With a history steeped in maritime activity, it’s not surprising that many of the most fascinating abandoned sites in Maryland have ties to the water. In addition to a pair of ship graveyards, you’ll also find several medical institutions, a defunct silk mill, and even a sunken city on our list of the best abandoned places in Maryland for 2021 and beyond.
Need a strong camera to photograph abandoned places in Maryland? Look no further than our two top recommendations, the Canon EOS 90D and the Nikon D7500. Find more DSLR options in our comprehensive guide.
Interested in venturing outside Maryland? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in Maryland:
- Our Choices For The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Pennsylvania
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Virginia In 2021
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in New York In 2021
The Best Abandoned Places in Maryland
Mallows Bay (Nanjemoy)
Tucked away in a tiny bay along the Potomac is one of the world’s largest ship graveyards, a slowly-decaying testament to the most expensive shipbuilding endeavor in modern history.
Located just outside Nanjemoy, Mallows Bay contains the wrecks of nearly 230 vessels. The ships date back to the first World War, when the U.S. found itself in dire need of transport vessels for soldiers and supplies. With most available steel being dedicated to battleships, the fleet of steamships would be made of wood, but the construction deadline of 18 months was impossible for the shipbuilders to meet. By the time a peace agreement was signed in 1918, the hastily-built ships were nowhere near ready for delivery.
With steel once again readily available after the war, the demand for the wooden ships was virtually nonexistent. After two unsuccessful salvage efforts, it was determined that attempting to remove them was prohibitively expensive, and they were abandoned to rot in the bay.
After several decades, a campaign to clean up Mallows Bay revealed that due to their overwhelmingly organic construction material, the shipwrecks had done more good than harm to the aquatic environment. In fact, the partially-submerged vessels had become a thriving ecosystem for plant and animal life, so they will remain in place until the forces of nature completely absorb them.
Though a few of the ships are visible from shore, to get a better look at the magnitude of the doomed fleet, we recommend taking a kayak or canoe through the bay’s calm, murky waters. Be sure to visit this abandoned places in Maryland during high tide and use caution as you get close to the wrecks, as chunks of glass or metal may lurk just below the surface.
Forest Haven Asylum (Fort Meade)
Like so many of the facilities opened in the early 20th century with the mission of providing compassionate care to individuals with mental illness or disability, the Forest Haven Asylum initially enjoyed a positive reputation in the District of Columbia, but it eventually became notorious for abuse and even death inflicted on those it was supposed to serve.
The asylum opened in 1925 with a progressive approach to treating children with mental illness, physical handicaps or other challenges that might prevent them from thriving in a traditional home and school environment. The 250-acre campus operated a working farm colony to provide residents with both practical skills and a sense of belonging to a larger community, and for several decades it seemed to succeed in that mission.
However, drastic reductions in funding during the 1960s quickly began to impact the quality of care at Forest Haven. Experienced staff were laid off and replaced with a smaller group of unqualified, poorly-compensated workers, and recreational programs for the residents were eliminated. As conditions deteriorated, the center’s overworked and underpaid employees passed their frustrations on to the patients in the form of physical and sexual abuse and neglect.
Some were also involved in ethically questionable—if not outright inhumane—medical experiments at the facility. The death rate among the patient population jumped, and the deceased were often processed in a basement morgue on-site and buried in unmarked graves on the property. By the time the Forest Haven Asylum closed its doors in 1991, hundreds of patients had met their deaths within its walls.
For 20 years, the sprawling campus has been abandoned and generally untouched, with more than 30 buildings experiencing various stages of vandalism and decay. A lone headstone stands in the burial field to memorialize the hundreds of nameless souls sent to their eternal rest on the property.
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Holland Island (Toddville)
While the mythical “lost city” of Atlantis enjoys a vaunted place in human legend, far fewer people have heard of Holland Island, which actually was swallowed up by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay over the course of a century.
First inhabited in the 1600s, Holland Island quickly became one of the most populous islands in the region, with around 350 residents at the turn of the 20th century. The community depended almost entirely on the fishing industry for its economic sustenance, and the island included dozens of residences, a school, a church and a post office.
Starting around 1914, island residents began to notice the creeping effects of erosion, particularly on the island’s west side. As sea levels rose, the shoreline began to disappear into the ocean, and the last family left the island in 1918. Several of the main buildings, including the church, were relocated to the mainland as the tides continued their march across the helpless chunk of land. What was once solid ground morphed into marshland, and soon after became simply open water.
By the end of the 20th century, only one structure remained standing: a two-story residence that was completely surrounded by water at high tide. A severe storm demolished it in 2010, leaving only sparse areas of marsh and debris as evidence that the island ever existed. By 2012, no part of the island remained visible from above the surface of the bay, and the remains of the town continue to settle in their watery grave. Currently, this sits as one of the best abandoned places in Maryland.
Glenn Dale Hospital (Glenn Dale)
Though the coronavirus outbreak that ravaged the globe in 2020 has been most often compared to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, another highly contagious—yet often overlooked—disease once invoked public terror and killed millions over the course of human history: tuberculosis.
Alternately known as “consumption” and the “white plague,” tuberculosis has appeared in medical literature for centuries, but until the 1950s, doctors knew very little about how to effectively combat it. Prior to the successful introduction of antibiotics into tuberculosis treatment regimens, patients with the disease were often confined to dedicated hospitals and sanatoriums for months or even years.
During a particularly severe tuberculosis outbreak in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1930s, overflowing hospitals led to the construction of the Glenn Dale Hospital, which opened in 1934 to treat and isolate patients to help slow the spread of the deadly disease.
At the time, the main approach to treating tuberculosis included exposing patients to plenty of sunlight and fresh air, so the 216-acre campus of Glenn Dale Hospital consisted of vast lawns, rooftop gardens and underground tunnels to permit patients and staff to move between the 23 buildings in the complex during bouts of inclement weather.
As the medical community learned more about the potency of antibiotics in their fight against the disease in the 1940s and 1950s, the patient count at Glenn Dale Hospital began to decline. In 1960, it was transformed into a nursing home and community health facility for the poor. It closed for good in 1982 when the cost of asbestos removal and other needed repairs proved prohibitively expensive and has been vacant ever since.
Despite periodic proposals to redevelop the property, the only activity over the last several decades has consisted of vandalism and brief visits from curious teenagers and urban explorers, all of whom must avoid the periodic police patrols in their attempts to infiltrate the abandoned campus.
A private security firm has since been enlisted to guard the site. However, if you’re a brave explorer looking for a rarely-explored option for abandoned places in Maryland, look no further than the Glenn Dale Hospital (but, as always, be careful).
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Springfield State Hospital (Sykesville)
With the lone state-operated psychiatric hospital bursting at the seams, the Maryland State Legislature voted in 1894 to identify a site for a second facility and settled on Springfield, the estate of the Patterson-Brown family, which counted among its members both Governor Frank Brown and Betsy Patterson, who brought global notoriety to the family when she married Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Jerome.
With the official asylum facility still under construction, Springfield State Hospital’s first patients moved into renovated farmhouses on the property in July 1896. The first buildings to be completed were the Men’s Group on the north end of the campus, followed by the Women’s Group to the south in 1900.
As new patients were admitted to the hospital, both the Men’s and Women’s Groups underwent significant expansions, and the campus also added the John Hubner Psychopathic Building and an Epileptic Colony. A massive farm on site fed both patients and staff, and a powerhouse was erected on the property to provide water for drinking, cooking, bathing and steam heating.
The first patients were received at the hospital in July 1896. Existing farm houses were renovated to accommodate those first patients while the hospital buildings were being constructed. The first phase of the building program was the Men’s Group, located in the northern section of the hospital grounds and completed in 1898. A Women’s Group, located at the southern end of the campus, followed in 1900.
As the hospital population rapidly expanded, additional buildings were erected, including the John Hubner Psychopathic Building, the Epileptic Colony, and significant expansions to the Men’s and Women’s Groups. Over the next half-century, multiple maintenance buildings, a firehouse and staff housing were also added to the sprawling complex.
By the mid-20th century, more than 3,000 patients crowded the hospital’s units, with insufficient staff to care for them all. The state’s largest daily newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, ran a scathing series of articles exposing neglect, abuse and other issues at state hospitals; as a result, funding to Springfield increased to facilitate construction of new buildings and renovations to older ones.
Around the same time, Springfield State Hospital incorporated a new treatment model for the mentally ill led by social worker Henrietta DeWitt, which called for the placement of patients in family or foster homes. The movement soon spread to other states, and combined with the improvements in the efficacy and availability of pharmaceutical treatments, many patients were discharged from state hospitals to live as members of the community.
In the 1980s, the state consolidated much of its diminished operation into newer, more efficient buildings on-site, abandoning most of the older historic structures. High levels of asbestos and other toxic materials have made demolition, remediation and renovation prohibitively expensive options, so they have simply sat vacant in close proximity to the parts of the facility still in use. Several of the older buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, protecting them from demolition but failing to free them from their frozen-in-time existence.
Maryland Gold Mine (Potomac)
Though you don’t often hear about gold prospectors striking it rich along the East Coast, a handful of successful mines did exist in the region during the mid- to late-19th century. One such mine was inadvertently discovered by a Union soldier washing pots and pans in a stream just outside Washington, D.C., although extracting the gold from the earth had to be postponed until after the Civil War had ended.
In 1867, the newly-formed Maryland Mine Company dug its first shaft, launching a mining operation that would continue through 1939. Though trace deposits of gold still exist in the area along the Potomac River, the mine’s yield was never enough to deliver a profit, and the site was abandoned.
Though time and the elements have been harsh to the structures, the partial remains of a wooden water tower, an old blacksmith shop and a circle of stone arches are still visible on the property, which is now considered a historic site. If you search carefully, you can also locate the sealed entrances to the mine shaft, which are mostly obscured by overgrown brush.
The easiest way to explore the site is from the Gold Mine Spur trailhead behind the Great Falls Tavern visitor center. The moderate hike is roughly three miles and passes a waterfall and other interesting scenery in addition to the ruins of the mine. Currently, this sits as one of the best abandoned places in Maryland.
Curtis Creek Ship Graveyard (Baltimore)
Though it doesn’t boast the eye-popping number of vessels abandoned in Mallows Bay, the Curtis Creek ship graveyard does offer an impressive diversity of shipwrecks, most of which saw far more marine action than any of the ill-fated wooden ships near Nanjemoy.
Located in Baltimore, Curtis Creek’s shallow waters contain roughly a dozen ships in various sizes and shapes. They include the three-masted schooner William T. Parker, which was abandoned off the coast of North Carolina in 1899 and ultimately drifted as far north as Maine before the winds shifted to send it back down the East Coast, where a tugboat finally towed it into Curtis Creek and left it there. The creek also holds a handful of wooden freight ships from World War I, a sidewheel steamer ferry named Emma Giles and a crumbling concrete barge.
With no current plans to empty Curtis Creek of its ghostly inhabitants, the vessels will likely remain there until they are completely reclaimed by the water. The ship graveyard can be seen from several vantage points, including the I-695 bridge. For a closer look, consider paying to launch your own boat from the Jaws Marina, which is in close proximity to the William T. Parker and several other wrecks.
Cameras, headlamps, respirators and more. Urban exploration can be very gear-heavy, especially when exploring abandoned places in Maryland. When this is the case, it’s important to have a good-quality backpack. We recommend both the Osprey Packs Daylite for sling backpacks or the Mardingtop Tactical Backpack for a standard two-strap backpack. Alternatively, check out our comprehensive guide for far more options, tips, and tricks.
Klotz Throwing Company (Lonaconing)
Tucked in the mountainous region of western Maryland, this silk mill once provided a livelihood for 300 full-time employees prior to its closure in 1957. Surprisingly, little has changed since the last workers left the building more than 60 years ago; a peek through the window reveals shelves still stocked with their personal effects: shoes, combs, canisters of hair cream and empty food jars.
Rows of spindles where silk thread was produced are dotted with transistor radios, which ostensibly provided workers with news and entertainment as they clocked hours of repetitive labor.
The building has been owned by a private citizen named Herb Crawford for more than 40 years. Though Crawford was essentially tricked into purchasing the obsolete facility, he has kept it open by appointment to photographers and other visitors.
However, the building’s deterioration over time has become dire, and Crawford recently launched a fundraising campaign to help finance the repairs and maintenance of the historic mill so desperately needs. For now, tours of the site must be arranged directly through Crawford, who is generous with his time and the property, allowing curious visitors freedom to photograph and explore the three-story mill where time stands still. Currently, this sits as one of the best abandoned places in Maryland.
Winderbourne Mansion (Boyds)
This posh Victorian-era residence was built in 1884 by the wealthy and well-connected couple Enoch and Mary Totten. After seeing battle during the Civil War, Enoch became a respected Washington lawyer, while Mary counted among her extended family Wisconsin Senator Timothy Howe and his cousin and heir Elias Howe, best known for his improvements to the modern sewing machine.
The majestic home stood out not only for its size, but also its distinctive color: bright pink with dark rose trim. Both Tottens were passionate gardeners, importing exotic plants from across the globe that were maintained by a full-time staff.
Unfortunately, the home became known for tragedy as well: all three Totten children caught typhoid fever (probably from drinking contaminated water) and one did not survive the illness. Their daughter Edith, who ultimately became a medical doctor, saw her own child perish after sliding down and falling from a long bannister in the home.
A second family, the Pickrells, acquired the home in 1929, and it passed to their son Edward Pickrell Jr., who remained there until his death in 2004. In recent years, the residence has experienced significant neglect and decay, and Edward Jr.’s brother Paxton has attempted unsuccessfully to sell this example of great abandoned places in Maryland. Currently, the abandoned nine-acre property is littered with old cars and overgrown gardens, while the home’s interior is strewn with ancient furniture, dusty magazines and outdated clothing.
Fort Carroll (Baltimore)
Centered in the midst of the Patapsco River, Fort Carroll was built in 1847 as an additional line of defense for the City of Baltimore. The man-made island features a massive, hexagonal concrete fortification, which was once armed with 30 cannons during the Spanish-American and Civil Wars.
However, the post never saw much combat, and all weapons were transferred to Fort Howard after World War I. After a brief period of use as an Army firing range and ship checkpoint during World War II, Fort Carroll was totally abandoned to the elements.
The former base is now almost completely covered with out-of-control trees, bushes and vines, which have created an ideal habitat for millions of migratory birds. The island is accessible via kayak or canoe, and ambitious paddlers can explore a few concrete hallways, the key bridge, a small porch and the remains of a lighthouse. This is an incredible example of one of the best abandoned places in Maryland.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Maryland
Those who are into urban exploration in the Maryland state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Maryland, should get comfortable with Maryland trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Maryland, 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 in Maryland, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.