In the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region lies Delaware, the second smallest yet the sixth most densely populated state. It’s a place where American history unfolds at every corner, with the state playing a crucial role in the formation of the United States. But amongst its small cities and towns, there is a different narrative waiting to be explored: the world of abandoned places in Delaware.
These forgotten structures, from former bustling factories to derelict mansions, provide a window into the state’s rich past, each holding a unique story of a bygone era. For urban explorers, these sites offer an intriguing combination of history, mystery, and adventure.
Note: Many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on locations, such as coordinates or maps, are not given. This is done so purposefully as a barrier to entry to those who may mean harm to these spots. I want to ensure that these abandoned places in Delaware are known about, but stay as vandalism and destruction free as possible. Remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Breakdown: The Top 10 and More
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in Delaware location.
- Fort Delaware (Pea Patch Island)
- Brandywine Springs Park (Wilmington)
- Gov. Bacon Health Center (Delaware City)
- Garrett Snuff Mill (Yorklyn)
- Yorklyn’s Abandoned Factories (Yorklyn)
- Lorewood Grove Masonic Temple (Bear)
- Reedy Point Bridge’s Old Keepers House (Delaware City)
- The Addy Sea (Bethany Beach)
- Wilmington and Western Steam Railroad (Wilmington)
- Fort Miles (Sussex County)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond Delaware
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of Delaware? Maybe you live close to the state line, or maybe you’re just looking for adventures outside your home state. Whatever the case may be, here are some guides to bordering states that may be helpful in effective urban exploration:
Don’t Forget About Trespassing Laws
It is important when considering abandoned places in Delaware to know the basics of Delaware trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Delaware, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in Delaware
Fort Delaware (Pea Patch Island)
Fort Delaware is a hauntingly beautiful piece of history located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. Commissioned in 1859, this imposing pentagonal structure was once a critical defensive position for the Union during the American Civil War and served many purposes in the subsequent years. Yet now, it stands as a somber testament to times past, abandoned save for the visitors who journey to the island to explore its weathered structures and intricate history.
The island is accessible only by ferry, a journey that sets the stage for the isolated and somewhat eerie experience of the fort. As the boat pulls away from the mainland, the impressive silhouette of the fort slowly emerges from the river mist, a stark contrast against the vast expanse of water and sky.
The structure itself is quite formidable. Built primarily of granite and brick, the fort features massive walls that reach up to 32 feet in height and 30 feet in thickness, designed to withstand the most powerful artillery of its time. Inside the walls, the fort is a labyrinth of tunnels, passageways, and rooms, each one carrying echoes of the past.
One of the fort’s most striking features is its parade ground, a vast open space once used for drills and military ceremonies. The ground, now overgrown with grass and spotted with wildflowers, is eerily quiet. The echo of bugle calls and marching feet seem to reverberate through the silence, a phantom of the fort’s bustling past.
How Things Look Today
Barracks that once housed soldiers now stand empty, their doors creaking with the wind, the paint peeling off their walls to reveal the aged wood underneath. A visit to the officers’ quarters and the mess hall gives a glimpse into the everyday life in the fort, while the darkened solitary confinement cells are a chilling reminder of the fort’s role as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.
A visit to the fort would be incomplete without witnessing its formidable gun platforms. These areas once housed large cannons capable of defending the Delaware River from enemy ships. Now, they sit silent and empty, overlooking the waters they once protected.
The fort is surrounded by a moat, now filled with grass and wildflowers. This once defensive barrier now adds an element of surreal beauty to the formidable structure. Outside the fort, the remnants of other buildings like the blacksmith shop, the hospital, and various support structures can still be seen, slowly being claimed by the elements and time.
Fort Delaware, with its abandoned structures and quiet atmosphere, exudes a powerful sense of history. It offers a tangible link to the past, a place where visitors can step back in time and glimpse a bygone era. Its sturdy walls and silent rooms are reminders of a time of war, turmoil, and change.
Despite the ravages of time and the elements, Fort Delaware remains a hauntingly beautiful destination. Its isolation and air of tranquility give it a unique charm that continues to draw history enthusiasts, ghost hunters, and curious travelers alike. As the sun sets over the Delaware River, the fort’s silhouette stands as a lonely sentinel, its history etched into its weathered stones, echoing the stories of those who once called it home.
Brandywine Springs Park (Wilmington)
Nestled within the suburban sprawl of Wilmington, Delaware, the Brandywine Springs Park bears witness to the passage of time. Once a bustling hub of activity, this site has been everything from a Native American hunting ground to a popular amusement park. Today, its structures have given way to nature, making it a living testament to the many layers of history nestled within its environs.
