doors to guests, rather it was repurposed as a military training site. However, as the years of political turmoil ended, the buildings remained out of use until recent years. In a move that's resulted in a great deal of controversy, the Promo has been transformed into a luxury condo space.

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Russia's Decaying Lighthouse

Despite the island of Sakhalin being under Russian rule, Japanese engineers built a looming lighthouse off its rocky shores in 1939. However, in the years following its construction, the lookout point has been utilized by both Russian and Japanese forces.

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Wikimedia Commons via Yaroslav Shuraev

Today, rather than being used to guide passing ships, the lighthouse has been taken over by daring explorers and adventurists. It has even been reported that people have taken to squatting in the former military post, despite its isolated location. Keep scrolling for more abandoned buildings from around the world...

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A Philadelphia Prison's Notorious Past

Eastern State Penitentiary garnered the reputation of a tough-as-nails institution housing some of America's most dangerous criminals. Al Capone and William Francis "Slick Willie" Sutton were some of its famous prisoners, in addition to Leo Callahan, the only inmate to ever escape.

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Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

However, in 1970, the institution emptied its cells and transferred the remaining inmates to surrounding prisons. And despite calls for demolition, the site remained standing and underwent restoration efforts. Today, the eerie compound is used as a museum to tell stories of its infamous criminals.

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The Once-Submerged Macedonian Church

The 19th Century Macedonian church faced the same fate as one of the other churches on our list. However, rather than staying submerged underwater for centuries to come, recent droughts have revealed the abandoned structure. But why did the area flood in the first place?

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GEORGI LICOVSKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Just like Graun Church in Northern Italy, Saint Nicholas Church was sacrificed in the process of creating the man-made lake of Mavrovo. A nearby dam flooded the area, and the church disappeared. However, due to changing weather patterns, the area has dried out once more and today the site is safe to visit.

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Floating Domes of Marco Island

At one point, these igloo-like structures were an architectural sight to behold in coastal Florida. They were built by Bob Lee, a businessman who envision a futuristic and environmentally friendly living alternative. However, due to erosion and changing tides, the buildings met a different fate.

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Wikimedia Commons via Andy Morffew

Today, the buildings are 600 feet off the Florida shore, near Marco Island, according to Naples Daily News. As of 2019, they were under state jurisdiction through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. And while the empty buildings' future remains uncertain, for now, they provide a bizarre sea-side attraction.

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Haunted Church of Gary, Indiana

Back in 1926, the Methodist Church of Gary, Indiana was once a hub of community spirituality. According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, the church was built with the help of the U.S. Steel industry and featured a gym and music studio, in addition to the giant hall pictured below.

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Wikimedia Commons via Peter Fitzgerald

But after the sharp membership decline in the 1960s, the church was left to decay by 1975. But the abandoned building has had its uses in recent years. It was used as a filming location for Nightmare on Elm Street, Pearl Harbor, and Sense8. Today, it's widely believed that the church is haunted.

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Waverly Hills Sanatorium's Contagious History

Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built to fight the disease of tuberculosis that was ravaging the State of Kentucky. It was constructed to be a totally self-sufficient community, with its own zip code and food supply. Neither staff nor patients could risk contaminating others, so they spent 100% of their time at the sanatorium.

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Dylan Lovan/AP/Shutterstock

But as the disease subsided, the building was left abandoned for the most part. It was heavily tarnished by vandalism and graffiti up until 2001. According to the site's historic society, the change in ownership 20 years ago marked a new chapter for the building, and efforts are being made to preserve this medical institution.

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Bangkok's Ghost Tower

Back in the 1990s, Thailand's domestic economy was experiencing the boom of a lifetime. Business was at an all-time high, and prompted the construction of the Sathorn Unique Building in Bangkok. However, the project came to an abrupt end in 1997 due to the Asian Financial Crisis.

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Sakchai Lalit/AP/Shutterstock

And despite the country managing to bounce back, construction on the building never resumed. Today, the semi-finished building stands empty and has gained the nickname "Ghost Tower." And despite its dangerous condition, the structure attracts adventurers from all over the world.

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World's Tallest Unoccupied Building

According to CNN, the Ryungyong Hotel of Pyongyang, North Korea is the tallest unoccupied building in the world. It looms over the capital city at 1,000 feet and planned to include 3,000 rooms and five spinning restaurants. However, none of its amenities have ever been put to use.

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Dita Alangkara/AP/Shutterstock

The skeleton of the project was completed in 1992 but stood unfinished for a decade and a half. Despite its on-again-off-again construction journey, the building was finally completed. But despite its state-of-the-art finishes, the hotel remains closed to the public to this very day.

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Abandoned Old West Town of Bodie

According to the historical location's website, the town of Bodie, California "is a town frozen in time." But back in the 1800s, it was a booming and energetic mining town. It started with just 20 workers and expanded to roughly 10,000 people by 1880. Bodie was filled to the brim with miners who frequented the 65 saloons nearby.

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Adela Loconte/Shutterstock

As resources dried up, the town was abandoned. But the original wooden buildings stood the test of time. In efforts to save this relic of the Gold Rush era, Bodie was registered as a State Park in 1962. Wanting to learn more about the ghost town? You can take a virtual tour of this wild Western town.

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Cold War Espionage Tower

In the wake of World War II, the rubble from destroyed buildings made its way to an empty area of Berlin. The debris piled up, and by 1972 it was the highest peak of the city. It was completed with a ski slope and this unique structure pictured below.

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Michael Sohn/AP/Shutterstock

During the Cold War, the Americans utilized the hill for radio antennas and espionage efforts against the Soviets and built the Teufelsberg tower. Even after the conflict came to an end, the structure was utilized for air traffic monitoring until 1999. And since then? The building has stood empty. It is, however, open for tours.

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Jonestown's Tragic Past

According to History, the Jonestown tragedy "marked the single largest loss of U.S. civilian lives in a non-natural disaster," prior to 9/11. Jim Jones, the People's Temple leader led his followers to the Guyanese jungle, having promised them a utopian community. But rather than delivering on that dream, it became a nightmare.

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Tomas Van Houtryve/AP/Shutterstock

Upon a violent clash with U.S. authorities, Jones ordered his followers to poison themselves, resulting in 909 deaths. The once-bustling village has been left to nature and is largely overrun with vegetation. However, annual memorial services still take place to honor those who perished.

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Former Mining Town of Kolmanskop

At the beginning of the 1900s, Kolmanskop, Namibia was at the epicenter of the diamond industry. Overrun by German miners, by 1912, it accounted for 11.7% of the world's diamonds, according to National Geographic.

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Thomas Sbampato/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

But, in the nature of mining, the supply dried up and the people moved on. Come World War I, only a few parties remained. And when hoards of diamonds were discovered further down the coast, the town of Kolmanskop was abandoned once and for all. Since then, the desert's sands have overrun the place.

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Abandoned Sea and Air Forts of Maunsell

Seven miles off the coast of England in the Thames Estuary lies a relic of Britain's military past. The Maunsell Forts were constructed during the early 1940s to defend the nation against foreign attacks. They served their purpose throughout World War II but were quickly rendered decommissioned in the years following.

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Wikimedia Commons via Hywel Williams

The forts, designed by British Civil Engineer Guy Maunsell, closed their doors once and for all in the 1950s, according to the BBC. And since then, the structures have remained, looming above the waters. Their sturdiness has been described as precarious at best, so the military site is seldom open to the public.

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Drowned Italian Church

This eye-catching submerged tower in Lake Resia has been a tourist attraction for decades. But the part of the Graun Church still visible from land is only the tip of the iceberg. Deep in the waters of this Northern Italian lake looms an entire village that was washed away.

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CHRISTIAN BRUNA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Tragedy struck for this small town in the years following World War II. An effort was made to create a dam that could provide electricity to neighboring towns and villages. But, in its course, two large lakes were united, permanently flooding the town. The medieval church tower is the only relic still visible today.

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