Thanks in large part to the market forces that decimated the state’s industrial and agricultural industries over the last several decades, Indiana offers a lengthy list of abandoned properties just waiting to be discovered by urban explorers and other curiosity-seekers.
Keep reading for a list of 10 must-visit locations scattered across the Hoosier State. What follows is our choices for the ten best abandoned places in Indiana.
The Best Abandoned Places in Indiana
Zoom Flume (Bloomington)
The City of Bloomington counts Lake Monroe among its crown jewels, drawing thousands of tourists each summer to its shores for boating, swimming, sunbathing, and socializing with friends and family. In the late 1970s, an exciting new water-based attraction was added to further entice visitors to spend time in town.
The Zoom Flume was a massive water slide near Lake Monroe that operated during the summer months only. Just a few years after it opened, the slide shut down in the early 1980s for reasons that remain unclear, although liability and safety concerns reportedly played a role in its demise.
Since the attraction closed, it has sat abandoned and decaying in a wooded area off State Road 446 in Bloomington. Though it’s surrounded by a fence and flanked by a “For Sale” sign, the property is relatively easy to access, as evidenced by the colorful graffiti that adorns the slide’s faded fiberglass form and the adjacent operations buildings.
Most visitors to the ill-fated slide park at the Cutright State Recreation Area across State Road 446, crossing the roadway and following the path worn into the hillside by previous explorers. The site is private property, so venturing beyond the fence to get close to the abandoned attraction is technically considered trespassing, although official activity on the site is rare. All in all, this is one of the most popular abandoned places in Indiana.
Monroe Allison House (Metamora)
Known in southeast Indiana as the “gingerbread house” due to its distinctive design and faded pink paint job, the Monroe Allison House in Metamora was built by a 19-year-old railroad carpenter of the same name in the 1871. The nine-room structure is framed with hand-cut logs joined by wooden pegs, all lovingly handcrafted by Allison himself from surplus building materials gleaned from other jobs along the Whitewater Canal.
Over the years, he continued to expand it as he amassed the necessary lumber, with the residence ultimately reaching six floors in height. In his later years, Allison added the cupola and rooftop widow’s walk to give him a place to relax in the direct sunlight, which he believed would ease his worsening arthritis.
Upon his death in 1927, the home entered decades of decline. Some panels on the home’s exterior have been repainted in an attempt to recapture the original cotton candy color, while others are still faded, chipped, and peeling. The interior remains largely unchanged, with old furniture, wallpaper, and paintings visible through the windows and the aging wooden floors sagging and rotting.
The house is also included on several guided tours of old town Metamora, such as the Haunted and Historic Tours of Metamora. It should be no surprise that this is often referred to as one of the most haunted abandoned places in Indiana.
Rose Island (Charlestown)
Tucked away on the north bank of the Ohio River in bucolic Charlestown State Park, hikers may stumble upon the remains of a once-vibrant amusement park dating back nearly a century. Now, it sits as one of the many interesting and amusing abandoned places in Indiana.
The Rose Island theme park opened to the public in 1923 along a peninsula called “Devil’s Backbone” running between the Ohio River and Fourteen Mile Creek. The area’s peaceful natural setting and lush greenery made it a popular destination for local residents and tourists, which also attracted the attention of prominent Louisville entrepreneur and developer David Rose.
After purchasing the property, Rose built an amusement park with a wooden roller coaster, hotel and guest cottages, golf course, dance hall, swimming pool and even a small zoo with several monkeys, a wolf and a bear named Teddy Roosevelt.
Though technically a peninsula, he dubbed the spot “Rose Island” to endow it with a sense of exclusivity, and it quickly became one of the hottest tourist attractions in the region. Visitors flocked to the site via ferry from Madison and Louisville as well as by car and a quaint suspended footbridge that led to the campus.
The development continued to thrive even through the economic devastation of the Great Depression, but the impact of the massive Ohio River Flood proved to be too much for the property to bear. The site was inundated with 10 feet of water, and once the waters finally receded, the damage to the facilities was too costly to salvage. Rose Island was subsequently abandoned, leaving it to deteriorate at the hands of vandals and natural forces.
