Sunday, August 4, 2013

Abandoned Places Week: Towns That Died

When we think of abandoned towns, we consider steel factories and mining, but towns go defunct for lots of reasons including a dream getaway spot that goes bankrupt, a town built around an industry that goes under, natural disasters like floods when building dams or earthquakes and nuclear disasters.

The town of Desert Center in California was begun by a man with high hopes for the desert location between LA and Phoenix. Through a series of ambitious endeavors, including a gas station, school, diner, and 100 palm trees erected, the town went under, the man passed on and the town disintegrated. My son and went photographed it several years ago and these were the remains -

There are ghost towns and then there are ones that went under only years to decades ago. And, many still have residents that cling to the area, but others have had them rush from the land, like in Centralia, Pennsylvania.  A fire began in the mines under the town and has continued to burn since 1962, oozing out unhealthy smoke. The residents were moved, a few diehards stayed behind, but the fire continues and will smolder for another 250 years possibly. The video game and movie "Silent Hill" were inspired by this sad scenario -

The Quabbin Reservoir is a good example of flooded towns. The state of Massachusetts created its greatest man-made body of water by flooding a region including a few towns. In the 1930s they flooded several towns to create the reservoir. In an eerie way even after the buildings were destroyed underwater, the cellars remained and the roadways along the water's edge that used to lead into the towns.

The town of Vulture Mines was abandoned when the gold diggers took off for better places. It left an amazing partially intact town. 

This town (below) I filmed before it was torn down along I-10 north of Tucson.

There are thousands of towns that went under such as the infamous Pripyat that was evacuated following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  The photographer Gerd Ludwig did a very extensive photo essay of the abandoned sites. Some towns, like China's Ordos. The town was built for a million people and abandoned within 5 years of building it. They built amazing homes, apartments, business centers, and it went bust in this hopeful mining town.

The island of Hashima, Japan is an abandoned mining island. It has sat for decades and finally they are considering opening it up to Urbex folks. Now, that's my idea of urban exploration!

The wildest thing about abandoned cities is just the concept that all those people, all those businesses, all that history and cemeteries, families who grew up there, all go away. It's very "Omega Man" and totally creepy. Julie and I hope to explore and document some abandoned cities for yet another abandoned places books based on abandoned cities. Perhaps a few of them in this posting will be included.


  1. I am looking forward to exploring some of those abandoned towns.

    1. Take me Take me it sounds like alot of fun =)



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