Illinois, known as the Prairie State, is a land rich with history, encompassing the bustling metropolis of Chicago as well as tranquil rural areas. Amidst its historical landmarks and modern developments, Illinois is also home to a wealth of abandoned places. These forgotten locales provide a haunting, yet captivating look into the state’s past. From eerie abandoned hospitals to once-thriving factories and ghost towns, each location carries a story waiting to be uncovered. Urban explorers and history enthusiasts alike will find a treasure trove of relics within these abandoned places in Illinois.
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 Illinois 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 Illinois location.
- Joliet Correctional Center (Joliet)
- Damen Silos (Chicago)
- Ashland Meadows Asylum (Bartonville)
- Cairo Ghost Town (Cairo)
- Savanna Army Depot (Savanna)
- New Burnside High School (New Burnside)
- Southern Hills (Carbondale)
- Manteno State Hospital (Manteno)
- Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex (Chicago)
- Rock Island Lines Arsenal Train Depot (Rock Island)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond Illinois
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of Illinois? 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 Illinois to know the basics of Illinois trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Illinois, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in Illinois
Joliet Correctional Center (Joliet)
The Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, is an imposing relic of the state’s penal history. Opened in 1858 and operational until 2002, it has become a symbol of the harsh realities of 19th and 20th-century incarceration.
Constructed of local yellow-hued limestone, the prison’s castle-like structure looms ominously over its surroundings. Its Romanesque Revival architecture with narrow, slit-like windows and a massive wall surrounding the complex, amplifies the foreboding aura. Its physical presence reflects the dual role of the institution – a place of punishment, but also a stronghold against societal chaos.
The prison’s interior tells its own haunting tale. Walking through the main entrance gate, one enters a world frozen in time. Row upon row of small, dilapidated cells, where paint is peeling and rusting bars sag from age, are a stark testament to the harsh living conditions inmates faced. Some cells, with their original iron bunk frames still intact, bear the silent imprints of the countless men who occupied them.
Within the prison walls, there are other chilling reminders of the past. The solitary confinement cells, known as “the hole,” still emanate an oppressive sense of isolation and despair. In contrast, the prison chapel, with its high ceilings and large windows, feels oddly serene, a beacon of hope within this austere environment.
How Things Look Today
Overgrown courtyards, the rusted remains of guard towers, and crumbling outbuildings complete this picture of abandonment. The passing of time is evident in the overgrowth of vines clinging to the stone walls, the weathered signs faded almost to illegibility, and the eerie silence that has replaced the clamor of prison life.
While the Joliet Correctional Center’s history is filled with tales of harsh realities, it has also found its place in popular culture. It was featured in several films and television shows, perhaps most famously in the opening sequences of the television show “Prison Break.”
Exploring the Joliet Correctional Center is not for the faint-hearted; its history of confinement, punishment, and isolation seeps from the very stones. Still, for those drawn to the echoes of the past and the raw, unvarnished truth of historical realities, it offers a deeply evocative and thought-provoking experience. The site is not always open to the public, so those interested should check ahead and always respect any restrictions on access.
Damen Silos (Chicago)
The Damen Silos, located in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, stand as towering sentinels of the city’s industrial past. These enormous structures, once filled with grain that fed the city and beyond, now stand empty, serving as an eerie testament to a bygone era of industry and commerce.
From a distance, the silos loom impressively against the skyline, their cylindrical forms and rounded tops forming a unique urban silhouette. Close up, they reveal a fascinating, if somewhat unsettling, landscape of concrete and steel. Their stark, functional design and imposing scale offer a stark contrast to the living city surrounding them.
Each silo’s exterior is a study in gradual decay. The walls, once smooth and pristine, now bear the patina of age, weathered by time and elements. The once bright paint has faded and peeled to reveal the raw concrete beneath, which itself is marred by cracks and the relentless creep of moss and vines. Graffiti, the vibrant, chaotic signatures of urban explorers and street artists, adds splashes of color to the otherwise monochrome palette.
The silo interiors present a different world altogether. Here, the vast, echoing spaces are filled with a profound silence. The cylindrical walls, rising to dizzying heights, create a unique acoustic environment where even small sounds reverberate and distort. The remnants of old machinery, rusting platforms, and decaying conveyor belts speak of the complex processes that once took place within these confines.
How Things Look Today
Tall, narrow windows punctuate the walls of the silos, casting long beams of light that illuminate the dusty air and create dramatic, shifting patterns on the walls. The silos’ very abandonment has allowed a unique kind of beauty to emerge, a beauty defined by the interplay of light and shadow, of nature and human-made structure, of silence and echo.
Accessing the Damen Silos can be a challenge and may not be permitted due to safety concerns. This makes them a somewhat enigmatic and elusive presence in the urban landscape.
For those who appreciate the stark, imposing beauty of industrial ruins and the histories they represent, the Damen Silos remain a powerful symbol of Chicago’s ever-changing relationship with its industrial past. As always, anyone interested in visiting should thoroughly research the current status of the site and respect any restrictions in place.
Ashland Meadows Asylum (Bartonville)
The Ashland Meadows Asylum, located in the small community of Bartonville, Illinois, bears a haunting countenance that reflects a complex history of medical care, human struggle, and societal change.
Standing before the imposing structure of the Ashland Meadows Asylum, one cannot help but feel a sense of awe.
Built in the late 19th century, the complex sprawls over several acres, the main building a grand, yet somber monument of brick and mortar. The building is large and imposing, with multiple wings spreading out from the central structure, each one bearing countless windows like empty eyes staring into the void.
The facade of the building tells tales of time’s relentless march. The brickwork, once a vibrant red, now bears a faded hue, the result of years of weathering. Ivy clings to the walls, growing in wild tendrils that crawl up towards the tiled roof. The windows, some broken, others merely grimy and opaque, add to the building’s sense of silent desolation.
Inside, the asylum is a labyrinth of long, echoing corridors, abandoned rooms, and grand, high-ceilinged wards. Paint peels from the walls in large, curling strips, revealing the layers of history beneath. In the silence, one can almost hear the echoes of the past – the soft shuffle of nurses’ shoes, the distant murmur of doctors in discussion, the muffled sounds of patients unseen.
How Things Look Today
Natural light filters through the grimy windows, casting long, ethereal shafts that cut through the musty darkness, illuminating the faded grandeur of the building’s interior. Here and there, items left behind – an overturned chair, a forgotten book, a single shoe – provoke the imagination to wonder about the lives that once filled these now-empty halls.
Despite the disquieting atmosphere, the overgrown gardens and grounds surrounding the Ashland Meadows Asylum hint at a different time when they would have been meticulously kept, perhaps offering solace and tranquility to both staff and patients. Old trees throw long shadows across overgrown paths, their gnarled branches whispering of time’s passage.
Visiting the Ashland Meadows Asylum requires permission due to its status as a private property, and the risks associated with its state of disrepair. For those intrigued by its history and the melancholic allure of its decay, it remains a compelling symbol of a past era, slowly being reclaimed by nature. As always, it’s vital to respect the site and ensure the preservation of its history for future generations.
Cairo Ghost Town (Cairo)
Cairo, Illinois, once a bustling town teeming with life at the southernmost tip of the state, is now a poignant illustration of the passage of time and changing fortunes.
This river town, cradled by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, has experienced a precipitous decline in population and activity, earning it the moniker of a modern-day ghost town.
As you approach Cairo, the stillness is palpable, almost as if the town itself is holding its breath, trapped between a rich past and an uncertain future. The streets, once thrumming with commerce, laughter, and the day-to-day hustle, now lie quiet and deserted. The buildings, architectural specimens of past eras, stand in various states of decay, silent testimonials to bygone days.
Magnolia Manor, an impressive Italianate mansion, looms over the town like a vigilant guardian. Its faded grandeur and sense of dilapidation echo the story of the town itself. The intricate detailing of the architecture, now chipped and worn, speaks volumes of the opulence of the past.
How Things Look Today
The historic downtown area is a haunting echo of its former self. Ornate 19th-century commercial buildings, now vacant, line the streets. The bricks, weathered by time and elements, bear silent witness to the prosperity that once flowed through the town. The windows, some boarded, others broken, gaze out onto the near-empty streets, holding within them stories untold.
Perhaps the most potent symbol of Cairo’s past glory is the Mississippi River bridge, towering above the town and the mighty river it spans. This steel behemoth is a stark contrast to the mostly abandoned town below, a reminder of the importance Cairo once held as a critical transportation hub.
Nature too has begun to stake her claim, with foliage creeping up the sides of deserted buildings and wildflowers growing in the cracks of the sidewalks, adding to the eerie beauty of the place. The mighty rivers that flank Cairo continue to flow, indifferent to the town’s changing fortunes.
As quiet as it is today, a visit to Cairo is an immersion in palpable history, an opportunity to imagine the heyday of a town once full of promise, now caught in an extended moment of quiet and stillness. As with all abandoned or semi-abandoned places, remember to tread with respect and consideration for the property and the town’s remaining inhabitants.
Savanna Army Depot (Savanna)
Tucked away on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River lies the expansive, deserted Savanna Army Depot in Illinois. Once an essential link in the United States military’s chain of production and logistics, the depot is now abandoned, its once bustling terrain now left to silence and slow, steady reclamation by nature.
As you venture into the Depot’s grounds, the vastness is the first thing that strikes you. Stretching over 13,000 acres, this abandoned military facility was once humming with the ceaseless activity of manufacture, storage, and shipping of military equipment. The stark emptiness now paints a dramatic contrast.
The buildings themselves, scattered across the depot, stand as silent sentinels of the past. Their utilitarian architecture – solid concrete structures with simple, functional designs – speaks volumes about their past use. Many structures bear signs of age and neglect, with rusting ironworks, peeling paint, and overgrowth of vegetation.
Among these buildings, large warehouse-like structures, once used to store military ordnance, stand with their doors locked and windows boarded, holding within them the echoes of an era gone by. Nearby, the abandoned railway lines, once used to transport military supplies, now lay dormant, their tracks leading into the distance with no cargo to bear.
How Things Look Today
The testing fields, once marred by the impacts of artillery and bomb tests, are now eerily quiet, the craters gradually being reclaimed by the encroaching grass and wildflowers. The strange dichotomy of a site of war machinery being claimed by serene nature is a striking sight.
In places, the Mississippi River’s steady flow provides a tranquil backdrop to the depot’s stark, abandoned industrial landscape. The river’s banks near the depot have become a haven for local flora and fauna, contributing to an intriguing mix of natural beauty and industrial decay.
Despite its abandonment, the Savanna Army Depot presents a stark reminder of its past significance, and the role it played in the country’s military history. While venturing onto the site, it’s crucial to be aware that it is mostly owned by the federal government and access may be restricted. Always ensure you have the necessary permissions and exercise care while exploring.
New Burnside High School (New Burnside)
Located in the small village of New Burnside, Illinois, the now-abandoned New Burnside High School is a poignant symbol of the past.
The structure of the school exudes an undeniable charm, with its red brickwork faded and weathered by the years. The multi-storied building, framed by tall, skeletal trees, stands alone against the backdrop of the small-town skyline.
Its architecture, a nod to the design aesthetics of the mid-20th century, whispers stories of a bustling educational institution that once served as a hub of knowledge and social life in this quiet rural setting.
The grand, wide steps leading up to the entrance are cracked and overgrown with vegetation, offering a stark contrast to the times when they bustled with students hurrying to make it to their classes. The large windows, once teeming with curious faces, now stand dark and empty, some broken, adding to the eerie quiet that permeates the premises. The entrance, once welcoming, now stands locked, its doors showing signs of decay and neglect.
How Things Look Today
Venturing further into the premises, the schoolyard, once filled with laughter and the sounds of youthful exuberance, now lays silent, with untamed grass and wildflowers sprouting through the cracks in the concrete. The skeletal remains of playground equipment, weathered by time and neglect, dot the landscape, their rusted structures casting long shadows in the setting sun.
Inside, the remnants of classrooms evoke a strange sense of nostalgia. Broken desks and empty blackboards echo the days of lessons learned and friendships made. Hallways, once teeming with students, now echo with the silence of decades of disuse.
The gymnasium, once the heart of the school’s sporting events and community gatherings, now stands vacant. The faded lines on the wooden floor, the neglected basketball hoops, and the scattered remains of old sports equipment serve as silent testimonies to the many games played and matches won.
Despite its current state of decay, New Burnside High School serves as a monument to the past, telling the story of a community that once was. Its silence speaks of the times when its halls were filled with learning, laughter, and life. Explorers should keep in mind that the property is privately owned and always respect local regulations and private property rights.
Southern Hills (Carbondale)
Southern Hills in Carbondale, Illinois, once a bustling residential community, now stands as a poignant reminder of a past era. Nestled in a picturesque, tree-lined landscape, the community now is but a collection of dilapidated houses and forgotten lives.
The houses, once lively and filled with the warmth of families, now stand empty and abandoned. The facades of the buildings show the toll of the years, with peeling paint and boarded-up windows. Overgrown gardens and untamed lawns run wild, their formerly well-tended beauty lost to the passage of time.
How Things Look Today
Walking down the desolate streets of Southern Hills, you are greeted by the echoes of the past. Driveways, once filled with cars, now lay empty and cracked. Sidewalks, once alive with the pitter-patter of children’s feet and the friendly banter of neighbors, are now silent. The neighborhood’s once-thriving spirit has been replaced by a quiet that is broken only by the rustling of the wind through the untamed vegetation.
Yet, there is a haunting beauty to Southern Hills. Amidst the decay and abandonment, nature has been gradually reclaiming the space. Trees, once carefully trimmed, now grow tall and wild, their branches clawing at the sky. Flowers bloom amidst the rubble, a splash of color against the grey of the dilapidated buildings.
The eeriness of the abandoned houses is amplified at night when the once light-filled homes stand shrouded in darkness. Shadows stretch long across the empty streets, and the rustle of the leaves under the pale moonlight lends an ethereal quality to the landscape.
Southern Hills serves as a canvas, reflecting the passage of time and the inevitable encroachment of nature. It stands as a testament to the transient nature of human endeavours, a memory of a once thriving community, and a symbol of the solitude that comes with abandonment. As with all abandoned and privately-owned properties, it’s crucial to respect the rights of owners and to only visit with permission and care.
Manteno State Hospital (Manteno)
Once an imposing edifice offering care and treatment to thousands, the Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois, now stands abandoned, a melancholy monument to a bygone era.
Sprawled over a vast expanse of land, the hospital complex is a network of once-bustling buildings, connected by a labyrinth of tunnels, that now stand deserted and silent. The grandeur of the hospital’s art deco architecture is still evident, despite the relentless assault of time and nature. The hospital’s facades, though worn, bear testimony to the hospital’s once-thriving state.
Decades of disuse have left their mark on the buildings. The roofs sag under the weight of years, while the walls bear cracks that run deep, like wrinkles on a weather-beaten face. Paint peels off the surfaces, revealing the raw brickwork underneath, while many windows are shattered or boarded-up, staring out at the world like vacant eyes.
Stepping inside the hospital premises is like stepping into a different time. The long, gloomy corridors echo with the silence of the empty wards. In the operating rooms, stripped of their equipment, one can almost hear the distant whispers of the doctors and nurses who once worked there. Patient rooms, now empty and decayed, are a silent testament to the lives that passed through the hospital.
How Things Look Today
The grounds of the hospital have been reclaimed by nature. The once-manicured lawns are now overrun with wild grass, while trees and plants encroach upon the walkways and buildings. Wildflowers bloom amidst the rubble, offering a startling contrast to the grey ruins.
At night, the hospital takes on a more haunting aspect. Bathed in moonlight, the buildings cast long, eerie shadows, while the howling wind whistles through the empty corridors and wards, lending an almost spectral quality to the hospital.
The Manteno State Hospital is a hauntingly beautiful reminder of the past. It speaks of the passage of time, the change in medical practices, and the inexorable advance of nature. It is a piece of history frozen in time, evoking a mix of nostalgia, sorrow, and intrigue. As with all abandoned properties, it’s crucial to respect the rights of owners and to only visit with permission and care.
Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex (Chicago)
An echo of a bygone era, the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex in Chicago, Illinois, stands as a hauntingly beautiful testament to the city’s past public health battles. The once-thriving sanitarium, a beacon of hope for many who came seeking respite from the dreaded disease, is now an abandoned relic of a time that is slowly being erased by the sands of time.