Upon first arrival at Brandywine Springs Park, the unassuming landscape might seem like any other local park, with gentle hiking trails winding through verdant forests and open meadows. Yet, a closer look reveals signs of a much more complex past, as the vestiges of a long-abandoned amusement park quietly linger beneath the surface.
Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Brandywine Springs Park was a dazzling entertainment destination. The park was once home to a myriad of attractions, including a carousel, a roller coaster, a dance hall, a theater, picnic grounds, and a large lake for boating.
A beautiful Victorian gazebo adorned the central grounds, while the springs themselves were thought to possess healing properties, attracting visitors seeking health benefits.
However, of all these bustling attractions, only faint echoes remain. The roller coaster and carousel are long gone, replaced by silent woods and undergrowth. The dance hall no longer echoes with the sounds of merriment and music. Yet, the footprints of this bygone era persist, etched into the landscape itself.
How Things Look Today
Archaeological efforts have unearthed remnants of this bustling past. The foundations of buildings, fragments of the amusement rides, and other relics have been discovered, each piece providing a tantalizing glimpse into the park’s heyday. Signboards scattered throughout the park help visitors envision what once stood in these quiet fields and forests, painting a vivid picture of a time when laughter and music filled the air.
One of the most striking features of the park is the site of the springs themselves. Once thought to be medicinal, visitors from around the country would visit to drink and bathe in these waters. Today, an interpretive board marks the spring’s location, but the once bustling site now stands as a quiet testament to the health fads of yesteryears.
The transformation of Brandywine Springs Park mirrors the ebb and flow of societal trends and technological advancement. As the popularity of trolley parks declined and the advent of the automobile enabled people to travel further afield, the park gradually lost its allure. By the mid-1920s, the amusement park was abandoned, leaving nature to reclaim the grounds.
Brandywine Springs Park today offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical intrigue. Each step taken along its paths is a step across the timeline of American history, from the earliest Native American inhabitants to the rise and fall of the great age of trolley parks.
The echo of joyous laughter and the excited squeals of thrill-seekers might have faded, but the spirit of Brandywine Springs Park lives on in the heart of the community and the land itself, a silent yet poignant remembrance of times long passed.
Gov. Bacon Health Center (Delaware City)
The Governor Bacon Health Center, located near Delaware City, Delaware, is an enduring monument to the evolution of mental healthcare in America, albeit an eerie and largely deserted one. Its empty, crumbling edifices and overgrown, untamed grounds stand as an unspoken testament to the many lives that passed through its doors.
The property, first established in the late 19th century, was originally Fort DuPont, named after Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont. The fort was an active military base during several important periods in American history, including the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. After its decommission in 1945, the fort’s extensive grounds and numerous buildings began a new life as the Governor Bacon Health Center.
The transition into a mental health institution brought significant changes. The former military buildings were converted into hospital wards, administrative offices, and residential quarters. The fort’s expansive landscape was repurposed into therapeutic gardens and recreation areas for patients. The aim was to provide a tranquil, restorative environment for individuals suffering from a range of mental illnesses.
During its functioning years, the health center was a bustling site of human activity. The once military parade grounds echoed with the voices of patients and medical staff. The buildings, full of life, were a labyrinth of hallways and rooms dedicated to treatment, therapy, and administration.
However, as the years passed and mental healthcare methods advanced, large-scale institutions like the Governor Bacon Health Center became increasingly obsolete. The move towards community-based treatment and care led to a gradual decline in the center’s patient population. The once-thriving institution fell into disuse and was largely abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Nowadays, the property presents a starkly different image from its past. The imposing buildings, once full of purpose and life, now stand vacant and dilapidated. Many windows are boarded up, and the exterior walls show clear signs of neglect, with peeling paint and overgrown ivy adding to the sense of decay.
The grounds, too, tell a story of abandonment. Paths that were once well-trodden are now barely discernible through the encroaching vegetation. The therapeutic gardens, once meticulously maintained, have returned to a state of wilderness, seemingly reclaiming the land for nature.
Despite its somewhat eerie present-day appearance, the Governor Bacon Health Center holds a significant place in the history of Delaware. It is a physical manifestation of the state’s social and medical history, bearing silent witness to the changing attitudes towards mental health over the decades.
