The structures and dwellings built by mankind are often simply left to be reclaimed by the elements. Whether due to a catastrophic event or the natural movement of the population to another location, places that are abandoned can serve as a record of times past. They may help us – or future generations – learn about our heritage. In nearly every instance, they are beautiful and haunting places to explore.
Villa de Epecuén, Argentina
(images via: Taringa)
In 1985, the Argentinean lake Epecuén took over the nearby town of Villa de Epecuén. The large salt lake, which has long been valued for its curative properties, flowed over its banks and simply swallowed up the town. Rather than draining the lake and rebuilding the town, the residents abandoned their homes. Houses and other buildings can still be seen jutting out of the water where the town once stood.
Great Blasket Island, Ireland
(image via: Wikipedia)
Great Blasket Island, off the coast of mainland Ireland, is known in literary circles as the birthplace of some of the most talented Irish writers. But the island holds a fascinating history even for those not interested in literature. Occupied since before recorded history, the island has never been home to more than about 150 people at any one time. The islanders enjoyed life in the tiny fishing community until it was decided in 1953 that the island was no longer safe to live on. Bad weather frequently cut islanders off from the mainland and made it difficult to procure supplies, so the island was abandoned. Accomodations and a café can be found there now, but their future has been in limbo for several years as the state and a private owner both claim to own the island.
(images via: NLA News)
An entreprenurial spirit drove Henry Ferdinand Halloran to envision a majestic (and profitable) housing development near Canberra in the early 20th century. The development only got as far as a lovely stone arch, some ornamental pillars, and a few bandstands before the Great Depression caused Halloran to abandon his plans for the development’s future. The land is still held by Halloran’s family, and in the 1970s they built their own residence there. The home remains the sole modern structure in what could have been a thriving suburb. Although none of the Environa plots were ever sold, the planned use of the land makes it seem today like a ghost town.
Rotonda Sands, Florida
(images via: Mental Floss)
Failed housing developments happen all over the world. The Rotunda development in west Florida wasn’t a total failure – there are plenty of residents in the area – but the houses which were left unfinished speak volumes about the recent US housing crunch. The area was founded in the 1960s and marketed as modestly-priced vacation homes. Many plots were purchased and homes built on them, a section called Rotonda Sands sat for over 30 years with little activity. When houses started to go up in the 1990s and early 2000s, many of them were abandoned mid-construction. Others were completed, but never sold. Foreclosures and vandalized abandoned structures are sadly common sights in Rotonda Sands.
(images via: Opucszc Zone)
Perhaps the most famous abandoned city in the entire world is Pripyat, Ukraine, adjacent to the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear power station. The city was young, having only been established in 1970, and bore the brunt of the horrific tragedy that occured in 1986. When the city was evacuated, residents were able to take almost nothing with them. Despite looting and vandalism (which take place even with significant and dangerous levels of radiation still plaguing the area), most residences still contain the belongings of those who were forced to flee. Buildings in the city bear silent witness to the lives that were lost and those that were forever changed on that fateful day.
(images via: Land+Living and Detroit Yes)
Detroit is the example most often referenced when the subject of American abandonments comes up. Though the city itself is not abandoned and, in fact, remains home to a large population, it has dramatically decreased in size in the last 50 years. As the population has either left the area entirely or moved more toward suburbs, plenty of Detroit neighborhoods are filled with abandoned houses and empty apartment buildings. There are so many abandoned residences, in fact, that the city sometimes has trouble keeping up with their demolition. In 2006, an art project by the name of “Detroit. Demolition. Disneyland.” painted several houses which were slated to be torn down. The eye-catching orange was meant to draw attention to the derelict buildings and highlight the plight of abandoned and run-down Detroit neighborhoods. The painted houses were eventually demolished, but there remains a staggering number of abandoned dwellings and commercial buildings in and around the city.
(images via: Offroaders)
Due to what seems like an impossible story, the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been steadily losing its residents since 1981. However, the trouble began all the way back in May of 1962 when an underground fire was inadvertantly ignited. Fueled by the rich seam of coal under the town, the fire has been burning for over 45 years now. Some estimate that the available coal will keep the fire going for around 250 years. The results of this massive fire are unpredictable sinkholes, wisps of smoke rising from under the ground, and the buckling of streets and meadow-like ground. Beginning in 1984, residents of the town were bought out of their homes with Congressional funds so that they could relocated to safer places. As of 2002, Centralia no longer has a zip code. There are still a very few brave souls who continue to reside in Centralia despite the very real danger there.
Sewell Mining Town, Chile
(images via: UNESCO)
The mining industry has spawned many towns meant to house miners and their families. Some continue to exist even after the mine ceases to be productive, but others are abandoned once the mine’s usefulness is exhausted. Sewell was built in the steep terrain of the Andes to serve a copper mine. The town is situated in an area too steep to accomodate wheeled vehicles, so residents were delivered there via a train. The challenging landscape contributed to the town’s unique terraced layout and its nickname: The City of Stairs. The town was more or less abandoned in the 1970s, but can still be visited today as a World Heritage Site.
Old Adaminaby, Australia
(images via: Telegraph)
Not all abandoned towns are the result of accidents, disasters, or poor planning. Some are intentionally abandoned in an effort to create something new and beneficial. Such was the case in Adaminaby, located in the Snowy Mountains of Australia. The town was permanently evacuated and intentionally flooded in 1957 to enable the area to enjoy a large hydro-electric plant. Many buildings were moved to the town’s new site 9 kilometers away, but others were left in place when the water was brought in. In 2007, 50 years after the town was buried under water, a massive drought uncovered the remnants of what used to be home to many people. The newly exposed remnants of the old town were haunting not only because of the life they used to hold, but because they were reminders of the severity of the drought.
(images via: Confederacy of Dunces, Urban Desertion, and Abandoned Not Forgotten)
In every part of the world, there are houses that are simply deserted and left to rot – even if the rest of the community is thriving. There are numerous reasons for the abandonment; sometimes the owner dies and the ownership of the property is unclear. Sometimes the property is falling apart and the owners can’t afford to fix it, so they simply leave – such is the case with many homes in post-Katrina New Orleans. Often, abandoned properties have been foreclosed on and are just awaiting their eventual fate.