Located on the city’s North Side, the sanitarium complex is an impressive architectural ensemble, reflecting the ethos of the early 20th century. The sprawling campus, designed in the Georgian Revival style, features a myriad of buildings, including the main sanitarium, nurse quarters, a children’s pavilion, and various auxiliary structures.
Time has left its mark on the grand edifice. Its red-brick walls, once the epitome of strength and resilience, now bear the signs of neglect and decay. Vines crawl up the sides of the buildings, their tendrils winding into cracks in the aging masonry, prying apart the bricks in a slow, relentless embrace.
The once-busy wards and treatment rooms now stand empty, the hustle and bustle of patients and staff replaced by an eerie silence. Gazing through the broken or boarded-up windows, one can almost see the spectral remnants of the past: nurses bustling down the long corridors, doctors consulting over patients, and the patients themselves, hopeful for a cure in the sanitarium’s peaceful confines.
How Things Look Today
Surrounding the buildings, the complex’s expansive grounds are now overgrown with nature. The neatly maintained paths and gardens are lost to a tangle of wild foliage that seems to swallow up the buildings. The effect is a paradoxical blend of neglect and raw, untamed beauty that captivates the eye and sparks the imagination.
Inside, the bare hallways echo with the memory of the countless footsteps that once trod them. The peeling wallpaper and paint, the crumbling plaster, and the dusty remnants of the sanitarium’s furnishings create a surreal tableau of faded grandeur and quiet despair. Despite the signs of decay, the integrity of the space and the weight of its historical significance remain palpable.
In the solitude of the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex, one can feel the gravity of the battles fought against the disease. It’s an echo of a bygone era that resonates within the hollowed-out buildings and whispers in the rustling leaves, a remnant of the past that continues to haunt the present. Visitors should remember to respect the property and only explore with proper permissions and care.
Rock Island Lines Arsenal Train Depot (Rock Island)
Tucked away in Rock Island, Illinois, the Rock Island Lines Arsenal Train Depot carries the weight of a rich history now largely forgotten. This emblem of the industrial age has become a specter of its former self, an abandoned monument to a time when the rhythm of locomotives was the lifeblood of the country.
Constructed in the late 19th century, the depot is a marvel of architectural prowess, showcasing the grandeur of Romanesque Revival style. The red brick structure, once vibrant and teeming with energy, now stands silent, the thrum of trains and chatter of travelers replaced by the quiet rustling of leaves and distant city noise.
The imposing façade of the depot, with its pointed arched windows and intricate brickwork, is a testament to the era’s craftsmanship. Time, however, has not been kind to this structure. The bricks, once robust, now display signs of erosion, and many of the windows stand vacant, void of the glass that once adorned them.
The central clock tower, a striking feature of the depot, stands tall but silent. The hands on its four faces are frozen in time, marking a moment that has long passed. Underneath, the grand entrance lies boarded up, a tangible barrier between the present and the stories of the past held within its walls.
Inside, the depot is a shell of its former self. The once busy platforms, filled with the hustle and bustle of travelers embarking on their journeys or greeting loved ones, now lay empty and desolate. Dust particles dance in the slanted beams of sunlight that pierce the darkness, hinting at the spectral memories of the past.
How Things Look Today
Fragments of the depot’s former life remain – discarded tickets, aged timetables, and rusted remnants of track – silent witnesses to a bygone era. The grandeur of the main hall, though faded, is still evident in the worn wooden benches and the grand chandeliers hanging precariously from the high ceiling.
The tracks outside, once polished and shiny from the frequent passage of heavy locomotives, now lie rusty and weathered. Overgrown with weeds, they meander into the distance, disappearing into a horizon that no longer echoes with the roar of engines or the shrill of the train whistle.
Despite the palpable sense of desolation, there’s an undeniable allure to the Rock Island Lines Arsenal Train Depot. It’s an enticing destination for urban explorers and history enthusiasts, a tangible link to a past era. The silence and decay aren’t just symbols of abandonment, but poignant reminders of the vibrant history that once unfolded here. As always, explorers should respect the property and only venture with proper permission.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Illinois
Those who are into urban exploration in the Illinois area should get comfortable with Illinois trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Illinois, 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 Illinois, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex