Blake Walsh

25 Forgotten Towns in The USA

  • Published 2023/12/10

Across the vast landscape of the United States lie hidden pockets of history, small towns that once bustled with life but now exist quietly, almost forgotten by the rapid pace of modern life.

These towns, marked by their decline in population, fading industries, or significant historical events, offer a unique window into the diverse and rich tapestry of American history.

From the Northeastern relics to the Pacific Coast’s forgotten ports, each town carries its own story, a fragment of the nation’s past waiting to be rediscovered.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

A church at Centralia, Pennsylvania

WhiteHotRanch /

Perhaps one of America’s most infamous towns, Centralia has been nearly abandoned due to a coal mine fire burning since 1962.

The deserted streets and smoke emanating from the ground offer a haunting glimpse into a catastrophic industrial disaster.

Gouldsboro, Maine

House in Gouldsboro, Maine

steve estvanik /

Once a thriving fishing community, Gouldsboro’s decline followed the collapse of the sardine canning industry.

The town, with its picturesque harbors and quiet streets, now serves as a solemn reminder of the volatile nature of economic dependence on a single industry.

Monson, Maine

Aerial view of Monson, Maine

Isaac Crabtree /

Monson, a small town with a rich slate mining history, experienced a sharp decline as the industry waned.

However, recent arts and community-driven revitalization efforts are breathing new life into this quiet New England town.

Rodney, Mississippi

A church in Rodney, Mississippi

Rochelle Robin- Darby /

Once a bustling river town, Rodney missed its opportunity to become a major city when the Mississippi River changed course.

Today, its decaying buildings and empty streets are a testament to the transformative power of nature on human settlements.

Cahawba, Alabama

An old house at Cahawba, Alabama

Low Flite /

The first state capital of Alabama, Cahawba became a ghost town post-Civil War.

Its abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries speak to the ephemerality of political and economic fortunes.

Prince, West Virginia

Railroad bridge at Prince, West Virginia

Gestalt Imagery /

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Prince’s decline followed the reduction in coal mining activities.

The town’s small, charming train station remains a reminder of its once pivotal role in the coal industry.

Spectre, Alabama

Waters of Spectre, Alabama

Thomas Burks /

An unusual entry, Spectre was actually a set built for the movie “Big Fish.”

After filming, the set was abandoned, leaving a surreal, cinematic ghost town on the banks of the Alabama River.

Bodie, California

Daytime view of Bodie, California

Tomasz Wozniak /

Although technically in the West, Bodie’s story is closely tied to the Southern gold rush.

Now a preserved state historic park, it stands as one of the most authentic and undisturbed ghost towns in America.

Cairo, Illinois

Abandoned buildings at Cairo, Illinois

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

At the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Cairo’s strategic location couldn’t save it from decline.

The town, rich in Civil War history, now battles abandonment and economic hardship.

Kennecott, Alaska

Buildings at Kennecott, Alaska

Steven Schremp /

Far north, in the heart of Alaska’s wilderness, lies the abandoned copper mining town of Kennecott.

Its deserted mills and homes, set against a dramatic natural backdrop, tell a story of a once-lucrative industry.

Picher, Oklahoma

Buildings at Picher, Oklahoma

Angela Feltes /

A former mining town, Picher became a modern ghost town due to severe lead contamination and a series of sinkholes.

Its empty streets and toxic land bear witness to the environmental impact of unchecked industrial activity.

Dannemora, New York

Known for its maximum-security prison, Dannemora’s history is steeped in correctional lore.

This town, once a hub for iron mining, has seen its population dwindle, but the imposing structure of the Clinton Correctional Facility remains a stark reminder of its unique history.

Gary, Indiana

Aerial view of Gary, Indiana

Matt Gush /

Known for its steel manufacturing, Gary’s decline came with the industry’s downturn.

Today, many of its majestic buildings, like the grand Union Station, stand deserted, echoing the town’s former glory.

Elkmont, Tennessee

Cabins at Elkmont, Tennessee

William Silver /

Originally a logging town, Elkmont is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Its abandoned cabins and structures are relics of the early 20th-century Appalachian logging industry.

St. Elmo, Colorado

 Buildings at St. Elmo, Colorado

Atmosphere1 /

This remarkably well-preserved ghost town offers a vivid snapshot of the mining era.

Once bustling with miners, St. Elmo is now a silent, picturesque town frozen in time.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Mercantile at Rhyolite, Nevada

Laurens Hoddenbagh /

Near Death Valley, Rhyolite’s ruins speak to the boom-and-bust cycle of gold mining towns.

The remaining structures, including a bank and a schoolhouse, are haunting reminders of transient wealth.

Thurmond, West Virginia

People walking along Thurmond, West Virginia

Andriy Blokhin /

Thurmond, once a vital railroad town, now has a population of five.

The town’s abandoned coal facilities and railroad tracks serve as symbols of a bygone industrial era.

Jerome, Arizona

Buildings at Jerome, Arizona

Fotoluminate LLC /

Clinging to Cleopatra Hill, Jerome transitioned from a mining town to a thriving tourist and artistic community, showing how some towns can reinvent themselves and avoid being forgotten.

Calico, California

Daytime view of Calico, California

mariakray /

Another mining town turned tourist attraction, Calico offers a colorful glimpse into the region’s silver mining history.

Its restored buildings and mines attract visitors interested in the Old West.

Port Townsend, Washington

Far view of Port Townsend, Washington

Edmund Lowe Photography /

Known for its Victorian architecture, Port Townsend was envisioned as a major harbor.

However, its economic prospects dwindled, leaving a town rich in history and architectural beauty.

Bodie, Washington

Cabin at Bodie, Washington

CL Shebley /

Not to be confused with its Californian namesake, this Bodie was a gold-mining town.

Today, its few remaining structures are quietly weathering away, hidden in the state’s northern reaches.

Drawbridge, California

Building at Drawbridge, California

yhelfman /

Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Drawbridge is a rare ghost town slowly sinking into the marshlands.

Once a popular weekend getaway, it’s now an inaccessible, decaying memory.

North Bloomfield, California

Pots and pans at North Bloomfield, California

Danita Delimont /

Part of the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, this town was central to the Gold Rush.

Its preserved buildings offer insights into the mining practices and daily life of the era.

Astoria, Oregon

Aerial view of Astoria, Oregon

Jess Kraft /

While not abandoned, Astoria’s history as the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast is often overlooked.

Its rich maritime history and cultural heritage make it a fascinating, if not forgotten, town.

America’s forgotten towns are more than just relics of the past; they are vibrant chapters of the nation’s history, each with a unique story to tell.

Their stories of boom and bust, hope and despair, remind us of the resilience and adaptability of communities.

These towns, in their silent endurance, challenge us to remember and preserve the diverse narratives that have shaped the United States.

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