by Peter Ling: Ten historic ghost towns…
Named by German prospectors who came looking for gold, Berlin was a company mining town. Established in the 1880s, the town was largely abandoned by the 1910s after the mine closed in response to strike action. The well-preserved structures are now part of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, known for fossil discoveries of a prehistoric marine mammal.
Kennicott was established as a mining town in 1903 to take advantage of the area’s copper deposits (the emergence of electric power having increased copper’s value considerably). The mines were depleted by 1938 and the town largely abandoned. Since the 1970s, the town has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Monroe County, Florida
More of a ghost fortress than a ghost town, Fort Jefferson’s construction began in 1846 as part of Florida’s defenses against piracy. It also served as a prison during the Civil War, then became a quarantine station and a navy refuelling point before it was abandoned in 1906 due to hurricane damage. Fort Jefferson has been a National Monument since 1935 and is open to tourists. It continues to be the largest brick structure in the U.S.
Granite County, Montana
In the 1890s Garnet was a thriving mining town with a population of over a thousand served by up to 13 saloons. The community emptied as miners left for World War I. A revival of gold mining in the 1930s was halted by World War II, and the town has been abandoned ever since. Around 30 buildings remain today, and an annual Garnet Day allows visitors to experience life in this 19th-century mining town.
Mono County, California
Established as a mining camp in 1859, Bodie boomed after sizable gold discoveries during the 1870s. The town was in decline by the 1910s; the newspaper ceased publication in 1912, and the railway was abandoned in 1918. The last mine closed in 1942 as dynamite and other resources were redirected towards the war effort. Today, the town is open to visitors with around 110 structures still standing.
Chaffee County, Colorado
This well-preserved ghost town attracted over 2,000 residents by the 1880s, when gold and silver mining were at their peak. However, increasingly poor quality ore sent the town into decline by the end of the decade. A new mine temporarily revived prospects in the 1910s, but the industry abandoned the town for good in 1936. A few inhabitants remain and its picturesque setting is a favorite summer tourist destination.
Yuma County, Arizona
Castle Dome was established as a mining camp in 1862 and at one point attracted more than 3,000 residents. The town’s fortunes declined when it became apparent that most of the ore contained lead rather than silver. In the long run, the mines became profitable as they supplied lead for bullet manufacturing during both World Wars. The last mine was operating as recently as the 1970s, but has since been converted into a museum.
Washington County, Utah
After a flood in 1862, the residents of Harrisville (named after settler, Moses Harris) relocated upriver to form Harrisburg. Problems, including drought, led to the departure of much of the population and the town was effectively abandoned by 1895. Interstate 15 runs through the site of the town, structures of which are still visible. The last intact building is the Orson B. Adams Home, named for its original inhabitant, which has been maintained and restored by the Bureau of Land Management.
Beaverhead County, Montana
Founded in 1862, Bannack was briefly the capital of Montana. Up to 10,000 people lived in the surrounding area, hoping to make their fortune in gold, but by 1870 all the easy-to-reach ore was gone and the population rapidly declined to the hundreds. Newly developed electric dredging methods led to a brief revival after 1895, but by the 1940s the town was deserted. Today, about 60 intact structures remain.
Hidalgo County, New Mexico
This railroad and mining town was named after United States Army Major, Enoch Steen. It was initially established in the 1880s after gold, silver and copper discoveries, and in 1905 a rock quarry opened to provide ballast for the railways. The closure of the quarry in 1925 sent the town into decline, and when the railroad (the desert town’s only source of water) closed in 1944, most remaining residents departed. Since 1988 the surviving buildings have (intermittently) been open as a tourist attraction.