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Hunting for abandoned places in Wisconsin? You’re in the right place. Below are 17 of my favorite abandoned places throughout the state.
Abandoned Places In Wisconsin
1. Northridge Mall
The Northridge Mall opened in 1972 offering many big-name stores like J. C. Penney, Sears, Boston Store, and Gimbels. The mall began to decline much faster than other malls of its time. By the mid to late 70s, protesters who didn’t want freeways built in their community blamed the mall for overdeveloping their town.
Crime was also on the rise, and property values fell in response. In 1994, Jesse Anderson stabbed his wife to death in a TGI Friday’s parking lot right next to the mall. This case would attract national attention and contribute to the perceived danger to the community.
The early 2000s recession drove many stores from the mall. This coupled with the rise in eCommerce led to the malls’ failure. The mall finally closed in 2003. In 2019 a maintenance contractor was electrocuted to death while inspecting an open fuse box in the mall.
Today the mall is owned by a Chinese investment firm that continues to make payments that stifle the city’s eminent domain orders. The mall is sometimes used for airsoft tournaments but otherwise is completely abandoned.
2. University Of Wisconsin Steam Tunnels
Underneath the University Of Wisconsin, there’s a labyrinth of tunnels that span across the campus and numerous other buildings. These tunnels span nearly 20 miles and have been in use since the late 1800s for various purposes.
The tunnels are used to heat and cool different buildings as well as allow power and other services to reach different buildings without interrupting traffic above. If you’ve heard of these tunnels you know of the Tunnel Bob legend dating back to the 70s. Stories state that a mysterious figure roams the tunnels and patrols them for trespassers.
Turns out the stories are true. Tunnel Bob was briefly interviewed by university students. He explained he has a fascination for steam tunnels specifically.
The tunnels are still part of a vast underground network that connects the different campus buildings together. It is illegal to enter the tunnels. There are dozens of entrances but many of them remain sealed. The steam tunnels are extremely hot making them one of the more dangerous abandoned places in Wisconsin.
3. Honey Creek Drains
Located beneath I-94 is a large set of drains that move water south. These drains are CSO overflow tunnels that move rainwater and spillover from the street into the Honey River. I don’t have much information about these tunnels other than that they possibly connect to McCarty Park.
The drains are covered with a few tags but the deeper you go the less graffiti you’ll find. Be careful when exploring drains and make sure you know the danger of drains before you go.
4. Menomonee Valley Grain Silos
Located on the Menomonee River are a set of abandoned grain silos. There are also numerous other abandoned structures located along the river. Formerly known as the Archer Daniels Midland Co. grain elevators, they now sit empty and unused for several years.
The silos are in rough shape but are structurally sound. It’s rumored that a new business will be purchasing the property soon. The rails are live and patrolled by bulls, so be very careful if you choose to cross the tracks.
5. Milwaukee Harvester Company
The Milwaukee Harvester factory was built in 1880 where it produced gasoline engines, lawnmowers, harvesters, and farming equipment. By 1905 the factory began to manufacture cream separators which would prove to be one of their most successful products.
During World War II, the factory expanded its operations and employed over 8200 people during its peak. Like many factories, Milwaukee Harvester shifted its focus to aid the war effort. 155-millimeter gun carriages and 75-millimeter shells were added to the product line.
In 1971, the factory would close its doors. Manufacturing was moved to more modern facilities located in Kentucky.
The Milwaukee Harvester Company is a beautiful building with a long and rich history. Even with years of abandonment, the building is still worth checking out. While much of the relics have been removed, the building still offers explorers a unique look into Wisconsin’s past.
6. Werner’s Wonder Resort
Werner’s Wonder Resort was a small family-owned summer with quaint cottages and lakeside views. After the owners passed, the property was left to their daughter. The daughter still lives on the property, but the resort never reopened.
We couldn’t find much in regards to history, but we believe the resort closed sometime around 2001.
The cottages are located on private property, with many of the resort homes well-sealed. Outside of the old derelict homes, you can find a number of old row boats moored on the muddy lakeside.
7. Fort Dells Amusement Park
Fort Dells was a frontier amusement park that opened back in the summer of 1959. There were numerous rides, a petting zoo, live music, and even a railroad ride. The park eventually closed in 1985 as sales and popularity dwindled.
While there are certainly more exciting abandoned places in Wisconsin, we wanted to include Fort Dells for its interesting history and because we have a soft spot for abandoned theme parks.
Fort Dells is a mere shadow of itself, with ruins and remnants scattered in the overgrown patches of woods throughout the property. You can find old wagon wheels, tombstone props, and even a cave.
8. Scott Elementary School
There isn’t anything too exciting about Scott Elementary School unless of course, you went there as a student. During operation, the school taught up to 80 students ranging from first to fifth grade. Information about this location isn’t easy to find, but I suspect the school was closed due to budget issues and a dwindling population.
Like many abandoned schools this site has been heavily vandalized likely by local kids. Tasteless graffiti and vandalism can be found pretty much everywhere. Even with the destruction, the school is one of the better abandoned places in Wisconsin for newer urban explorers.
The school is currently owned by a private holding company that has kept up to date on taxes, so there could be plans for the site. Likely the school will be demoed and a new structure will take its place.
9. Futuro House
The Futuro House is one of the rare abandoned places in Wisconsin, as there aren’t many Futuro houses still standing. These prefabricated UFOs were built during the late 60s and 70s. Only 100 were ever made, so finding one intact is a real treat.
