Hunting for abandoned places in Illinois? You’re in the right place. Below are 19 of my favorite abandoned places from Chicago to East St. Louis.
Abandoned Places In Illinois
1. Damen Silos
The Damen silos were built in 1906 to store, well grain. At the time of their construction, they were the tallest structures in the entire city. The silo’s close proximity to the water allowed for easy storage for grain shipped via the Chicago Ship Canal.
In 1977 an explosion ripped through the facility damaging many of the silos and supporting structures. Ever since the explosion the site has been abandoned.
Today the silos are crumbling but remain standing. The blank concrete serves as a canvas for graffiti artists and taggers. You can explore silos as well as the tunnels which are covered in various tags. While the site is easily accessible that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Falling debris is a genuine hazard.
2. Manteno State Hospital
The Manteno State Hospital was first opened in 1930 to serve as a psychiatric hospital. Over the years the population would rise and other buildings would be constructed on the property. In the hospital’s early years, patient quality of life was low as the hospital struggled during the Great Depression.
Logistical and staffing challenges would continue to be a problem as the shortage of World War II would push the hospital to its limits. High school dropouts were even allowed to substitute for nurses during the massive staff shortages.
Rumors even spread that the US military conducted secret medical testing during World War II, injecting several patients with strains of malaria in hope of developing a cure. By the end of the experiments in 1941, 462 patients would die, and close to 200 would have escaped.
By 1954, the patient population peaked at 8,195 spanning over 200 acres. Like many hospitals of its time, Manteno was self-sustaining. Patients worked various jobs on farms, fire departments, utility services, and even in their own police force.
In the early 1960s the farm would shutdown and the patient population would decline as federal funding shifted away from large institutions to smaller nursing home facilities. The hospital would finally close its doors in 1985.
While some buildings have been demolished, there is plenty of evidence of the Manteno State Hospital. Some buildings were repurposed as a Veterans’ Administration home, while a gold course now resides where campus buildings once did. East of the site is the hospital cemetery where many unknown souls died of suspicious circumstances.
Despite all this development, you can still see many old boarded-up buildings that were once part of Manteno State Hospital. If you’re an explorer I’d definitely recommend checking this place out, before it’s gone forever. Of all the abandoned places in Illinois, this hospital harbors one of the darkest histories on our list.
3. Peoria State Hospital
Peoria State Hospital (AKA Bartonville State Hospital) was constructed during the late 1800s but immediately ran into issues during construction. When the building was erected it suffered from numerous structural integrity issues. The new building was left vacant for several years until being rebuilt.
Abandoned collapsing mines below the surface were to blame, but others suspect that the first building too closely resembled a grim medieval castle, and was scrapped for a more modern cottage design. In 1902 the new facility was finished, featuring 33 buildings, a power station, and a general store.
Peoria State Hospital took on those who were considered “incurable.” Its original name was The Illinois Hospital for the Incurable Insane. By 1925 the population just surpassed 2,500. Unlike Manteno State Hospital, Peoria was praised for its more modern and humane approaches to patient care.
By 1950 patient population would peak at 2,800 patients. Due to dwindling numbers and funding issues, Peoria State Hospital would close its doors in 1972.
Of the 63 buildings across campus, only 12 remain standing today. Many of the buildings are now in use, but some remain boarded up and used as storage. Like many abandoned hospitals, ghost stories have circulated among locals over the years.
As of recent, one of the buildings was purchased by a private owner who offers ghost tours. If you’re in the area Peoria State Hospital is one of the few abandoned places in Illinois that you can legally get a tour of. However, more seasoned explorers might decide to take their own “self-guided tour.”
4. Ashmore Estates
The Ashmore Estates was once part of the Cole County Poor Farm during the mid to late 1800s. Conditions were tough, and inmates regularly died while working on the property. A small cemetery on the property contains the graves of roughly 100 individuals.
Eventually, the farm would close and sell the land to Ashmore Estates, which would transform the property into a private psychiatric hospital in 1959. Only after five years in operation, the facility was forced to close due to funding issues.
The facility was sold to Paul Swinford in 1976 who envisioned building a new facility to house even more residents. Construction was finished in 1981. Due to compliance and permitting issues the facility was closed by the spring of 1986.
Attempts to repurpose the building into a juvenile home in the 1990s were ultimately denied. The property was abandoned and caught fire on Halloween night in 1995. The owner attempted to rehab the home as a private residence but these efforts were hampered by repeated vandalism.
Today the property is largely abandoned. There is talk that the building will be repurposed as some sort of haunted attraction but little has been said or done regarding that project.
5. Old Joliet Prison
The Old Joliet Prison was opened in 1858, resembling an impenetrable medevil castle. Criminals along with prisoners of war during the Civil War were housed inside. The population would swell, and by 1872 over 1,239 inmates would crush the record for the largest prison population in the United States.
During the 1870s the prison also had a female cell house, conveniently located directly across from the male inmates. They would be relocated to another building during the late 1800s. Conditions were brutal. Freezing cold night, and no running water or toilets in the cells until 1910.
The infamous Baby Face Nelson was released from Joliet Prison in 1933. The prison’s brutal conditions eventually led to Chicago gang members taking over a cell block and holding multiple prison guards hostage in 1975. One inmate who tried to reason with the gangs was murdered.
The prison was closed in 2002 due to financial issues, failing infrastructure, and outdated design.
Today the prison is abandoned, but the current owners offer tours of the facility. Unlike many abandoned places in Illinois, The Old Joliet Prison still has many artifacts left inside from its time as a functioning prison. Due to the nature of this location, many believe it to be haunted by the souls who died inside.
6. Ken Norman’s Abandoned Mansion
Former NBA star Ken Norman had an elaborate mansion built right on a golf course in Homewood. The home was built in 1989 and Ken moved out in the early 2000s. The home never sold and eventually fell into ruin.
Today the mansion is in rough shape, with many vandals and thieves having their way with the building over the years. Despite its decay, the mansion is an intriguing place to explore as its not every day you come across an abandoned mansion.
Recently the property was purchased. It’s suspected that the new owners will demolish the home soon.
7. Prairie Observatory
Prairie Observatory was built in 1969 (nice) by the University of Illinois. The observatory had a 40-inch telescope that cost $245,000. The main building had a connected structure that astronomers could live in while tracking celestial bodies
The site was ultimately abandoned. While I could find out why the site is abandoned, I’d guess either light pollution or a lack of funding is responsible.
The telescope was removed, but the dome and main structure still remain. It’s definitely a cool place to visit and is one of the more unique abandoned places in Illinois you can visit. The property is now part of Walnut Point State Park and can be accessed by following hiking trails.
8. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Ghost Church
If you saw the church straight on, you might not notice that it’s own a shell of its former self. The Zion Evangelical Lutheran church was built by German and Irish immigrants in 1880. The church had a 90 foot bell tower and Gothic German script throughout the building.
As German residents moved out of the community, the church was left abandoned and eventually closed its doors for good in 1956. In 1979 a fire broke out destroying the roof and much of its interior. The other than the stone, not much was left of the chruch.
To make matters worse, a wind storm toppled most of the remaining walls. Rather than demolishing the structure, the owner vowed to save the church and preserve its rich German history.
John Podmajersky Jr was worked to reinforce the church’s three walls and restore much of the front face and bell tower of the structure. A charred crucifix can be found inside the walled garden that stands where pews would have been.
The site is one of the more interesting abandoned places in Illinois, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re nearby.
9. Chicago Freight Tunnels
In 1899 the city of Chicago needed a more efficient method of transporting its residents across the city. The Chicago Tunnel Company began constructing over 60 miles of underground tunnels. that connected numerous buildings like the Federal Reserve Bank, City Hall, and Civic Opera House.
The tunnels were equipped with modern services like electricity and telegraph stations. The underground tunnels maintained a consistent temperature of 55 degrees which allowed that air to be pumped into other buildings during the sweltering summer months.
Electric trams would transport people and goods throughout this network of tunnels until 1959 when the Chicago Tunnel Company went bankrupt. The train cars were sold, but the tunnels still remained. These tunnels were mostly forgotten about until The Great Chicago Flood.
An underground construction accident broke the roof of the abandoned tunnels and quickly flooded it with water. The tunnels pushed water into City Hall, and dozens of other buildings. It’s estimated that over $2 billion in damages were caused.
Ever since the flood entry to the tunnels has been sealed. With a little research, diligent explorers could find where the network terminated inspect the exists for themselves. According to one city worker, the only easily accessible way into the tunnel is through City Hall. A permit is required for entry. Its possible underground manholes could intersect with the tunnel but those are likely fenced and locked.
Expect flood conditions and pitch blackness. Due to the condition of the tunnels, this is one of the most dangerous abandoned places in Illinois.
10. Cairo Ghost Town
Cario started out as a booming little river town in the early 1800s. The town survived the Civil War and prospered shortly after. Banks, businesses, and steamboat trades routes were quickly established, drawing in new residents.
Despite this success, Cario was faced deep racial divides that would lay a stain on the town’s reputation. In 1909 William “Froggie” James was suspected of rape and murder, but an investigation was never completed due to the mob that ensued.
William did not have an alibi for the time of the suspected killing, so a mob quickly formed to form their own “investigation”. The mob ransacked his home, but did little to further a real investigation. The police moved William out of the city as the mob surrounded the police station. Eventually, the mob found the police protecting William and disarmed them.
William was drug away by a crowd of 300 men. A crowd of over 10,000 gathered to see him lynched. The rope he was hung from broke, and the crowd fired over 500 rounds at him as he stood up. It’s reported that he was beheaded, and his mutilated body was cut into pieces and set on fire.
Racial tensions would continue into the 1960s as more black men were found lynched. This led to rioting and many residents leaving the community.
Cario is now a ghost town, with dozens of vacant properties, abandoned homes, and shuttered businesses. The scars left in the wave of the racial turmoil are evident, and may never go away. I’d highly suggest visiting Cario as explorers could spend days discovering abandoned places and learning about the city’s dark history.
11. Ebenezer Floppen Slopper’s Abandoned Water Slides
Before the site was a waterpark, it was home to Mt. Trashmore – a heaping pile of garbage in a local landfill. The trash was buried and capped off with clay and covered with concrete.
Ebenezer Floppen Slopper’s Wonderful Water Slides first opened in 1980 with only two simple concrete slides. The park had an excellent opening season as the harsh Illinois heat bore down on its residents. The park would expand to include five more slides and a wading pool. During this expansion, the park was renamed to Doc River’s Roaring Rapids Water Park in the 1980s.
The park would abruptly close in 1989 for reasons unknown. Some say the park closed when a teenager was killed from falling off one of the slides. Others state it was closed because of filtration issues. One more verifiable claim states that chemicals from the buried landfill the park was built on were causing chemical burns and sickness. None of these stories were able to be verified.
The site was left abandoned and has fallen victim to vandals and the elements over the years.
Accessing the site is fairly easy, making this of the easier abandoned places in Illinois to access. Remnants of the old concrete slides can still be found today in the dense foliage.
12. Joliet Iron and Steel Works
Joliet Iron and Steel Works was built in 1869 and would become one of the largest steel mills in the United States. In its early years, the mill played a crucial role in expanding America’s railroad network. The site had a dam, washing plant, engine house, and four blast furnaces capable of processing up to 2,000 tons of iron per day.
By 1900, the plant employed roughly 2,000 workers. In 1926 that number doubled to 4000. The mill would eventually become unprofitable which led the plant to close in the 1980s.
The plant is in ruins and currently a part of the Forest Preserve District In Will County. The area is open to the public for exploration, hiking, and biking. While there are certainly more exciting abandoned places in Illinois, Joliet Iron and Steel Works is a great casual place to explore.
I personally like this place during the fall season. Photographing it via drone also offers a unique perspective.
13. Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children’s School
The Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children’s School was founded in 1869 by the State of Illinois to foster children orphans displaced by the Civil War. During the Spanish American War, the orphanage opened its doors to children during that conflict as well.
During the late 1800s, the school expanded to include a hospital, kitchen, boiler house, church, and industrial training building. Unfortunately, this increased the cost per child. With mounting expenses and aging buildings needing repair, the school closed in 1979 after 114 years in service.
Some buildings have been repurposed, while a few have been demolished. Despite this, there are numerous structures that are abandoned across the former school campus. The Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children’s School is a rare example of a cutting-edge orphanage that wasn’t plagued by scandal and abuse.
14. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was originally home to an early English settlement in the 1830s. The cemetery contains over 200 graves with the earliest burials dating back to 1834. The cemetery had been left abandoned and unattended during the early 1900s.
This neglect led it to be a popular dumping ground for bodies by Chicago’s organized crime families during the 1920s and 30s. Given the site’s age and stories, it’s considered one of the most haunted abandoned places in Illinois.
Paranormal groups have investigated the cemetery since the 1970s. Groups claim to see orbs, hear voices, can capture disembodied voices through electric voice phenomenon.
Today, the cemetery tended to, but many of the graves have been vandalized over the years. Headstones have been broken and many of the older gravestone have been buried with time.
15. City Methodist Church
City Methodist Church in Gary is one of the most popular abandoned places in Illinois. The church took 21 months and $800,000 to build. The organ inside was donated by Elbery Gary, whom the town was named after. Opened in 1906, the City Methodist Church sprouted up amongst brothels and bars to bring the community together under the house of God.
By 1927 the church had a congregation of 1,700. This number would sharply decline in 1929 when the pastor had become unpopular with his stances on interfaith pageants. With a good portion of his churchgoers moving to Ohio, a second pastor took his place. Ironically, this pastor was even less popular than the previous.
In 1950 the church would reach its peak, serving over 3000 members of the community. During the 60s and 70s attendance suffered as the city’s white population began to move elsewhere. This “white flight” along with rising crime rates caused a decline in the town’s population.
The church eventually shut its doors in 1975.
The City Methodist Church in Gary is a mere shadow of its former self. The church is an iconic place for urban explorers. Its stone arches are overrun with ivy, and portions of the ceiling are falling to the floor.
16. St. Stephen’s Church
The church was constructed in 1917, and designed after The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. These Christian Scientists would hold services in the church until around 1960. Much of the area was changing quickly during the 60s, with neighborhoods becoming experiencing more racial and cultural diversity.
At this time, a small black congregation moved in and purchased the church renaming it to St. Stephen’s. Eventually, they sold the church in the 90s to Konstantinos Antoniou who aimed to transform the property into a condominium.
Battles with the neighborhood have prevented Antoniou’s plans. The property was foreclosed and the plans were abandoned.
The church is among one of the most unique abandoned places in Illinois. Its architecture isn’t like most churches. Despite being abandoned for years the hardy concrete structure is still holding on strong.
17. GEM Theatre
The Gem Theatre first opened in 1910, but was wiped out by a fire in 1929. The Gem would later be rebuilt and opened in 1930. Sadly, the Gem would catch fire in 1934, and then again in 1941. It’s clear these guys needed to practice better fire safety.
The building was renamed the Lincoln Theater which stayed open until 1978. After that the building would be used for video rental until closing its dooring in the mid-90s.
Much of the inside of the Gem Theatre is ripped up and gutted. Unfortunately, many of the seats has been removed, leaving empty stair steps where people would have sat. The building is usually well sealed and not accessible to the public.
Despite this, if you’re nearby the theatre is a fascinating place to photograph to explore. The town of Cairo is also a quaint little town with numerous abandoned buildings in and around town.
18. Wyman-Gordon Powerplant
In 1910 two experienced manufacturing magnates partnered up to form the Ingalls-Shepard Forging Company. This company would go on to produce a wide range of parts for automobiles and railroad companies. During the first World War, the plant would change hands and become the Wyman-Gordon plant.
During the 20s the plant would supply steel for America’s demand for the automobile. The plant would continue to serve the country and go on support the war efforts during World War II. Later during the Cold War, the plant would lead the way in titanium technologies and create parts for the F-14 Tomcat, SR-71, and F-15 Eagle fighter jet.
To stay in business, the plant had to shut down the Ingalls-Shepard Division and attempted to sell the facility. After failing to find a buyer, the plant closed down in 1986.
The plant is a playground for urban explorers, with many levels and industrial elements left behind. Today all that’s left of the massive site is the power plant, which is still pretty cool in its own right.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Illinois, 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.