Modern Ghost Towns of America
There are many reasons why towns are abandoned. Whether the cause is a lack of work or an environmental hazard, the results are the same. There is a haunting quality when a neighborhood stands abandoned, a school empty of the sounds of children or a theater still hinting at the emotions once felt within its walls. Modern ghost towns hold all of this and more, with the added quality of the familiar. Just looking at the pictures of an abandoned town can be quite eerie, imagine walking down those streets.
A word of caution, even if an abandoned site is open to the public, it can still be dangerous. Many of these sites are in various states of decay and in the process of being reclaimed by wilderness. Wild animals may be using a number of buildings as nesting locations, be careful.
Pleasure Beach, Connecticut
Abandoned in 1996 when a fire burned the bridge that connected it to the mainland. The only way to reach it is by boat or a 2 mile hike along a narrow strand from Standford at low tide. Before it was abandoned it housed a small beach front community and amusement park. Several plans to rebuild the community have been proposed but nothing has come of it and the former residents have established new homes. As of May 2011 all the homes have been demolished, however most of the amusement park remains.
Once a boarder crossing, this town boasted several businesses at its height. In 1880 the town got it's post office but it was closed just over 30 years later in 1911. Even after this closure the town still survived, making it until the 1980s when it was finally abandoned. The town is privately owned today.
Picher was once a national center of lead and zinc mining. Unrestricted subsurface excavation undermined most of the towns buildings and left giant mounds of toxic mine refuse, or chat, piled around the area. The chat piles were actually used for recreational vehicles by the locals and people from the surrounding area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, ground water contamination and the health effects of the chat piles eventually lead to a mandatory evacuation and an entire buyout of the town by the state of Oklahoma. By 2009 most of the residents had been given a check so that they could relocate permanently, very few refused. Some of the nearby towns have also met the same fate because of the same conditions, Treece, Kansas for example.
Ardmore, South Dakota
Founded in 1889, this town managed to escape the worst of the great depression. Unfortunately its luck would eventually run out and by the 1980s the population had fallen to just 16 residence. The town stands completely abandoned today with some houses and a store still standing.
In 1962 a fire started in the mine beneath the town, it has been burning ever since. The fire spreads for about 400 square acres, though the only indication are small round metal steam vents and signs posted throughout the area. Most of the town was claimed by eminent domain and the houses quickly deemed condemned. Most of the buildings and homes have been torn down or reclaimed by nature. The final 7 residents have been allowed to remain in their homes until the end of their lives, at which time their property will be seized by the state government and demolished.
Would you ever take a trip to see these places?
Donnan grew around the junction of two rail lines and became an official city in 1922, when it reached the required 25 residents. The population peaked at 50 in the 1940s but failed to attract more residents. At one point the small town could count many businesses including a pool hall, stock yards, blacksmith and three story hotel. Though residents tried to bring more people into the community and to keep the ones they had, the population continued to decline. By 1978 only 13 people continued to live there. In 1991 the final 7 residents voted to dis-incorporate the town. All that remains now of this tiny ghost town is a few old homes and buildings. Though you may not be able to tell by looking at it, this town was loved and people fought to keep it alive.
Whitman, North Dakota
This town got its start in 1912, but by the 1970 the towns population had decreased so much the school closed. The town made news in 2012 when it held it's centennial celebration. A town with a population of 2 managed to throw a party with 300 guests. Many former residence and people from nearby towns showed up to celebrate. Many saw it as a way to say goodbye to a childhood home.
Once a thriving mine town, Barthell was abandoned in the early 1960s with the closing of the coal mines. The town managed to not only survive the great depression, it thrived. With the continued need for coal during WWII the town continued to do quite well. It's downfall only came with the reduced need for coal, the mines began closing in 1952 and finished in 1961. Today much of the town has been restored and tours are offered to the public. Some of the houses have also been made available to rent for overnight visits.
Ghost towns can be anywhere and can crop up for a variety of reasons. This is just a very small sample of the many abandoned places people once called home. Many can be found in out of the way place that you have to look for, others are just a few miles down the street. Do a search of your state and you will discover how many small towns and cities have disappeared.
One day the house and town you are living in will be gone, no matter how permanent your current place in the world seems. Maybe it will be preserved like some of the western ghost towns in the US, maybe not. There are a lot of former communities that have been named historic sites, but many have been forgotten. Odds are, the land will reclaim itself leaving only a few clues that there was ever anything there at all.
© 2014 Katrina