Today, the site offers a hauntingly beautiful exploration opportunity for urban explorers and history enthusiasts. Though the laughter, tears, and stories that once filled the hallways have faded into silence, they linger in the worn bricks and rusted ironwork, a poignant reminder of the human narratives that unfolded within these abandoned spaces.
Garrett Snuff Mill (Yorklyn)
Situated in Yorklyn, Delaware, the Garrett Snuff Mill is a poignant relic of a bygone era. Its decaying structures and rusting machinery harken back to the 19th century, when this site was a buzzing center of industrial activity.
The Garrett Snuff Mill, part of the larger complex known as the Auburn Mills Historic District, was once the largest snuff mill in America. Snuff, a form of powdered tobacco that was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a major part of the Delaware Valley’s local economy, and the Garrett family’s operation was a significant player in the industry.
Established in 1846 by brothers John and Enoch Garrett, the mill exemplified the early industrial development in the region. The buildings, most of which are constructed from local Brandywine granite, include the main mill building, various storage and curing facilities, and residential structures for workers.
The main mill building, a three-story structure with an additional basement level, is the most imposing. With its towering chimney and rows of large, arch-topped windows, it is an architectural emblem of its time. Here, tobacco was ground into a fine powder, using water power harnessed from the nearby Red Clay Creek.
The other buildings that make up the complex were used for the storage of raw tobacco and the curing and packaging of the finished snuff. Among these, the aging houses, where snuff was stored to cure in wooden barrels, and the striking Italianate office building stand out for their historic significance.
How Things Look Today
As you wander the site, you can almost hear the echoes of bustling activity: the rumble of machinery, the chatter of workers, and the constant movement of goods in and out. The mill was a major employer in the area, and the workers’ houses, now empty and falling into decay, speak to the community that once thrived here.
Yet as the 20th century dawned, the demand for snuff began to wane. Changing consumer preferences and the rise of cigarettes led to a steady decline in the snuff industry. Despite attempts to diversify its products, the Garrett Snuff Mill couldn’t escape this inevitable downturn. The mill finally ceased operations in the 1950s, marking the end of an era.
Today, the Garrett Snuff Mill lies largely abandoned, a silent witness to the passage of time. The grand mill building, once alive with the hum of industry, now stands empty. The tall windows are dark, the machinery long since stilled. The aging houses and office building too bear the marks of long years of neglect, with peeling paint, broken windows, and overgrown vegetation.
Yet, despite its dilapidation, the site retains a certain haunting beauty. It is a poignant reminder of a vanished way of life and a testament to the area’s rich industrial heritage. For those drawn to the romance of abandoned places, the Garrett Snuff Mill offers a fascinating glimpse into a long-forgotten chapter of Delaware’s history.
Yorklyn’s Abandoned Factories (Yorklyn)
In Yorklyn, Delaware, the ghostly remnants of a once-thriving industrial community linger, leaving an echo of past livelihoods embedded in the present landscape. The abandoned factories of Yorklyn, notably the National Vulcanized Fibre (NVF) Company factory and other structures belonging to the Garrett Snuff Mill complex, provide a window into the region’s past, steeped in industry and innovation.
The NVF factory was a cornerstone of Yorklyn’s industrial activity, known for producing vulcanized fibre, a durable and lightweight material that was widely used in a variety of products, ranging from luggage and electrical insulation to musical instruments and automotive parts. At its peak, the NVF Company was a major employer in Yorklyn, the heartbeat of a flourishing community.
Today, the NVF factory lies silent and abandoned. The expansive brick structures, which once hummed with machinery and bustled with workers, are now a tableau of quiet decay. Massive multi-story buildings, once filled with activity, now stand empty, their once busy spaces claimed by time and the elements.
How Things Look Today
The skeletal remains of the factory, with broken windows that peer like empty eyes onto the landscape, tell a tale of economic change and industrial decline. They bear the marks of an era when industry was a lifeblood of the American economy, a time that has faded into history.
Inside, the factory floor is a ghost of its former self, the machinery long gone. The brick walls are etched with layers of peeling paint, revealing a color palette of time. The floors are littered with debris, from discarded parts to layers of dust, a testament to the relentless march of time.
Similarly, the remaining structures of the Garrett Snuff Mill complex, situated in the same town, add to the silent symphony of abandonment. A significant part of the local industry in the 19th century, the snuff mill complex produced smokeless tobacco until its closure in the 1950s.
These buildings, though slowly succumbing to the ravages of time, still hold an air of quiet dignity. The mill building’s imposing granite facade, weathered by years of exposure, adds a certain stoic beauty to the desolation. The workers’ houses, once full of life, now stand empty and forgotten, whispering tales of the community that once thrived here.
The factories of Yorklyn are a stark reminder of the cyclical nature of industry, of the rise and fall of economic epochs. While they may now stand silent and abandoned, they continue to resonate with the echoes of the past, providing a poignant insight into the region’s industrial heritage.
Over the years, there have been efforts to reclaim and repurpose these abandoned spaces. The land surrounding the NVF factory, for instance, is slowly being transformed into a community park, while parts of the Garrett Snuff Mill complex have been turned into a museum.
These initiatives aim to breathe new life into these historic structures, ensuring that they continue to be a part of Yorklyn’s story. In their abandonment, these factories serve as powerful reminders of the past, even as they hold the potential to shape the future.
Lorewood Grove Masonic Temple (Bear)
The Lorewood Grove Masonic Temple, nestled in the town of Bear in Delaware, once served as a vibrant hub for the local Masonic community. The lodge’s weathered appearance and the profound silence surrounding it paint a vivid picture of an edifice that has witnessed the passage of time, its once-thriving existence now reduced to an echo.
Constructed in the early 20th century, the structure evokes a sense of old-world charm with its traditional architecture. The exterior, despite the ravages of time and weather, still proudly displays features typical of Masonic lodges: symbolic elements etched into the facade, high arching windows, and the grand Masonic insignia above the entrance door. These details, though faded, stand as testament to the building’s historic and cultural significance.
The interior of the building tells a different story. It’s here that the signs of abandonment are more poignant. What were once rooms abuzz with activity now stand deserted and silent. The large meeting hall, where Masonic rituals and ceremonies were conducted, is empty and echoing.
The once polished wooden floors are now layered with dust, and the ornate ceremonial furniture lies unused and forgotten. The lodge’s interior, once impeccably maintained, reveals signs of deterioration, from peeling wallpaper to a ceiling stained by years of water damage.
How Things Look Today
Despite the eerie silence and tangible signs of neglect, one can almost hear the faint echoes of Masonic rituals, of meetings and discussions, of a community that once gathered here in pursuit of knowledge and fraternity. The abandoned Masonic Temple has become a silent spectator, bearing witness to the inevitable passage of time.
Yet, even amidst the neglect and disuse, the building’s inherent beauty remains. The grandeur of the large ceremonial hall, the intricacy of the Masonic symbols, and the charm of the building’s traditional architecture serve as a reminder of its past glory.
They testify to the skills and crafts of the builders and the pride of the Masons who used to gather here. The temple, in its silent, deserted state, maintains a sense of dignity and grace, preserving the memory of the important role it once played in the community.
Today, the Lorewood Grove Masonic Temple sits forgotten, a relic of a time gone by. Its empty rooms and hallways hold stories waiting to be told, stories of fraternity, knowledge, and tradition. It stands as a haunting and beautiful reminder of our past, an embodiment of history fading into oblivion.
The fate of such structures often ignites conversations about preservation and adaptive reuse. Structures like the Lorewood Grove Masonic Temple are not merely buildings; they are tangible links to our past, and preserving them can provide future generations with a physical connection to their heritage.
These dialogues could potentially inspire initiatives to breathe new life into this remarkable structure, ensuring its historical significance isn’t forgotten, but rather incorporated into the fabric of the town’s evolving narrative.
Reedy Point Bridge’s Old Keepers House (Delaware City)
Sequestered away near Delaware City, you can stumble upon a dwelling of historical interest and architectural intrigue – the Old Keeper’s House of the Reedy Point Bridge. Embracing solitude amidst the landscape, the house tells tales of a bygone era, of times when it played a significant role in the everyday operation of the Reedy Point Bridge, a critical artery for the local community.
Erected in the early 20th century, this quaint two-story house serves as an epitome of early American residential architecture. Its simple design, punctuated with the charm of a few stylistic elements, invites curiosity. The wooden panels of its exterior, once fresh and vibrant, now exhibit a faded patina, hinting at the years of unrelenting weather and nature’s reclaiming touch. A weather vane atop the house, tarnished by time and neglect, hints at an era of practicality entwined with ornamentation.
The large front porch, with its creaking floorboards and leaning balustrade, welcomes visitors. The splintered wooden door, peeling paint off its frame, opens up to the deserted interiors of the house.
How Things Look Today
The inside reveals a layout common to the time of its construction: a large central room that once served as a gathering area, a small yet functional kitchen, and a few more rooms that might have been bedrooms, now devoid of any furnishings. The sight of the empty rooms, with their dust-coated floorboards and cobweb-draped corners, invokes a sense of eerie tranquility.
The most intriguing element of the house is its proximity to the Reedy Point Bridge, an integral infrastructural asset. The Keeper’s House, during its functional years, was home to the person responsible for the bridge’s maintenance and operation. Although the bridge has modernized and the need for a keeper has vanished, the house stands as a silent tribute to those who lived and worked there, ensuring smooth passage for all who traveled the bridge.
The windows of the house, though shattered and faded, offer a view of the modern, busy world outside – a stark contrast to the antiquated serenity of the house itself. The distant hum of vehicles crossing the Reedy Point Bridge adds to the haunting aura of the place.
In its abandonment, the Keeper’s House has been reclaimed by nature. Overgrown vines creep up the sides, and flora has taken root in the most unlikely of places, adding an element of wild beauty to the structure. Wildlife has made its home in and around the building, further enhancing the feeling of an environment taking back what was once its own.
The Reedy Point Bridge’s Old Keeper’s House, despite its state of disrepair and abandonment, continues to hold historical and sentimental significance. The whispers of the past can be heard in its creaky boards, seen in its weathered exterior, and felt in its lonely solitude.
This place of historical importance and quiet desolation is a perfect spot for photographers and history enthusiasts, who are eager to capture its haunting beauty or unravel the history embedded within its crumbling walls.
The future of the house remains uncertain. However, it stands as a reminder of our past and presents an opportunity to conserve and commemorate our history. In the right hands, the house could be restored, not necessarily to its original function, but as a beacon of historical significance and architectural interest. Until then, the Old Keeper’s House waits, a lone sentinel bearing silent witness to the changing times around it.
The Addy Sea (Bethany Beach)
The Addy Sea is a striking figure on the shores of Bethany Beach, Delaware. It’s not just any old beachfront property, but a Queen Anne style building steeped in local lore and legend. Though it’s not entirely abandoned today, as it functions as a Bed and Breakfast, the reports of hauntings and paranormal activities in certain rooms certainly lend it an eerie, abandoned air.
The Addy Sea is a three-story, turreted building that was originally constructed as a grand seaside cottage in 1902 by John M. Addy. Its architectural features are typical of the Queen Anne style, including a steeply pitched roof, asymmetrical facade, a front-facing gable, and overhanging eaves. The deep, wrap-around porch is ideal for enjoying the ocean views.
The Addy family were prominent business owners in the Bethany Beach area, contributing significantly to the community. The home remained a private residence until the 1980s when it was transformed into a 13-room inn. Today, it serves as a bed-and-breakfast, offering a unique blend of hospitality and mystery to its guests.
But it’s the tales of the supernatural that have truly marked the Addy Sea. Legends circulate around rooms 1, 6, and 11 specifically, each alleged to be haunted by a different spirit. Guests and staff alike have reported inexplicable occurrences like faucets turning on by themselves, bathtubs shaking, doors opening and closing on their own, and the sounds of mysterious footsteps and ghostly music. Some even claim to have seen apparitions.
In Room 1, the ghost of a former owner’s wife is said to haunt, often seen sitting at the foot of the bed or walking towards the bathroom. Room 6 is known for the ghostly apparition of a woman who perished there under mysterious circumstances.
The most unnerving tales belong to Room 11, where the specter of a former employee, reportedly driven to madness, haunts. The piano in the parlor is also said to play by itself, notably when the haunting melody of a hymn fills the room, even though the keys remain untouched.
How Things Look Today
Despite its reputation, or perhaps because of it, the Addy Sea is a popular spot for thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts. Ghost hunts and overnight stays are regular occurrences, with guests eager to experience the supernatural happenings for themselves. However, even without the haunted legends, the Addy Sea is a beautiful historic building that offers incredible ocean views and an insight into the architecture and style of the early 20th century.
In terms of future plans, the Addy Sea continues to operate as a bed-and-breakfast, its historical and supernatural lore integral to its charm. The building is a fascinating part of Bethany Beach’s history and culture, serving as both a reminder of the area’s past and a unique attraction in the present.
As such, it stands not as an abandoned relic, but as a vibrant and vital part of the local community, offering both a warm welcome and a chill down the spine.
Wilmington and Western Steam Railroad (Wilmington)
The Wilmington and Western Railroad, situated near Wilmington, Delaware, is not abandoned but instead offers a unique glimpse into the past, as it is one of the oldest surviving railroad routes in the United States. Established in the late 19th century, it’s a piece of living history with a functioning heritage railroad that invites visitors to experience train travel as it once was.
