Peeling paint, shattered glass, and crumbling concrete – there’s something quite eerie about abandoned places. Time stands still and there isn’t a soul to be found. Abandoned places teach us about our history and show how everything in life eventually returns back to the Earth.
There is no shortage of abandoned places in Michigan from churches and automotive plants to hospitals and even an amusement park. This makes Michigan a prime destination for urban explorers who seek out abandoned places.
The bustling metropolis of Detroit was filled with some of the finest buildings and most advanced technologies of the time. But over the past decades Detroit has experienced a major demographic and economic decline. As the population of the city has fallen vast areas of the urban city have fallen into decay and disrepair.
Many of Michigan’s abandoned places have been demolished or renovated. The creepy Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital once drew local teenagers to its grounds for dare missions no longer stands today and Traverse City’s Northern Michigan Asylum has been reimagined into an area filled with little shops and cafes.
For many cities across the state the cost of demolition is just too high. Instead, abandoned ruins still stand waiting to be explored by urban explorers or bewildered Europeans. Here’s our list of the ten best abandoned places in Michigan you’ve just got to see while they are still standing.
Need a strong camera to photograph abandoned places in Michigan? 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 Michigan? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in Michigan:
- Our Guide to the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Wisconsin 2021
- The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Indiana For 2021 And Beyond
- The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Ohio For 2021 And Beyond
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Minnesota In 2021
Conversely, if you’re interested in sticking around the Detroit area, we highly recommend our in-depth guide Covering 10 Crazy Abandoned Places in Detroit: Detroit Urbex.
The Best Abandoned Places in Michigan
Packard Automotive Plant
During its time the Packard Automotive Plant was considered the most advanced auto production facility. It was built between 1903 and 1911 and occupies 40 acres of land. The plant is now one of the largest abandoned buildings in the world.
The plant was designed by famous Michigan Architect Albert Khan and was an excellent representation of traditional Detroit architecture and style of the time. Khan would go onto design buildings for GM, Ford and the University of Michigan.
The plant ceased operations in 1958 and now sits as a relic of the past reminding the world of Detroit’s period of Industrial might. Other businesses have operated out of the plant from time to time. It has also been a location used in many movies including It Follows and Apocalypse Nerf earning it a bit more attention and added security measures around the facility.
The Packard Automotive plant remains one of the most recognized buildings in Detroit. In 2012 a Peruvian developer purchased the complex. The future of the plant is still unclear but the stated goal is to redevelop the plant into a mixed residential and commercial property.
Sugar Loaf Ski Lodge
Just outside Traverse City, Michigan lies an abandoned but preserved ski resort. Much of the ski lodge has been preserved with even the tiniest details still intact. Sugar Loaf Mountain closed in 2000 because of poor management and increased competition from nearby resorts and the ledge was abandoned.
Though the ski lodge is abandoned it is far from empty. The lodge is filled with original paperwork, lift tickets, and all the ins and outs of a real working business. Yes, the lodge was abandoned but it feels like a snapshot lost in time. The Sugar Loaf Lodge is a true gem to visit on your next urbex trip to Michigan.
The complex comprises a ski lodge building, a hotel, pool, and a deserted skill hill completed with hanging ski lifts. Walking around the main hotel, you almost expect people to appear with skis and suitcases in hand.
Peek through the windows and you’ll find the beds are all made, trash is emptied. Most of the windows are shattered and peaking in is the best way to get a glimpse of the interior rooms. The floor and countertops are covered in a thick layer of dust, insulation, and other materials coming from the ceiling.
Be sure to take a climb to the top of the mountain itself. It’s worth the hike. At the top of the mountain, you’ll have great views of Little TraverseLake and Good Harbor Bay. Recently the resort was purchased and there are plans in place to reopen it again one but for now, it sits as one of the best abandoned places in Michigan. Make your way to see it before it’s too late.
St. Agnes Catholic Church
When St. Agnes Catholic Church began construction after the turn of the century there were only a handful of houses in the area. By the time construction was finished in 1924, the neighborhood had transformed into a densely populated area with the church located at the heart of the community. The church only took about two years to be built but this goes to show how quickly the population of Detroit was growing during the beginning of the 20th century.
By the mid- 20th century the church had grown to include three priests, 22 nuns, and 180 students enrolled in the Catholic girls’ school on the church grounds. It was during this time that things would take a turn for the worst for the community, and the church.
When the police raided an after-hours drinking establishment nearby it stirred up tension and civil unrest. Many of the buildings along 12th Street were burned to the ground but St. Agnes Catholic Church went relatively unharmed. The community never fully recovered from these events and people began to move. In 1986 there were only 162 families in attendance and the Detroit Archdiocese put the building up for sale, but the purchasers never took control of the building and allowed it to fall into ruin.
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Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park
Established in 1963 the Prehistoric Forest was a roadside attraction in the 1960s. The amusement park lured tourists in with life-size fiberglass dinosaur statues, a man-made active volcano, a safari train and it’s famous 400-foot tall Jungle Rapids Water Slide. Visitors would come to the park for a Jurassic Park type experience long before the movie franchise came onto the scene. The park also provided educational activities such as its many areas of interactive fossil digging for tourists to enjoy. Eventually, the park itself went the way of the dinosaurs and closed its doors.
The Prehistoric Amusement Park fell victim to new interstate traffic patterns that rerouted traffic away from so many similar small roadside attractions in between major cities. Business declined in the 80s and the park managed to stay open until 2002 when it finally closed its doors.
The park is now added to the list of abandoned places in Michigan. Time and the element have eroded the dinosaur statues, but vandalism has played a larger role in their decline. While the park was still in operation in the 1980s, a few of the statues went missing and were found in front of a nearby high school. There are security cameras fixed on the remaining statues to keep them on-premise.
In 2018, the park’s waterfalls and caverns started to experience structural issues and demolition was requested. The owner has stated his interest in revitalizing the park to its former glory days but so far the details laid out on the project are vague.
Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan was built in 1911 in the Gothic Revival style by architect Sidney Badgley. This English Gothic style church is faced with rough rock and trimmed with contrasting limestone.
The massive church measures 184 feet by 104 feet and it is notable for its large stone facade and beautiful traceried stained glass windows. It features a two-story educational wing that was built separately but at the same time right at the rear of the church building. A lantern dome is raised high above the roofline and was used as the source of light for the large auditorium.
In 1908 the Detriot Presbyterians recognized the need for a church to serve congregants in the northern Woodward side of town. A congregation was organized and services began being held in 1908. At that time the church had 163 members. Rev. Sherman Divine was the church’s first minister. He embarked on the construction of the church which cost about $100,000. Construction began in 1910 and the next year the church was dedicated and open to the public.
In 1921 membership surpassed 2,200. However, the 1950s were not kind to urban cities like Detroit. Many of the church’s congregants left Detroit for the suburbs and church membership dwindled. In 1981 Woodward Presbyterian Church merged with Covenant Congregant but still had less than 50 members combined.
For quite a while the church was used by the Abyssinia Church of God in Christ. In 1982 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then finally in 2010, the church was abandoned because it had fallen into such a state of disrepair. Recently the property has been purchased by a new owner seeking to turn the church into a center for the homeless. There’s no telling what they have planned for the property just yet so be sure to mark this site down on your list of must-see abandoned places in Michigan while you can still see it.
United Artist Theater Detroit
The United Artists Theater was once part of Detroit’s thriving downtown scene. Today it stands as of the grandest abandoned places in Michigan. In the early 1920’s United Artist began building theaters in major cities across the U.S. to distribute its pictures to the public.
The United Artist Theater in Detroit cost $3 million for construction and was considered to be a masterpiece. The Theater was designed by C. Howard Crane and boasted 2,000 seats. It was located next door to the Leland Hotel on the bustling new side of town. The building was constructed in the Spanish Gothic style but borrowed elements from Persian, Grecian, and Indian styles as well.
It quickly became Detroit’s premier first-run movie theater. Gone With the Wind hosted its premiere here in 1940. Over the years, the theater had many renovations and made way for a wider screen. But by the late ’60s, people were steering clear of Detroit’s downtown districts. Like other theaters, the United Artist Theater began showing exploitation and pornographic films to stay in business. Finally, in 1971 the theater closed its doors.
During the 1990s, The Detroit Tigers baseball club began planning a new stadium downtown which would have required the theater to be demolished. The location proved to be too small and the plans eventually fell through. Years of vacancy have taken a toll on the theater.
The roof has deteriorated causing major water damage. The marque was removed in 2006 after part of it collapsed onto the sidewalk. Since then some work has begun to restore the building. It has been stabilized however it still stands in poor condition today. Check out the United Artists Theater soon before it is demolished or redeveloped.
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The Francisco Morazan Shipwreck
Off the coast of South Manitou Island lies the remains of the SS Francisco Morazan. Launched in 1922 this steel-hulled Liberian fighter was sailing from Chicago to the Netherlands by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway in November of 1960.
On November 28th the freighter was buffeted by northwestern winds with speeds up to 40-miles per hour and snow. It ran aground just off South Manitou Island, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Everyone on board the ship was successfully rescued but this ship eventually sank. The rusted hull of the ship still lies here today and is partially visible from the island. This is a local favorite spot for scuba divers, explorers, and seabirds alike.
Ruins of the Waugoshance Light Station
During the summer of 1943, the waters of Lake Michigan became a U.S. Navy training ground. Two paddlewheel aircraft carriers certified class after class of career pilots. But just to the north right around the Canadian border was another more secretive training ground near Waugoshance Point.
The Waugoshance Lighthouse was built in 1851 and used to help ships steer clear of dangerous reefs and shoals. During the Second World War it served as a beacon for experimental radio-controlled drones. Codenamed STAG-1, this highly secretive program came as a response to Japanese Kamikaze attacks.
Engineers outfitted twin-engine planes with primitive radio receivers that connected to the steering mechanisms. They had a camera in the nose of the plane and a hydraulic unit that was controlled by radio impulses to steer the craft. Pilots flying a “mothership” several miles behind would steer the drone over the target. After dropping a powerful 2,000 pound bomb the drone would crash into the water.
During the development and practice phases of the operation their target was the Waugoshance Lighthouse. Most of the bombs fell harmlessly into the water but at least one bomb exploded close enough to set off a fire in the lighthouse. The abandoned lighthouse was forgotten until 2011 when it was transferred from the Coast Guard to the Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society that is currently restoring the lighthouse.
Eloise Psychiatric Hospital
Located in Westland Michigan the Eloise Psychiatric Hospital was a large complex named after Eloise Dickerson Davock – the daughter of Detroit’s postmaster. It was in operation from 1839 to early 1982. The hospital started out as a poor house and farm but eventually morphed into an asylum, sanatorium, and hospital.
In its prime, it consisted of 78 buildings on 902 acres of land with 10,000 patients and 2,000 staff members. It was the largest psychiatric facility in the United States. Unfortunately, only 5 out of the 78 buildings still remain to this day. The Eloise cemetery also remains. Many of the buildings burned to the ground in a fire in 2019.
Founded in 1832 as the Wayne County Poor House it was located two miles from the Detroit city limits. By 1834 the poor house was in bad condition and it along with its land was purchased. The Black Horse Tavern, which served as a stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago, was located on the property. In 1839 the 35 residents were transferred from the poorhouse to a new one in Nankin Township.
The Black Tavern became the keeper’s quarters and an A-frame building was put up on the property to house inmates. The complex had its own police and fire departments along with a railroad and trolley system. It included a bakery, an amusement hall, a laundry facility, a post office, and a power plant. It even had its own farm with dairy cows and tobacco curing buildings.
Patients came down from Detroit to have x-rays done at the facility. It also housed the first kidney dialysis unit in the state of Michigan and pioneered music therapy. Staff also used shock therapy, hydrotherapy, and insulin therapy to treat the patients.
During the Great Depression, the facility housed 10,000 residents but slowly over the next decade, the population decreased. The farm ceased and many of the buildings were vacated in 1958. The last patients were transferred out in 1982 when the state of Michigan took over the complex. The general hospital was closed in 1986.
Inventor Elijah McCoy may be its most famous former resident. He spent a year prior to his death as a patient in the Eloise Infirmary. There were other well-known people who died at Eloise including several baseball players. Among them are Jul Kustus, Larry LeJeune, Charlie Krause, and Marty Kavanagh. Musician Horace Flinders was also a patient and received music therapy.
Today the land that once belonged to Eloise has been developed into a strip mall, golf course, and condominiums. The only building that is still being used for psychiatric admissions. The firehouse and powerplant are still standing in decay on the grounds. The bakery was damaged heavily in a fire caused by arson in 2016 but it’s charred ruins still stand. There are plans in place to remove the rest of the ruins from the property so it is a good idea to see these abandoned places in Michigan soon before they are gone.
Cameras, headlamps, respirators and more. Urban exploration can be very gear-heavy, especially when exploring abandoned places in Michigan. When this is the case, it’s important to have a good-quality backpack.
We recommend both the Osprey Packs Daylite for sling backpacks when exploring abandoned places in Michigan, or the Mardingtop Tactical Backpack for a standard two-strap backpack. Alternatively, check out our comprehensive guide for far more options, tips, and tricks.
The Fisher Body Plant 21
The Fisher Body Company was formed in 1908 by Albert Fisher and his nephews Charles and Fred. Initially, it produced bodies for both carriage and the budding automobile industry. They dropped the carriage line in 1911. At the time making and autobody was a complex mixture of shaped wood and metal. This construction process took the craftsmanship of skilled tradesmen to complete. Most auto manufactures found it much simpler to outsource this work. By 1910 Fisher was constructing automotive bodies for Cadillac, Ford, Studebaker, and Hudson.
To meet the increasing demand for auto bodies, Fisher expanded operations to over 40 plants in the Detroit area. Body plant number 21 was built in 1919 on Piquette Street in Detroit just around the corner from Henry Ford’s original workshop. The six-story building was designed by architect Albery Kahn. It featured reinforced concrete and floor to ceiling windows to allow natural light to come into space. In 1917, General Motors bought a controlling interest in the company.
A series of violent strikes broke out at the General Motors and Fisher plants across the country in the late 1930s, bringing construction to a halt. Like many other automotive factories, Fisher retooled its shop during the Second World War for military production. They manufactured parts for military planes, anti-aircraft guns, and tanks. After the war, Fisher manufactured parts for buses, ambulances, and limousines. During this time the Fisher name began to recede from public view.
In 1982, General Motors announced they would close the body plant and move production of limousine parts to Flint. Eventually, Carter Color Coast Company purchased the lot and used it for industrial painting, however, its operation was short lived. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and abandoned the plant. Ownership of the site reverted to the city of Detroit in 2000.
The Fisher Body Plant has an ideal location but the site has been severely contaminated rendering the property useless as is. Asbestos waste, lead, and other hazardous materials contaminate the soil and concrete from a lifetime of industrial use. The Environmental Protection Agency began working on the site in 2008 removing and disposing of large amounts of soil and contaminated equipment. The flooring was also removed for good measure as well as sections of the concrete and underground storage tanks. Despite their best efforts, the site is still considered to be contaminated to this day.
The building itself is in a steady state of decline, beaten down by the natural elements. At least one fire has damaged the first floor of the building and the cement is being eaten away by ice. The City of Detroit is trying to find investors or developers who would like to renovate the site but so far there haven’t been any interested parties. For as little as $300,000, you could own some of the greatest abandoned buildings in Michigan and a piece of American history with a beautiful view of the city.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Michigan
It’s true. Michigan is a treasure trove of history that is just waiting to be explored. Whether you are an urban explorer, history buff, architect, or just fascinated with old buildings there is so much to see and learn about through abandoned places in Michigan.
If you are interested in visiting one or more of these sites you should not put it off. We don’t know how long these abandoned places in Michigan will still be standing as is before they are demolished or renovated by developers. As always, stay safe and happy exploring!
Those who are into urban exploration in the Michigan state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Michigan, should get comfortable with Michigan trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Michigan, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry.
For these cases, you should familiarize yourself with Michigan trespassing laws. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in Michigan, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.