Last Updated on October 23, 2021 by Urbex Underground
On the hunt for abandoned places in Virginia? I got you covered. Below are our 20 favorite abandoned locations throughout the state.
Last Updated on October 23, 2021 by Urbex Underground
Abandoned Places In Virginia
1. Wise County Orphanage
The Wise Country Orphanage sits by itself slowly becoming consumed by the wilderness around it. Many locals claim the property is haunted, specifically by small children. There’s not much online in terms of the history of this place, but it is an interesting spot to check out.
The inside is fairly blown out and vandalized, as this place is one of the more popular abandoned places in Virginia, especially to the local kids. Still, if you’re in the area it’s worth shooting the exterior or getting some overhead drone shots to show just how much the property has been neglected over the years.
2. Western State Lunatic Asylum
Western State Lunatic Asylum (Stauton) was a massive complex that opened in 1828 to care for the mentally disabled. Of all the asylums during the mid to late 1800s, Stauton was considered a luxury resort-style center to help those with cognitive and behavioral issues.
The center would change its name from Stauton to Western State Hospital in the late 1800s, but continued much of the same care. Head architect William Small believed that open-air designs, terraced gardens, and scenic walkways would help stimulate mental health.
This is reflected all throughout the property and in the classical revival architecture. Unfortunately, like many mental health facilities across the country, Western State would fall victim to underfunding and abuse.
By the middle of the 19th century, funding for resort-like facilities dried up, and sterile institutions were a new trend. This change brought on overcrowding and transformed Western State from a rehabilitation center, to a warehouse for the disabled.
Forced sterilizations, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies plagued the hospital from the early 1900s to the late 40s. Over 2000 unmarked graves can be found behind the property. The circumstances of a majority of the deaths at Western State are shrouded in mystery with little documentation available.
Today, much of the Western State Lunatic Asylum has been converted into the Blackburn hotel. Thankfully they did an excellent job preserving the history, keeping the iconic spiraling staircase, and even keeping some cell doors intact.
Some buildings on the property are still being repaired, offering a glimpse into its original state. The properties are connected through a network of underground tunnels which now may be inaccessible.
While this isn’t 100% abandoned, I’d still recommend anyone to check this place out if you’re a fan of dark history and architectural preservation.
3. DeJarnette Center
Less than two miles from the form Western State Hospital is the ghostly DeJarnette Sanitarium. Founded by Dr. Joseph DeJarnette director of Western State Hospital, the DeJarneete center was supposed to be a more upscale facility for wealthier families.
Unfortunately for his patients, DeJarnette was an outspoken advocate for the eugenics movement. He was largely responsible for many of the forced sterilizations at both locations. The doctor was even quoted stating that Nazi Germany was “beating us at our own game.”
Conditions inside were unimaginable, as patients were seen as someone to make better, but something that was defective. DeJarnette’s horrific practices were justified by protecting the “greater good” by eliminating the reproduction of “inferiors”.
As the scale and brutality of the Holocaust came to light, the eugenics movement quickly lost public support. Soon, the theory was deemed inhumane and DeJarnette’s reputation was left in shambles. Surprisingly, forced sterilizations would be continue in Virginia until the 1970s.
Eventually, the state took control of the center in the mid-1970s, and much of the facility fell into disrepair. It was soon transformed into a children’s school, that eventually relocated to a new facility in the late 90s. The building has sat empty ever since.
The DeJarnette Sanitarium serves as one of the darkest abandoned places in Virginia’s history.
4. Crozet Tunnel (Blue Ridge Tunnel)
Engineered by Claudius Crozet, the Crozet tunnel was considered one of the most notable engineering marvels of its time.
This historic railroad tunnel was opened in 1858 and stretched just over 4200 feet, the longest railroad tunnel in the United States.
The Virginia Central Railroad used the railroad to transport goods and coal from remote mining locations throughout the state. The tunnel even played a key role during the Civil War.
Stonewall Jacksons used his knowledge of the local topography and Crozet Tunnel to quickly move troops in and out of battle.
The Crozet tunnel would ultimately be abandoned once more efficient railways were connected. The area tunnel is intact and is now part of the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail.
The trail is open to the public, making this an easy abandoned place in Virginia anyone can explore.
5. Barboursville Ruins
The Barboursville ruins were once one of the largest and most recognized estates in the area during the early 1800s. Construction of the Barboursville estate finished in 1822 and is rumored to have been designed by none other than Thomas Jefferson. The owner James Barbour served as governor for Virginia and was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson.
The estate stood two stories high and was made of sturdy brick Flemish with an English basement and ornate outer decorations. While it wasn’t the largest estate in the area, it stood out in its own unique way. Its unique architecture is still evident after its destruction.
On Christmas day in 1884, the home tragically caught fire, destroying everything that wasn’t brick. Today ruins are on the property of the Barboursville Winery and can be explored with relative ease. The area is fairly well known to locals and is one of the easier abandoned places in Virginia to explore.
6. Barton Mansion
The Barton Mansion was another once-grand estate that was well known in the local township. Today, rumors of hauntings and restoration surround the property. The mansion was built in the early 1900s and has undergone dozens of renovations and received occasional additions during its lifetime.
During the majority of its early history, the 20,000-foot mansion served as a nursing home, sanitarium, polio treatment clinic, and housing for unwed mothers. It’s no wonder why stories of hauntings have plagued the mansion since its inception.
*Update* The property was recently purchased by investors and transformed into 17 luxury apartments. Each apartment evidently has a theme. Ready to live in the “Birthing Room” or “Operating Suite”?
7. Lorton Reformatory
One of the most “secure” abandoned places in Virginia is hands down the Lorton Reformatory. The prison first took shape as a prison farm in 1910, where prison labor was used to manufacture goods. Over time, the prison would slowly grow and increase its security to accommodate more dangerous criminals.
Prison labor was ironically used to make the prison farm more secure during the 1930s. When you visit, you’ll be greeted by massive solid brick guard towers and massive metal perimeter fencing accented with brick. Eventually, the property would grow to a massive 3,500 acres in size.
The Lorton Reformatory was also used briefly during the Cold War where underground bunkers were installed in case of Soviet attack. The site is also home to Nike site W-64, where Nike Hercules missiles would be armed and ready to strike at Soviet planes passing overhead.
After nearly 100 years in operation, the facility was closed due to its rapidly aging infrastructure which directly impacted prisoner conditions. By 2001, the last prisoners had been transferred elsewhere leaving the cells empty.
I first stumbled across the ghost town of Pamplin when returning from a trip shooting an abandoned mansion down south. It was quite a strange find, but I’m glad we stuck around it shoot it. Pamplin is located right off of Route 460 and was built as a small settlement during the 1850s.
The exact details of when Pamplin was settled aren’t exactly known, but many speculate white settlers started living on the land during the late 1700s. Pamplin was a quaint town, but grew in size during the 1850s when the Norfolk Western Railroad carved a route right through the town.
The railroad would be responsible for a second boom in Pamplin’s population during the early 1900s. Hotels, banks, and shops would quickly pop up creating the main strip where locals could gather and socialize. Many residents worked for the Pamplin Pipe Factory, which was one of the largest producers of Clay pipe in the country.
As reliance on railroads and clay pipes faded away, so did the residents of Pamplin. Today, Pamplin sits quietly along the tracks, with almost all the storefronts and buildings abandoned. The old train depot has been converted into the town office, serving the few residents that still call Pamplin home.
9. The House of Sycamore Cross
Located in the middle of a thick field surround by swamp, the House of Sycamore Cross in Ivor pre-dates the Civil War and is the last building of its era that still stands. Mystery has surrounded this home ever since the locals can recall.
The community swears that in the late 1800s this brick building seemingly had a mind of its own. Furniture could not be removed from the floor, as it simply would not budge. If anyone did manage to get something from the home, the door would lock itself.
The property was named after a large Sycamore tree that marked the crossroads outside the property during the 1930s. Not much is know about the home other than that it was abandoned after the Civil War. The person to own the property was a preacher, who convinced the current landowner to spare the old home from demolition.
Buildings like this are rare, so be respectful if you do decide to visit. The Smithfield Times did an excellent short video on the property, you can check it out below.
10. Rosewell Foundation
The Rosewell is one of the easier abandoned places to explore in Virginia, but that doesn’t make this place any less impressive. The Rosewell mansion was at one time the most lavish and impressive estate in all of Virginia.
In 1725 the Page family would settle in the area and start constructing their lavish brick castle. Much of this was funded through the use of slave labor, which the Page family had been involved in since the 1670s.
Over the next 100 years, the Page family would host parties, events, and dances in their home. It briefly changed ownership and fell into disrepair during the Civil War and throughout the early 1900s.
In 1916 a fire devastated the home, leaving nothing but the brick outer shell standing. Much of the community was devastated, but not everyone was so distraught.
As the community tried to put the fire out, a slave by the name of James Andrew Carter was quoted saying “let it burn.”
The ruin of the Rosewell Foundation is an entry-level place for most urban explorers, but is still with shooting even for those more experienced.
11. Kiptopeke Breakwater
I first covered Kiptopeke Breakwater when researching the most exciting abandoned ships around the world, but we’ll dive into details here again. One of the most unique abandoned places in Virginia actually isn’t on land at all. Instead, this collection of concrete ships can be found just north of Virginia beach.
Yes, concrete ships. Believe it or not, the United States contracted over a dozen concrete ships to be made during the steel shortage of the 1940s. Concrete was inexpensive and ships were in high demand throughout WWII.
Some ships like the S.S Vitruvius even participated in combat missions and were active during the D-Day invasion. After the war, everyone agreed concrete ships weren’t the best idea. With steel production ramping back up the ships were all decommissioned.
The final mission for these concrete behemoths? To protect the coast from erosion. Today, nine concrete ships make up the Kiptopeke Breakwater off the coast of Kiptopeke State Park.
You can photograph them yourself from the fishing pier, or rent a kayak during the summer season and get right up close to them.
12. Belle Isle Hydroelectric Plant & Ruins
On a rock ledge right on James River lies the ruins of the Belle Isle Hydroelectric Plant. The island itself has quite the history, first being home to native tribes and then as a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War.
Thousands of prisoners were kept on the island, with many of them dying and be buried on the property. According to the state, all remains have been removed and relocated. Numerous other ruins like a nail factory and explosives shed dot the island.
The hydro plant was built in the early 1900s and provided power to the local industry on the island. The crumbling remains are now covered in graffiti and are a magnet for curious kids and history lovers.
Unlike Kiptopeke Breakwater, you won’t need a boat to reach the island. You can get to the island and its ruins by crossing the tracks from hillcrest road and following the path east.
13. Abandoned Renaissance Faire
One of my favorite explorations to date was the abandoned renaissance faire, and is one of the most unique abandoned places in Virginia. Arguably one of the most impressive fairgrounds, the park attracted reenactors and guests from all over the country.
The park opened in the early 90s but would struggle throughout its life. The fairgrounds are isolated, with little in terms of lodging or accommodations for those traveling from out of state. This, combined with the relentless mosquitos and ticks, the park was forced to close down.
Today, the property is in ruins, but that doesn’t take away how just how awesome of a place this is. Local hunters now hunt on the property so if you choose to go, just don’t make the trip during hunting season.
If you’re interested in hearing about how I was almost shot by a local hunting group, check out the short video below.
14. Poplar Hill Mansion
Also known as the Dunnington Mansion, the 1,100 acres were originally settled in the 1700s with just a four-room wooden cabin. The property was primarily used as a farm with the owners exploiting slave labor to harvest crops like cotton and tobacco.
During the late 18th century, Francis Watkins would build a larger brick structure around the original wooden cabin. In the early 1900s tobacco tycoon Grey Dunnington would purchase the property and transform the brick home into the crumbling mansion we see today.
The housing crisis of 2001 would prove to be the mansions downfall, with the owners abandoning it. A development company purchased the land and built a golf course on it, but never allocated enough funds to actually restore the mansion to its former glory.
Today, the mansion is privately owned again, but little has been done to preserve this beauty. The Popular Hill Mansion is one of the most ornate abandoned places in Virginia, and I for one hope it’s saved before it’s too late.
15. Chapman Berverly Mill Ruins
Also known to the locals as Chapman Mill, this five-story grist mill was built in 1742 with its shell surprisingly still well intact. The mill was nearly perfect until catching fire in 1998, leaving only its hardy walls behind.
During its construction, it was the largest known stone structure in the entire country. Recently, there have been talks of restoration plans but little has materialized at the time of this article. If you appreciate history, be sure to check the place out.
Catching this place at golden hour is a must, and the surrounding area is dark enough to capture the starry sky for long exposure shots at night.
16. Fleetwood Church
The Fleetwood church towers over the nearby railroad tracks and where it served as a community hub and place of worship for over 93 years. Many in the community believe the structure to be haunted, and for good reason.
Historic documents indicate the church was constructed directly on top of a burial ground for soldiers who died in the Battle of Brandy Station. The gothic revival architecture stands out from everything else around it, making it a truly unique and historic abandoned place in Virginia.
**Update** – The property has been purchased and is undergoing preservation efforts.
17. President Heads
it’s truly hard to grasp just how large these crumbling presidential bust really are without experiencing it for yourself. The statuses were created by artist David Adickes who was inspired to create his own rendition of Mount Rushmore after seeing it for himself.
The statues were on display until the property they were located on was purchased in 2010. Logistically moving the massive statues is no easy task, which put them in danger of being destroyed.
Luckily, a founding member of the park that displayed the busts took on the task and saved all 42 heads. They are now located on his farm for the time being. With no one quite sure what the heads will be used for, they currently sit overgrown on the farm.
The heads have gained a lot of popularity over the years, attracting tons of visitors. Unfortunately, this led to the property owner stepping up security and installing numerous cameras to keep unwanted visitors away.
18. Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field
Constructed in 1943, the now overgrown runway was a bustling outpost that could support up to three full squadrons of aircraft, roughly 63 fighter planes. The runway played a critical role in our air defence capabilities during WWII.
At the end of the second world war, the property consisted of four 2500 foot runways, ammunition bunkers, and numerous aircraft hangers. Unfortunately, the need for the base quickly took a nosedive after the war, leaving most of the property abandoned.
The airforce hired one local to be the caretaker of the property, which is quite odd. After the war, newer aircraft required much longer runways to launch from. A more modern 8000-foot runway was constructed and the older runway was pushed aside.
During the late 50s, bored crewmen would use the isolated runways for drag racing and other shenanigans. More recently, the airfield is used to store abandoned and decommissioned aircraft which can be seen over historic images across the late 80s and early 2000s.
The property contains an active naval runway, making only the western runway truly abandoned. I’d advise getting permission before wandering into an active airbase.
19. Abandoned Slavery Museum
This outdoor museum is now a neglected mess of thorn bushes and rotting wooden structures located in Fredricksburg Virginia. The goal of the museum was to shed light on the history and horror of early American slavery, but somewhere it all went wrong.
In the early 2000s, Virginia governor Douglas Wilder issued a grant for a slavery museum to be built. The plans were grand included a full-sized slave ship, tobacco garden, and lifelike statues of African American slaves.
Ultimately, financial issues during that time stopped the museum from ever becoming a reality. Instead, a small garden was constructed in 2007, but even that was ultimately left unmaintained. The overgrown plot of land is only frequented by urban explorers, and is a sad reminder of our history and inability to tell it.
20. Swannanoa Palace
At the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains, the elegant Swannanoa Palace sits quietly nestled in trees waiting to be explored. The mansion was built by a wealthy railroad executive in 1912, who commissioned the ornate Italianate marble home for himself and his family.
It took over 300 skilled artists and designers to build the palace to reflect the famous Villa de Medici in Rome. During the 1930s, the swanky mansion was rumored to have some of the best moonshine and parties in the entire state. The property took on many jobs, from country club to golf course over the years.
The US Navy even had plans to buy the property in the 1940s and convert it into a black site for prisoner integration. The plan was ultimately scrapped as many through Congress would never approve such an elegant structure for such use.
The mansion would sit vacant throughout the 40s until being periodically leased by the University of Science and Philosophy.
*Update* – The property is now under the care county who work to restore the property and conduct tours.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Virginia, 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.