Originally chartered in 1867, the Wilmington and Western Railroad was primarily designed to facilitate the transport of goods and people between the mills along the Red Clay Creek. The line was eventually completed in 1872, stretching approximately 20 miles from Wilmington to Landenberg, Pennsylvania.
The railroad initially prospered by moving goods like milk, paper, and feed. But with the rise of the automobile and trucking industry in the early 20th century, the railroad began to see a steady decline in demand. By the mid-20th century, the railroad had ceased regular passenger service, although freight service continued intermittently.
However, the story of the Wilmington and Western Railroad did not end there. In the late 1960s, a group of local railroad enthusiasts and history buffs formed the Historic Red Clay Valley Inc., a non-profit organization with the aim of preserving the line and operating it as a heritage railroad. They began running passenger excursions on a small portion of the track, with the first official trip taking place in 1972, the railroad’s centennial year.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Wilmington and Western Railroad is a vibrant and well-loved tourist attraction that allows visitors to step back in time and experience the golden age of rail travel. It operates a variety of steam and diesel locomotives, along with a collection of vintage passenger and freight cars.
The railroad offers regular excursions throughout the year, with special themed rides during holidays and other occasions. Some of the most popular events include the Autumn Leaf Special, a spectacular fall foliage ride; the Santa Claus Express, a festive Christmas-themed journey; and the Fireworks Express, which gives passengers a unique view of the local Fourth of July fireworks.
In addition, the Wilmington and Western Railroad also engages in educational outreach, offering school programs and interactive tours to educate children and adults alike about the history and technology of railroads. The line itself passes through some of the most picturesque scenery in the area, with several historic structures and bridges along the route adding to the journey’s charm and appeal.
In short, the Wilmington and Western Railroad is far from abandoned. Instead, it stands as a testament to the enduring fascination with railroads, and the dedication of those who strive to preserve this piece of American history for future generations to enjoy. Despite the challenges it has faced over the years, the railroad continues to chug along, inviting everyone to come aboard for a trip back in time.
Fort Miles (Sussex County)
Fort Miles, located in Sussex County, Delaware, is a significant historical site that offers an insight into the United States’ coastal defenses during the Second World War. It is situated in Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes, Delaware.
The construction of Fort Miles began in 1941, soon after the U.S. entered World War II. The fort was part of the coastal defenses aimed at protecting the Delaware Bay, and by extension, important industrial centers like Philadelphia, from potential enemy naval attacks. The Delaware Bay was a critical waterway, providing access to several major rivers and key cities, making it a strategic defense point.
Fort Miles was designed with a variety of defensive structures, including numerous gun batteries, fire control towers, barracks, and administrative buildings. The most significant installations were Battery 519 and Battery Smith, both designed to house large, long-range artillery pieces.
Battery 519, the fort’s main gun battery, was an underground facility that contained two 12-inch guns capable of reaching enemy vessels over 25 miles away. This battery, like many of the fort’s facilities, was buried beneath several feet of concrete and soil to protect it from aerial bombardment.
During the war, Fort Miles served as a key component in the defense of the mid-Atlantic region, but it never fired its guns in anger. The threat of an Axis naval attack in the region declined significantly after 1943, and by the end of the war, the fort’s guns were considered obsolete in the face of advancing technology and changing warfare tactics.
In the years following World War II, the military value of Fort Miles decreased significantly. Many of its guns were removed, and its facilities were repurposed for other uses. During the Cold War, the site served briefly as a top-secret listening post to monitor Soviet naval activity. By 1964, however, the fort was deemed surplus by the military and was eventually transferred to the state of Delaware.
How Things Look Today
Today, Fort Miles is a key feature of Cape Henlopen State Park and is recognized as a historical landmark. The site has been partially restored and is open to the public, with several of its buildings and structures, including Battery 519, converted into a museum.
The Fort Miles Historical Association works to preserve and interpret the history of the site, and visitors can take guided tours of the battery and other facilities, see historic World War II artifacts, and learn about the fort’s role in the broader context of American coastal defense.
Despite its status as a “abandoned” military fort, Fort Miles remains a vibrant and important piece of Delaware and U.S. history, offering a unique window into the past for visitors of all ages.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Delaware
Those who are into urban exploration in the Delaware area should get comfortable with Delaware trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Delaware, please click here.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission. Finally, if you are wanting to find more abandoned places in Delaware, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex