With its location in the center of America’s heartland, Missouri is much more than simply “flyover country.” Anchored by two industrial capitals—Kansas City in the west and St. Louis in the east—the rest of the state is overwhelmingly rural. As a result, the majority of opportunities for urban exploration are concentrated in the big cities on opposite sides of the state.
If your 2021 travels take you to Kansas City, St. Louis or anywhere in between in the Show-Me State, plan to check the following eight best abandoned places in Missouri off your bucket list.
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The Best Abandoned Places in Missouri
The Odd Fellows Home (Liberty)
Before Social Security or Medicare were available for seniors and other Americans in need of assistance with healthcare, shelter and other basic necessities, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was formed to provide financial support to orphans, widows and the elderly. Inspired by the original organization based in Great Britain, IOOF launched its first U.S. chapter in 1819 and spread to Missouri in 1835.
The organization built the Odd Fellows Home, one of the most interesting abandoned places in Missouri, just outside Kansas City in the late 19th century, with the 240-acre property featuring a hospital, nursing home, orphanage, school, cemetery and working farm. Able-bodied members were expected to invest sweat equity in its operation to remain in good standing with the fraternal order.
The home was a pioneer in education for the children it served, offering instrumental music classes and even high school and college courses at a time when these options were often out of reach for average Missouri families. However, a decrease in the number of students on campus ultimately led to the demolition of the Old School building in 1951.
Today, just three historic buildings remain on the significantly diminished campus: the Administration Building, Old Folks Building and Old Hospital, all of which provide distinctive examples of the Jacobean Revival style. Though only the Administration Building was designed by famed St. Louis architect William B. Ittner, the other two structures closely mirror its style, which was used extensively in educational architecture throughout the state.
The now 36-acre property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, but the deteriorating buildings suffer from broken windows, sagging roofs and damaged exteriors. The ground floor of the Administration has been renovated and now houses the Belvoir Winery and Inn’s tasting room and special event space.
The grounds are accessible for sightseeing during the winery’s business hours. The additional, unrenovated structures are some of the best abandoned places in Missouri for explorers.
Cementland (St. Louis)
After this abandoned cement factory on Riverview Drive in St. Louis ceased operations, it quickly became a dumping ground for surplus dirt, rock and other junk from local construction sites. But where most area residents saw an unwanted eyesore, local sculptor Bob Cassilly envisioned a combination art installation and amusement park honoring the role of cement production in the city’s history and economy.
Cassilly was already well-known in the region for creating the City Museum, a century-old, 600,000 square-foot warehouse in downtown St. Louis that he repurposed into a vast indoor and outdoor playground for visitors of all ages, a far cry from the entrant to abandoned places in Missouri it currently sits as.
With its roof-mounted school bus, 10-story indoor slide and outdoor jungle gym made from salvaged steel and old aircraft, the museum ranks as one of the city’s most popular entertainment destinations, and Cassilly hoped to establish an equally beloved (and offbeat) attraction at the former cement factory.
After acquiring the property, Cassilly quickly got to work on building Cementland. He encouraged construction crews to continue dumping their unwanted material on the site, welcoming the additional building material it offered for fashioning his newest playground.
The former factory building was transformed into a castle-like structure, with makeshift bridges spanning the rough-hewn moats and ponds carved into the earth. He began to fill the courtyard with whimsical sculptures, statues and other attractions made from cement, scrap metal and defunct machinery, and curious locals waited anxiously for his latest quirky concept to open to the public.
Tragically, Cassilly was never able to complete what would become his final project. In 2011, he died while operating a bulldozer on the site; though the official explanation was that the machine had tipped over and crushed him, his widow and several medical experts purported that he had been beaten to death, his murder staged to look like an accident.
Today, Cementland remains frozen in time, with all construction progress halted upon the death of its mastermind, though his widow hopes to eventually be able to fund completion of the 55-acre park. Trespassers and vandals have left graffiti and other damage on the property, and a 2016 fire resulted in the collapse of the factory building’s roof.
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 Missouri, look no further than CementLand (but be careful).
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Imperial Brewery (Kansas City)
From St. Louis in the east to Kansas City in the west, Missouri is famous for its network of breweries, many of which date back to the post-Civil War “golden age” of brewing in the state. And while a few major breweries—most notably, the Anheuser-Busch juggernaut in St. Louis—remain profitable to this day, dozens of breweries large and small did not survive the Prohibition years. Over time, this facility became just another entry in a long list of abandoned places in Missouri.
In Kansas City, the Imperial Brewing Company launched two proprietary lagers—Imperial Seal and Mayflower—in 1902, with a facility capable of churning out more than 50,000 barrels per year. A nearby cave was used for cold storage, and the proximity of newly-laid rail lines made shipping both economical and convenient.
Just three years after it began operations, Imperial Brewing was acquired by the Kansas City Breweries Company, and the facility added the latter’s Old Fashioned Lager to its production line. In its peak years, it produced up to 300,000 barrels annually.
Unfortunately, the passage of the 18th amendment in 1920 marked the beginning of the end for the Kansas City Breweries conglomerate, and by the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the production facility had been sold and transformed into a flour mill, which generated more than 1,200 barrels of flour per day for the next 50-plus years.
The mill closed sometime in the 1980s and has sat abandoned ever since, with much of its structure in advanced stages of decay. The old power house from its time as a brewery remains relatively intact, though it was repurposed as a storage facility for the flour mill operation. A few pieces of deteriorating milling equipment are still visible inside, and the barn used to house draft horses for pulling delivery carts is still standing, making it a wonderful option for those hunting down abandoned places in Missouri.
The property, which received National Historical Society certification in 2011, is currently owned by a private developer, although no plans for renovating or restoring the historic landmark off I-35 have been announced.
Wheatley Provident Hospital (Kansas City)
As the first Black-owned hospital in Kansas City, Wheatley-Provident Hospital delivered much-needed medical care to the nonwhite residents of the area from 1916 to 1972. The medical center was founded by Dr. John Edward Perry, a physician from Texas who moved to Kansas City in 1903 in an effort to mitigate inequalities in the healthcare system. Now, Wheatley Provident Hospital sits as a historical landmark long forgotten by time, which makes it a great addition to our list of abandoned places in Missouri.
The facility first opened as a sanitarium and nursing school, but with support from two progressive African-American institutions—the Phyllis Wheatley Club and the New Movement Association—it soon expanded into Wheatley-Provident Hospital. Perry continued to treat patients and mentor young medical professionals there until his death in 1962.
By 1972, the aging facility could no longer meet the needs of the community, and it closed its doors and transferred its patients to the recently-completed Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. The vacant Wheatley-Provident building sat empty most of the time, although it was briefly repurposed as a haunted house in both the 1980s and 1990s.
After two fires threatened to engulf the building in a single day in 2012, it was placed on a list of “most endangered buildings” in the state, but it escaped near-certain demolition when a private developer purchased the property in 2018 with the intention of renovating and repurposing the historic property as an office complex. However, it still sits in a state of decay, making it an ideal abandoned places in Missouri option for daring urban explorers.
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Kansas City Workhouse (Kansas City)
With a design that resembles a medieval castle, this former jail in a historic Kansas City neighborhood was built in 1897 from limestone blocks quarried by the inmates of the previous city jail across the street. Over 120 years later, the Kansas City Workhouse is just another on a long list of abandoned places in Missouri ripe for urban exploration.
The so-called “workhouse castle” was primarily used to house drunks, beggars and petty criminals, many of whom were put to work by the city public works department as part of their sentences. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, its distinctive towers and yellow stone walls instantly made it one of the region’s iconic buildings.
The jail closed in 1924 after less than 30 years of use, but the structure saw multiple reincarnations over the next half-century, including use as a city storage facility, military training site and canine euthanasia center. It was abandoned for good in 1974, and despite changing hands repeatedly over the next 40 years, the property’s condition only continued to decline. Graffiti, weeds, overgrown trees, and trash littered the building and lot, and most of the interior walls and ceilings collapsed, typical with abandoned places in Missouri.
In 2014, a nonprofit group led by Daniel and Ebony Edwards launched a massive community effort to clean up the site, removing 62 tons of trash and sufficiently beautifying the property to hold their wedding there later that year. Despite their aspirations to raise the funds to purchase the old castle and restore it as a community center, within just a couple of years, the eyesore on Vine Street had resumed its collection of graffiti, trash and vandalism.
Cotton Belt Freight Depot (St. Louis)
Built for the St. Louis Southwestern Railway in 1913, this five-story freight depot stood out for its unusual dimensions: at 750 feet long but just 30 feet wide, the structure is more akin to a wall than a full-fledged industrial building. Regardless, as far as abandoned places in Missouri go, this one is hard to beat.
St. Louis was an important hub along the “Cotton Belt Route,” which the Class I railroad operated between Missouri and parts of Arkansas and Texas for the better part of a century beginning in 1891. After several boom decades in the early 1900s, the cotton industry began the slow decline that ultimately led to the decommissioning of the St. Louis freight depot in 1959.
The structure has been abandoned for more than 60 years now, though it was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. This historical distinction has allowed the defunct depot to escape demolition as part of an unrealized plan to build a sports stadium on the site.
Shaded by shallow awnings, the loading dock doors on either side of the structure remain intact, and the windows on the building’s top story indicate the former location of the railroad company offices. The depot was voted 2011’s “Best Old Building” by the readers of the Riverfront Times, the city’s edgy alt-weekly newspaper, and community groups have embraced the graffiti-adorned building as a gritty icon of the city’s industrial past.
In 2014, artists painted a mural on the side to welcome drivers entering the city via a new bridge over the Mississippi River. However, despite this, it is now a more colorful location on our list of abandoned places in Missouri.
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Kessler Park Reservoir (Kansas City)
Abandoned for nearly 80 years, the Kessler Park Reservoir is a sad legacy of an urban planner whose work transformed the form and function of communities in 23 states as well as cities in Mexico and China. Over his prolific four-decade career, George Edward Kessler created master plans for 26 park and boulevard systems, 49 parks, 46 private estates and 26 educational institutions.
Built at the end of the 19th century, Kessler Park—known as North Terrace Park until it was renamed in Kessler’s honor in 1971—was one component of the master plan Kessler drafter for the Kansas City metro area. In the early 20th century, the city’s Fire and Water Commission decided to add a reservoir to the park to support the area’s rapidly-expanding industrial community, and construction of the reservoir was completed in 1920.
However, structural deficiencies in the concrete basin soon appeared, with cracks forming under the massive pressure created by the 16 million gallons of water inside. Alternative water sources were quickly developed, and the reservoir in the park was subsequently drained and abandoned.
Over the years, weeds and even small trees have sprouted through the cracks in the reservoir, and vandals have left swaths of graffiti on its concrete walls, which run roughly the length of a football field. Two rusted water towers rise from the center of the empty basin, which is surrounded by a dilapidated chain-link fence intended to deter trespassers from accessing the site.
Celebration City (Branson)
Opened in 1999 as a sister park to Branson’s famous Silver Dollar City amusement park, Celebration City (originally called Branson USA) was designed to carry Silver Dollar City’s 19th-century theme into the 1900s, featuring attractions dedicated to small-town America, a beachside boardwalk and road trips on Route 66. Operating from May through September, the theme park included a variety of rides, shows and a nightly fireworks display. However, it failed to match the success of the iconic Silver Dollar City, and it closed after just three seasons.
After a major redesign and expansion, the park reopened as Celebration City in 2003, adding a wooden roller coaster, log flume ride and an enhanced laser, water and fireworks show. Despite the face-lift, this park also failed to catch on with tourists, and it closed after the 2008 season.
Since its closure, some rides were demolished or moved to other amusement parks across the country, but many remain frozen in place on the shuttered site, including the Electric Star Ferris wheel, a large go-kart track, the Fireball swinging claw ride, a carousel and the log flume.
The Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, which owns both Silver Dollar City and the defunct Celebration City, has stated publicly that it is “exploring new concepts” for the property, but no visible progress has been made to redevelop the park.
Note: If you’re looking for more great abandoned theme parks beyond abandoned places in Missouri, from the highly sought-after Six Flags New Orleans to the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park and beyond, check into our deep dive into the best abandoned amusement parks in the US.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Missouri
Those who are into urban exploration in the Missouri state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Missouri, should get comfortable with Missouri trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Missouri, 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 Missouri, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.