The Futuro house now sits in an overgrown backyard right along with County Road J. The best way to see it is from the street. The owner lives on the property and keeps a close eye on his alien artifact. Over the years the UFO homes have been sold between collectors or unfortunately buried with time, so if you’re in the area be sure to check this spot out.
10. Nike Missile Control Site M-74
There are hundreds of abandoned Nike Missile sites scattered across the country, with many residing in Wisconsin. Nike Missile Control Site M-74 was one of eight sites tasked with protecting the manufacturing effort in Milwaukee.
These sites housed Nike missiles which could quickly deploy in the event of a Soviet air invasion. Many facilities like M-74 housed nuclear warheads which could detonate high above the atmosphere and obliterate a wide-scale air invasion.
Like all Nike sites, when the Cold War was over the base was closed down. The site has fallen into ruin with many of the garages and outhouses collapsing from years of neglect. The launch doors have been sealed so access to the underground portion is impossible.
If you’ve never seen a Nike missile base this could be a cool experience for newer urban explorers. The site is considered private property and those who have been dumb enough to climb the tower in broad daylight have been cited with trespassing.
11. Wisconsin Die Casting
The Wisconsin Die Casting plant is a massive site once spanning over 61,000 square feet. The plant operated for over 60 years before abruptly shutting down in 2008. It was reported that workers turned up for work in the morning only to find themselves locked out and jobless.
The owners left behind a lot, including toxic chemicals. The EPA completed a Site Assessment that discovered asbestos, PCB, lead-based paint, and mercury contamination.
Given the hazards inside, Wisconsin Die Casting is one of the more dangerous abandoned places in Wisconsin. Today, taggers, explorers, and curious souls explore the husk of a building. Little can be done with the site until clean-up has been completed.
12. Standard Foundry Works
The Standard Foundry opened in 1916 where it primarily manufactured cylinder castings for engines. During World War II it was repurposed to produce weapons and engines for the war effort. The factory shifted its focus over the years to accommodate new technology before finally closing sometime in the 90s.
Today, the old building offers photographers lots to play with. Natural lighting, overgrown brickwork, and crumbling walls make the site a beautiful place to explore. The roof offers a sweet view of the skyline and you can find squatters throughout the building during the warmer months.
13. Testors Corporation
Testors Corporation started back in 1929 when Nils Testor purchased a small adhesive manufacturing company in the Rockford area. The factory made Klister, which was a glue-like material used for mending women’s stockings. As the glue became more popular, the business expanded into other areas such as shoe repair.
During World War II, finding supplies and chemicals was difficult, forcing Testor to branch out even more. The plant began serving the hobby market, making airplane glue and model cement.
The company eventually fell on hard times with the owner returning back to Sweden and selling off his company. It’s unclear when the building was abandoned by we estimate it was in the late eightys or 1990s.
There are definitely more exciting abandoned places in Wisconsin, but the Testors Corporation is still a place you’ll want to see if you’re nearby. Many of the floors are stripped out and bare exposing the concrete and steel frame of the building.
14. Barber-Colman Complex
The Barber-Colman Complex was built in 1902 and includes ten different buildings where over 3000 people once worked. Inside, workers would use textile and milling machinery to make various materials.
In the early 1920s more buildings were built to expand the metalworking process and support the manufacturing of precision cutting used to make gears.
After two of the founders died, the company was sold off and would continue manufacturing until 2001. The site sits abandoned but was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Today, the property sits vacant with many remnants of the past still inside. It’s one of the best examples of early industrial activity in the state and attracts historians as well as explorers from across the country.
Recently, J Jeffers & Company signed a letter of intent stating they want to repurpose the property. They specialize in historic properties so the site might not be accessible in the near future.
15. Rock River School
Rock River School is one of many abandoned schools that dot the state of Wisconsin. It taught around 200 students in grades K-5. We don’t know much about the history, other than that it was opened in 1911 and was abandoned in 2005.
In 2009, a small fire broke out that burned a pile of chairs. Investigators believe it was likely arson. Today the school is solid and sealed, but heavily damaged inside. Water leaks in from the roof and the fire damage has only accelerated the building’s decay.
16. Lime Kiln Ruins
The Lime Kiln Ruins you see today once was a part of the Western Lime and Cement Company which operated from 1856 until 1956.
The site produced high-quality limestone for construction and statues until the quality of the limestone diminished to a point where keeping the kiln open was no longer viable.
The ruins of the site were still standing, giving testament to how well this place was built. The property now belongs to High Cliff State Park, which is open to the public. This is one of the more interesting abandoned places in Wisconsin that is legal to fully explore.
17. Lost City
The ruins of a failed housing development are now almost completely undetectable as nature has taken back the neighborhood. In 1947, Lake Forest was going to be a thriving housing development spanning 800 acres.
The vision was everything you’d think of when you hear the words American dream. Schools, gas, electric, playgrounds, and even an electric streetcar for transportation. Plans indicate there would be 1000 lots and 7000 units surrounding the nearby pond.
Unfortunately, the high marshy water table began to consume the foundations and roads. The development company had a 7000-foot canal planned to lower the water table, but the project was abandoned.
100 years later Lake Forest is truly a lost city. Explorers can find old bottles, fire hydrants, drains, and submerged foundations tucked deep in the woods. This is one of the best examples of what our society would look like if left abandoned for over a century.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Wisconsin, 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.