Today, the ruins of Rose Island are still discernible within the state park’s landscape. The original footbridge has long since collapsed, but it was eventually replaced to restore access to the site. The swimming pool is still in surprisingly good condition, and a gutted stone fountain is also visible on the property.
Curious visitors can take Trail 7—a roughly 20-minute trek from the closest parking area—to reach the spot where Rose Island once stood in splendor. Since the site was donated to the state in 1995, the park has also installed interpretive signage that provides insight into the history of the property. In the end, it should come as no surprise that Charlestown’s Rose Island is considered one of the most intriguing abandoned places in Indiana.
Empire Quarry (Bloomington)
Southern Indiana—specifically the areas around Bloomington and Bedford—is known across the globe for the quality of its limestone, which is abundant in its hills. Also in these hills sit some of the most beautiful abandoned places in Indiana. The Empire Quarry is no exception.
For more than a century, the region’s economy was built on the foundation of its quarries and stonecutters, who shipped massive limestone slabs across the country for high-profile projects that included the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral, the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and 35 state capitol buildings.
In the latter half of the 20th century, construction trends moved away from stone masonry in favor of glass and metal structures, which were faster and cheaper to build and easier to maintain. Unfortunately, the fate of many southern Indiana communities was inextricably tied to the limestone industry, and as the quarries closed, families found themselves with no incomes and little hope for the future. Though a few of the quarries remain in operation today, most have been reduced to abandoned gaping maws scarring the landscape.
The most well-known of Bloomington’s quarries is the Empire Quarry, named for the most famous structure fashioned from its stone: New York’s iconic skyscraper. The Empire State Building was constructed from more than 18,000 tons of Indiana limestone mined from this enormous quarry.
The vast cavern, with its precipitous drop-offs and severe walls, collects large amounts of rain and groundwater, and its depth and mineral content give the water a striking turquoise hue. A few daring adventurers have been tempted to use the basin for cliff-diving, often resulting in injury due to the varying depth and rough surface of the quarry walls below.
The site is private property and is marked as such, with warning signs posted to deter trespassers from entering the site, though their effectiveness has been inconsistent at best. While one of the most difficult abandoned places in Indiana to enter, those who dare to do so are met with an amazing view.
City Methodist Church (Gary)
Built with great fanfare in 1926, the City Methodist Church in Gary featured an eye-popping price tag of $1 million at the time of construction. The U.S. Steel Corporation bankrolled roughly half of those costs, which resulted in an imposing, nine-story English Gothic landmark that provided city residents with a point of aesthetic pride, even if they weren’t members of the congregation.
The building featured intricate stonework, dramatic arches, strikingly ornate pillars and colorful stained-glass windows, and it served nearly 2,000 individuals at its peak in the mid-20th century.
As the steel industry—and along with it, the city—declined precipitously in the 1970s, so did the church’s membership, making it virtually impossible to cover the maintenance costs for the enormous edifice. Church leaders made a last-ditch effort to save the property by leasing some of the space to a local university, but by 1975, the church closed its doors for good. Vandalism and the elements soon took their toll on the once-grand structure, making it one of the most popular abandoned places in Indiana.
Unlike most nearby abandoned buildings, however, the City Methodist Church managed to find a second life as a backdrop for films and television, and its haunting Gothic exterior has appeared in popular movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Transformers 3. A grant awarded to the Gary Redevelopment Commission in 2017 has been earmarked for stabilization and redevelopment of the site as a “ruins garden” with a newly-added amphitheater.
Ultimately, the church property would be made available as a unique space for weddings, receptions and other events, but studies are still underway to determine the scope of repairs needed to make the site safe for the public. However, at some point, it will likely go from being one of the most sought-after abandoned places in Indiana to another sign of regrowth and gentrification of Gary.
Palace Theater (Gary)
When it opened its doors in 1925, the Palace Theater quickly became one of the most visible icons of the city’s thriving entertainment scene. Designed in the Atmospheric style by renowned architect John Eberson, the luxurious theater was operated by Young and Wolf Enterprises as part of an empire of more than 30 theaters scattered throughout the Midwest.
The Palace seated 3,000 guests and opened as a venue for live performers (primarily vaudeville acts) before transitioning to showing motion pictures exclusively in the 1930s.
In the city’s prime years, Gary was home to 11 movie theaters, including the Palace, but when the steel industry’s fortunes began to plummet in the 1960s, so did the city’s commercial and entertainment venues. Violent crime rates in the area around the Palace skyrocketed, with muggings, fights and other incidents driving away theater patrons. Eventually, downtown Gary became a place where few dared venture after dark.
The nail in the coffin for the Palace Theater came on April 14, 1968, when a 15-year-old student at nearby Roosevelt High School was stabbed to death in the theater’s lobby after seeing the film Bonnie and Clyde. Despite a stepped-up police presence in the months that followed, violent incidents continued to be a major problem at the venue.
By the early 1970s, the theater was known more as a magnet for drug dealers and crime than as an entertainment destination. When a female victim was attacked in the theater’s restroom in 1972, the city moved to immediately shut down the Palace completely.
After a few years of relative quiet, investors reopened the venue as the Star Palace Theater in an effort to recapture the historic building’s former glory. It featured movies and live community theater performances, and several new retail outlets opened in leased space on the ground level. However, the property owners’ failure to pay the utility bills led to the theater shutting down again just a few months later.
Except for a short-lived 1976 reincarnation as the Star Academy of Performing Arts and Sciences, the building remained vacant and abandoned for the next decade. A new group of investors purchased the property at a tax sale in 1986 with plans to complete a $1 million renovation of the theater and storefronts, but their promises went largely unfulfilled, and with crime remaining a major issue in the area, the building was deserted again by the start of the 1990s.
In the years that followed, the once-proud theater’s walls began to sag, and letters disappeared from the marquee. Thieves and vandals stole the ornate copper dome from the tower and stripped out the terra-cotta fixtures and decorative plasterwork inside. The theater was one of nearly four dozen properties earmarked for demolition in 2004, but fortunately for the Palace, no funding was available for this effort.
In 2005, preservation groups successfully lobbied to save the building, but with the caveat that they find a developer willing to purchase and restore the old theater. Though the buyer they identified failed to follow through on the renovation plans, the city never moved to tear down the building, and it remains in its tragically dilapidated state.
Gary Post Office (Gary)
This sprawling structure in downtown Gary was built in 1936 as a component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal efforts to provide jobs for millions of unemployed workers while investing in American infrastructure. The building was designed by architect Howard Lovewell Cheney, and its severe lines and geometric design are typical of government buildings of that era.
Though it buzzed with activity during the city’s peak economic years just after World War II, business ground to a halt in the 1960s as the steel industry withered. With a dwindling population and faltering economy, the city no longer required the massive building or the services provided by the postal workers inside, and its doors closed for good in the 1970s.
Over the four decades since it was abandoned, vandals and Mother Nature have ravaged the building’s interior. Nearly all furniture and other items of value have long since been stripped away, leaving only crumbling walls, broken skylights and floors coated in dust and debris. A few rusted, empty safes—their combination locks frozen by time—are scattered throughout the rooms, along with the rotting bones of wooden drawers and desks built into the walls.
The natural light flooding in from holes in the roof and windows have allowed new plant life to flourish within the structure, with moss, grass and even a few small trees sprouting up from the ground floor.
Union Station (Gary)
Gary’s Union Station is yet another once-grand structure that has since become an eyesore. Built in 1910 to handle traffic from Chicago’s booming steel plants, the station was built in the Beaux-Arts style using mainly cast-in-place concrete and reinforced steel, which has allowed its exterior to remain relatively unscathed, even as its interior has been gutted since it shut down in the 1950s.
In addition to carrying workers and supplies to the steel plants in Chicago, the station became a regional transportation hub that carried thousands of young soldiers in the area to report for duty in World War II.
As the steel industry declined in the mid-20th century, so did the need for commuter rail service, rendering the impressive neoclassical building essentially obsolete. It was completely abandoned in the 1950s, with only scavengers, vandals and vagrants entering its doors for the next half-century.
In 2017, a group of activists, artists and urban explorers known as the Decay Devils began lobbying to have the building added to the National Register of Historic Places. They finally succeeded in 2019, and with its establishment as a national landmark, the group has continued to rally for its preservation and restoration. They have cleaned up the grounds, added bright murals to its exterior walls, installed a marker describing the station’s historical significance and planted a garden on the property.
The Decay Devils are currently working to raise the funds needed to renovate the 4,000 square-foot building and potentially create community gathering spaces inside, such as a coffee shop, art gallery, taproom or event space.
Muscatatuck State Developmental Center (Butlerville)
Now a 1,000-acre urban training facility used to train civilian and military first responders, the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center’s began its life in 1920 as the Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble-Minded Youth. Initially open only to young men, the facility featured three farmhouses and a working farm operated by its developmentally-challenged residents.
In the 1920s, construction of the first large-scale dormitories on campus began, and their Art Deco design is strikingly beautiful despite the property’s sad history. The facility, which was renamed Muscatatuck State Developmental Center—began accepting female patients in the 1930s.
The hospital operated until 2005, although investigations of reported patient abuse began in the late 1990s, contributing to the loss of its Medicaid certification and related federal funding in 1999. By the time its doors closed, the center had housed more than 8,000 patients over its history, and several hundred of them remain buried on the property.
Shortly after it closed, the campus was transformed into a training center for the Indiana Army National Guard. The property is now littered with bombed-out buildings, shipping containers, stark steel girders, cinder block walls and a variety of other new and old structures.
The site is also home to Cybertropolis, a live-fire cyberwarfare training center that features more than 100 training structures, miles of tunnels and a clock tower used for rappelling. The facility is used to train the U.S. National Guard, U.S. military and civilian groups as well as the National Guard Patriot Academy, a high school diploma program offered to aspiring military recruits.
Mahencha Apartments (Gary)
This majestic four-story apartment complex was erected in 1928, with a Spanish-influenced façade intended to evoke the ongoing Renaissance Revival. Its handsome red brick exterior, flanked by stone trim, held 31 luxury units built to house city officials and upper management at U.S. Steel, the area’s largest employer.
For several decades, the complex was home to Gary’s most elite residents, including former Mayor Martin Katz, but like so many properties in this steel-dependent town, the Mahencha began a rapid downward spiral in the 1960s and never recovered.
In 1978, former Mayor Richard Hatcher purchased the development from a private trust and renamed it the Hatcher Apartments, but his failure to invest in the structural repairs the building so desperately needed led him to shut down operations in 1984. Residents of the building reported water damage, mold, faulty wiring and crumbling fixtures, among other hazards.
In an effort to collect outstanding taxes of more than $38,000 from Hatcher, the city attempted to sell the building at auction in 1988, but it didn’t receive any bids. Over the next several years, squatters, prostitutes and drug dealers took up residence at the abandoned complex, further complicating the city’s efforts to unload it. All of the building’s windows were broken and subsequently boarded up; thieves stripped the building of its fixtures and plumbing for salvage.
After a years-long dispute between Hatcher and the city, the property was finally donated to the Horace Mann-Ambridge Neighborhood Improvement Organization in the mid-1990s. The group announced plans to renovate the building and reopen it as a low-income housing development, with the renovation funded by tax credits and city-issued bonds. Unfortunately, the funding fell through and the plan was scuttled.
In 1999, the Tree of Life Community Development Corporation purchased the building with a similar plan for redevelopment, but multiple attempts to secure the necessary financing over the next several years proved fruitless. As a result, the crumbling, dilapidated building has become one of Gary’s most visible eyesores, and no new plans to rehabilitate or demolish the building have yet come to fruition.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Indiana
Those who are into urban exploration in the Indiana area should get comfortable with Indiana trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Indiana, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry. For these cases, you should familiarize yourself with x. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.