It’s hard to say how many ghost towns there are in the United States, with dozens, even hundreds of towns abandoned by their inhabitants for one reason or another. We’ve chosen a few of the most atmospheric examples for our readers.
The vast majority of American ghost towns are, at best, ghost towns, more like work camps. Emerged in the second half of the 19th century during the gold, silver, and other rushes primarily in the nation’s Wild West, they were abandoned with the same swiftness with the end of ruthless mining as they had come into being decades before.
The History of Jerome Ghost Town
Jerome, state of Arizona, was perhaps the largest of these one-day towns, and one that owed its existence to a deposit of polymetallic ores – copper, silver and gold being the most valuable of them. After the appearance of the settlement in 1876, by the 1920s its population reached almost 15 thousand people (most of them came to work as Mexican miners).
Jerome was about 100 kilometers north of Phoenix, the state capital and largest city. The easy availability of the ore made its population grow extremely fast, especially after the outbreak of World War I, which greatly increased the demand for copper. Jerome was able to transform itself from a dull mining town into a full-fledged city, with substantial brick buildings and a full range of institutions: banks, hotels, churches, stores, a post office, a school, bars, and even its own red-light district, a necessary accompaniment to such male-dominated communities.
It even had its own narrow-gauge railroad, which was used to transport raw materials from the local mountains to the mainland. In just over 70 years of the Jerome mining industry, more than 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, zinc, and lead were extracted from the earth for a total of more than a billion dollars.
With the depletion of the deposits and falling prices for the products produced here by the mid-20th century, the profitability of the local mines declined substantially. The mines were gradually shut down, and the last of them was mothballed in 1953. Simultaneously, the population of Jerome fell at the same rate: people left to earn money in other settlements. Houses were emptied, and stores, hotels, the bank, and post office closed.
Eventually, fewer than 100 people remained, and the city faced complete extinction. In an attempt to save it, the remaining inhabitants of Jerome relied on the development of tourism, and they were right. The authorities of Arizona created on its territory a historical park, financed the organization of various festivals and other cultural events, opening art galleries, craft shops, wineries, coffee houses, and restaurants. The existing buildings of the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century were also restored.
The project proved successful. The population of Jerome, of course, has not recovered to its heyday, but it is still not dead and now exists entirely due to the services. Tourists come to see the ghost town and its 450 inhabitants. There are many empty historic buildings, which continue to live quite successfully at the expense of visitors coming here.
What are there to see in Jerome Ghost town
Among the popular attractions in this ghost town are:
Douglas Mansion and Historic Park
The Douglas Mansion has attracted attention in Jerome since 1916, when James S. Douglas erected it on a hill just above his Little Daisy Mine. The house now houses a museum that tells the history of the Jerome area and the Douglas family. Photographs, exhibits and minerals are in the museum in addition to a video presentation and 3-D model of the town with its underground mines. There are even more exhibits outdoors, as well as a picnic area where you’ll have a great panoramic view of the Verde Valley in front of you.
Price – $7
Location: 100 Douglas Road, Jerome, AZ 86331
Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town
The mine is 1270 feet deep. You can admire it, but you can’t go down into it. The tour is self-guided and accompanied by staff showing the exhibits. You can visit old buildings such as the dentistry, school, assay office, etc. There are many antiques in these buildings. There is a wonderful collection of vintage trucks, cars, motorcycles (various types of vintage vehicles). Children love our zoo (Pedro the donkey is world famous).
Location: 1000 Perkinsville Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331
It’s just a small jail, but there is an interesting story behind it and it’s fun to walk around Jerome and see all the old buildings.
This prison sank 225 feet down the slope during the “land slippage,” which was caused by the many mine shafts in the area.
Location: Hull Ave. Near intersection with Diaz St., Jerome, AZ 86331
Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery
Located in the historic old Jerome Hotel building, this magnificent artists’ union displays the work of more than 30 local artists from the Verde Valley. The prices for the art are quite reasonable
Location: 502 North Main Street, Jerome, AZ 86331
History of Centralia Ghost town
The Pennsylvania town of Centrailia was much less fortunate than Jerome, but the circumstances of its not-so-happy end were different. In the middle of the nineteenth century a rather rich supply of hard coal was discovered here in the eastern part of the Alleghany Mountains. Its industrial exploitation in Centrelia continued more or less successfully for about a century, and probably would still be going on if it were not for a combination of circumstances multiplied by human carelessness.
By the early 1960s, locals had turned an unused pothole in one of the neighborhood mines into a regular city dump. Volunteers who arrived to clear it in May 1962 found nothing better to do than simply set it on fire, a practice they had already once used in Centrailia. The uncomplicated operation of setting fire to the garbage was successfully accomplished, but the subsequent extinguishing of the garbage was more difficult.
From the dump the fire spread to the remaining coal in the mine, which, as coal should be expected, began to burn quite successfully, with the fire constantly spreading through the mine workings, which were no longer in operation. At first the locals were not even aware of what was happening literally under their feet until the owner of the city gas station noticed that the temperature of the fuel in the tank rose to 80 degrees Celsius.
In the early 1980s, the first sinkholes formed in the city, one of which nearly killed a 12-year-old boy. After this incident, state authorities finally paid attention to the scale of the problem and allocated funding to solve it. By that time, the fire had spread so far under Centrelia that the only solution was to completely evacuate the small town, which was home to about 2,000 people (including those in the immediate vicinity).
Over the next decades, Centrailia was gradually evacuated, and most of the town’s buildings were demolished. To date, only 7 people remained in the former settlement, who even after persistent persuasion of the administration refused to move out of their usual place. As an exception, they were allowed to stay in their homes, but for the rest, nature took over in Centrelia once again.
Now only a few buildings remain, including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic chapel (emigrants from Western Ukraine made up a large part of the settlement’s population). It is dangerous to be here not only because of the risk of new sinkholes, but also because of the harmful byproducts of combustion emitted into the atmosphere.
Huge cracks in the asphalt of highways and once city streets, oozing acrid smoke, complete the post-apocalyptic picture and serve as a source of inspiration for the creators of relevant computer games. It is believed that Centrelia served as the prototype of the settlement in the famous survival horror Silent Hill.
What is there to see in Centralia ghost town?
In fact, residents didn’t initially know there was no going back, so many left their belongings and even parked cars in hopes of fixing the burning problem.
(In one place there is a cluster of cars like this.)
What’s more, these lands were once settled by immigrants from the Russian Empire. If you like the creepy atmosphere as much as I do, I suggest a stroll through one of the four cemeteries where you can make sure there is a Russian-speaking diaspora.
Most of the graves have inscriptions in Old Slavonic, and the fog that lays just above the stone tombstones adds to the adrenaline in the blood. Although in fact, there is nothing to be afraid of, the city is not among the criminal.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church
The feeling of a lost existence increases when you visit the hill on which stands the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, incidentally, a functioning one. You can visit it if you come to town on Saturday or Sunday. A little higher up is the municipality building with fire engines, but completely deserted, as well as the abandoned police station.
Centralia still doesn’t exist in the state of Pennsylvania updates, the name only remaining on the road sign. The same activists erected a yellow sign at the site where the fire started half a century ago. On it they address the governor and lament his waste of budgetary funds. They appeal for reasonableness and want to be left alone and to return Centralia to its former status instead of destroying it by allocating huge sums of money. The people want to continue to live in their city and pay their taxes.
The city’s most famous landmark is Route 61, but few people notice it.
The highway was opened a year after a failed attempt to burn a garbage dump, because at that time no one paid any attention to the burgeoning underground fire. The entire length of the highway is 130 kilometers, and abandoned were only 4, around which created a detour after a break in the asphalt cover due to rising temperatures.
It is this part of the road can be seen on the Internet in the photographs among the many stories about the ghost town of Centralia, as it was subsequently turned into a real canvas for people who are not indifferent to its history.
By the way, among the artwork, a stylized drawing of the mayor with an unextinguished cigarette in his teeth can be found there. They say that the fire under the city will not end for another 250 years… These are eerie predictions of the real state of affairs, or what human negligence can lead to.
3. Gary ghost town, Indiana
It was once called the City of the Century. It is still the official nickname of the big city on the shores of Lake Michigan, just 40 kilometers from Chicago, but you can’t call it an inspiring century. In fact, Gary repeated the fate of Detroit with only one difference: in its heyday and subsequent dramatic decline the steel industry, not the automobile industry, was “to blame”.
Once upon a time, American big industry forged steel here, heavy industry giants grew, and blue-collar, capitalist proletariat towns were built around them.
By the 1970s, their glory was a thing of the past. It turned out that it was cheaper to import steel in the United States than to produce it locally, and the country’s iron and steel industry went into a hopeless recession. Unemployment and crime spread by leaps and bounds, and the middle class (mostly whites) preferred to leave, leaving behind houses no longer needed. The remaining employers fled for skilled labor, often even outpacing it.
In the early 1960s there were 180,000 people living here, in 2000 there were only 100,000, and a decade later there were fewer than 80,000 residents left in Gary. Hotels, churches, movie theaters, office buildings, and residences were abandoned, dilapidated, and deteriorating. The city continues to die, and there is no turning point in the situation.
What are there to do in Gary ghost town?
Dune Succession Trail at West Beach
The entire route is about a mile and easy to walk. The hike has 100 feet of elevation change, aided by about 250 stairs. There are two other dune trails starting from the parking lot. Dune Succession Trail at West Beach is one of the best hikes in the National Park.
Location: Indiana Dunes National Park, Gary, IN 46403
Urban Methodist Church
The abandoned and deteriorating Urban Methodist Church is situated right in the in the center of Gary. It was at one time the biggest Methodist church in the Midwest, but it stopped operating as a worship site in 1975 after a very short lifetime of just over 50 years.
Whenever a visitor comes to Gary ghost town, Indiana, they include this abandoned church on their must-visit list of places to see.
Location: 557 Washington Street Gary, Indiana, 46402 United States
John Eberson planned the architecturally inspired Palace Theater, initially seating about 3,000 spectators. The theater opened its doors in November 1925, offering live stage shows and vaudeville performances as well as movies.
After working for several generations as one of Gary’s greatest attractions, the enormous Palace Theater gradually fell into disrepair and was closed in 1972.
Location: 791 Broadway, Gary, IN 46402, United States
St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital
Initially founded in 1908, St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital underwent numerous expansions and repairs throughout the years, enlarging to welcome the town’s growing population. But when Gary’s fortunes changed and residents left town, the hospital became economically redundant; the dwindling number of residents could not financially sustain the work.
Location: 552 Tyler St, Gary, IN 46402, United States
2. Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott is another mining community in the relatively inaccessible terrain of southern Alaska. Ore rich in copper was discovered here at the very turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the settlement developed according to the typical scenario described above.
Around the mines emerged a residential settlement, quickly overgrown with all the infrastructure peculiar to that harsh era. By the end of the 1930s the mine was depleted, and several thousand miners left for other cities and countries in search of a better life.
The scale of the surviving industrial complex stands out among the many villages with similar fate, with the high-rise and totally wooden structure of the processing plant looming over the rest of the buildings like a Gothic cathedral over medieval European cities.
Already in the 1980s the village became a popular tourist attraction, and quite official, despite its remoteness from civilization. To enjoy perfectly preserved industrial ensemble of hundred years old, and at the same time the surrounding magnificent nature of Alaska in the summer season thousands of travelers come here, setting off then for hiking and boating tours across the state.
At their disposal are hotels, cafes and souvenir stores, guides and guides: Americans have rightly decided that ghost towns, at least the most curious ones, are a source of income as much as anyone else. And it achieves two goals at once: making money helps, in turn, to preserve for posterity unique architectural and engineering structures, important monuments of American material culture, places where the country that we know today was largely created.
1. Bodie, California
And the most striking example of the above-described quite pragmatic approach is ghost town Bodie in the Sierra Nevada mountains, near the border between California and Nevada. A typical product of the gold rush era, the village, which existed in the 1870s-1940s, is now visited by almost 200,000 people annually.
They are all attracted by the several dozen beautifully preserved wooden buildings in the desert dry climate, which form a miraculously surviving almost pristine Wild West town.
It was in this setting, among the countless saloons and cheap hotels that lined Main Street, that small fortunes were earned by blood and sweat, and then they were senselessly squandered in gambling houses, in quarrels and shootouts, sung in hundreds of American westerns.
10,000 locals in the late 19th century frequented the stores and the red-light district, the banks and the post office, and later were left to lie in the city’s cemetery forever. There was its own Chinatown, where the railroad builders lived, with several opium dens, children went to schools, and their mothers went to churches. There was even its own hydroelectric power plant, a technological advance unprecedented in those days.
And then, within a few years, it was all abandoned. Cars were left rusting in the streets, stores still had merchandise that was too expensive to take out, casinos had gambling tables, saloons had barstools and billiards. Bodie became a unique open-air museum, a symbol of a not insignificant stage of legendary American history.
And no matter how questionable from a universal point of view, no matter how unimportant this seemingly mediocre wooden building may seem, one must give credit to the state authorities. The history of everyday life interests contemporary residents of this or that country no less, and perhaps even more than the state history, the history of conflict, or the breakdown of socioeconomic formations that are written about in school or university textbooks.
And such ghost towns, forever left in another era, are the best way to turn on your personal time machine.
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