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Hunting for abandoned places in Delaware? You’re in the right place. Below are 8 of my favorite abandoned places across the state.
Abandoned Places In Delaware
1. Bancroft Mills
Bancroft Mill is easily one of the most popular abandoned places in Delaware thanks to its sheer size and riverfront location. The mill was built in 1831 by English immigrant Joseph Bancroft whose ambitions would drive him to run one of the largest cotton finishing mills in the United States.
The mill refined cotton into high-quality cloth used in clothing and pioneered the first synthetic fibers that we’re all familiar with today. The mill operated in some capacity until 1961 when it was no longer economical to make cotton locally. The building changed hands before being abandoned in 2003.
In 2015 a fire broke out damaging a large portion of the mill. Another fire in 2016 destroyed another large portion along the creek. Today remnants of the building can still be explored along the river.
2. Gibraltar (Hugh Rodney Sharp Mansion)
The Gibraltar Mansion is one of the more iconic abandoned places in Delaware, with it being one of the only few abandoned mansions in the state. The mansion was built around 1844 on a rocky piece of land that overlooked the town.
In 1909 Hugh Rodney Sharp and his wife moved in and remodeled the home in its iconic Colonial Revival and Italianate style. When Hugh died in 1968 the property was passed to his son, who did not share the same enthusiasm for horticulture that his father once did.
Later the mansion would open to the public in the 90s before being abandoned for over 20 years.
Today the stone mansion sits empty and abandoned. The once carefully cared for gardens now grow out of control and consume parts of the home.
3. Ship John Shoal Lighthouse
The Ship John Shoal Lighthouse was built in response to a Christmas Eve shipwreck in 1797. Captain Robert Folger was steering his ship up the Delaware Bay when suddenly he ran aground on a rocky patch of land. He and 50 german passengers found themself stranded, but safe.
The lighthouse took a whopping $125,000 to build and was finally finished in 1874. The lighthouse in one of the more unique abandoned places in Delaware, as screw-pile lighthouses aren’t as common in this day and age. During operation, caretakers would perform 12-hour watches until 1973 when the tasks was automated.
By 2011, the coast guard deemed the lighthouse an excess, which led to the lighthouse losing its maintenance funding. The lighthouse was purchased by a private owner in 2012 for $60,200 but little has been done to keep up on the property. The harsh winds and salty water have eroded the lighthouse making it almost pink in color after all these years.
4. Garrett Snuff Mill
Garrett Snuff Mill was a snuff tobacco mill built in the late 1800s. During operation, the mill was very successful and expanded to include over 14 different buildings. The Garret family primarily manufactured tobacco for the state until sitting down in 1954. In 1978 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today many of the hardy brick buildings still stand, despite the years of neglect and surviving several arson attempts. Although the mill is on a historic list, that doesn’t protect it from further destruction or lock in any funding to restore the property.
5. Fort Miles
Fort Miles was built in 1934 and primarily served as part of a coast defense network during World War II. The fort was tasked with protecting the Delaware Bay and Delaware River from invading forces and enemy fire. Fort Miles even controlled an underwater minefield that could be triggered to destroy incoming enemy ships.
Fort Miles was active throughout both world wars before eventually becoming obsolete in 1950. The fort was considered surplus and primarily used for storage during the 50s and 60s. Fort Miles did house a classified sonar system called SOSUS used to track Soviet submarines during the Cold War.
Today, large parts of the fort remain abandoned and are slowly becoming more overgrown with each passing year. The main portion of the fort has been restored and is open for visitors. They even restored one of the main guns for visitors to see for themselves.
For Miles is one of the best legal abandoned places to explore in Delaware, and I would recommended visiting if you’re in the area.
6. Reedy Island Range Rear Light
Reedy Island Range Rear Light (try saying that three times fast) was built during the early 1900s as dredging began on a new northern channel headed towards Philadelphia. The light was supposed to be temporary but became a permanent fixture.
The light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
In 2002 a fire wiped out the keeper’s house, but the steel tower still remains. While it’s not one of the most exciting abandoned places in Delaware, the tower is still a unique piece of history worth visiting if you’re close by.
7. Tower 7: The Observatory
Tower 7 is one of many fire control towers located along the eastern coast of the United States. This tower was used during World War II to locate enemy ships approaching the Delaware coastline. After the war was over, the towers fell out of use, especially with later advancements in passive radar technology.
The tower is located near Fort Miles has is maintained by staff at Fort Miles. This is one of the few abandoned places in Delaware that are legal to explore, making it a great casual place to photograph and visit.
8. Abandoned Fire Control Tower & Dunes
Just west of Tower 7 and Fort Miles are sprawling sandy dunes that hide another more rustic fire control tower, and even possibly the remnants of an old bunker. The tower located in the dunes isn’t maintained like the one at Fort Miles, and photographers can get some pretty cool shots of it with the sand in the background.
The tower is still standing, you’ll have to follow some rough sandy paths to get to the base of it. The bunkers I cannot verify if they exist, however many locals say they’ve explored them. They are located in the sandy dune area just west of the campgrounds.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Delaware, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.