As one of the nation’s oldest and densest population centers, New Jersey offers urban explorers a wealth of vacant, abandoned and even a few allegedly haunted places to discover. From industrial relics along the turnpike to shuttered psychiatric hospitals in the countryside, these are the 10 best abandoned places in New Jersey to add to your agenda for 2021.
Interested in venturing outside New Jersey? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in NJ:
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in New York In 2021
- Our Choices For The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Pennsylvania
- The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Maryland For 2021 And Beyond
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Virginia In 2021
The Best Abandoned Places in NJ
Brooksbrae Brick Factory (Manchester Township)
Despite its projected capacity to produce thousands of bricks each day, the Brooksbrae Brick Company’s impressive facility in Manchester Township never had the chance to reach its potential. The company’s owner, William Kelly, died in 1908 before its production lines had been brought to full speed, and disputes related to his will brought completion of the facility to a standstill.
In 1915, employees at the Central Railroad of New Jersey launched a strike in relatively close proximity to the unfinished factory. With the status of Kelly’s assets still in limbo, a private caretaker was dispatched to safeguard the property from any spillover from the strike. The caretaker and his wife lived in the residence on the site, and when they lit a fire in the woodburning stove to heat the home one cold winter night, the clogged flue resulted in a blaze that consumed the house and killed the couple.
The property was sold once Kelly’s estate issues were finally resolved, but the factory was never completed, and it has been abandoned for decades. Graffiti artists and other vandals have made the unfinished factory their canvas, and ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts use the land around the facility as a racing ground, making it one of the most adventurous abandoned places in NJ.
Paulinskill Viaduct (Columbia)
At the time of its completion in 1910, the Paulinskill Viaduct held the title of the largest reinforced concrete structure on the planet. With its impressive 115-foot clearance and seven majestic supporting arches, the 1,100 foot-long bridge was a marvel of modern engineering at the time.
The viaduct was a product of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and opened to regular rail traffic on December 24, 1911. It carried trains until 1979 and officially closed in 1982 when then-owner Conrail decommissioned the line. The tracks were removed from the bridge two years later, and the viaduct was officially considered abandoned.
Despite the risk of receiving trespassing charges, the bridge still draws considerable pedestrian traffic from hikers, graffiti artists and even daredevils who have used it for bungee jumping. The interior chambers of the bridge, which once permitted inspectors to assess its structural integrity, are now adorned with colorful graffiti, spray-painted profanity and other detritus left behind by visitors.
If you opt to traverse the defunct bridge, know that local police occasionally patrol the site looking for trespassers, and it’s illegal to park on the surrounding property at one of the most stunning abandoned places in NJ.
Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital (Glen Gardner)
Like most states, New Jersey opened its first tuberculosis sanatorium at the height of the epidemic in the early 20th century. Designed as a model for modern treatment methods, the facility in bucolic Glen Gardner was expected to serve approximately 500 patients per year. Initially, the sanatorium only accepted cases deemed to be curable, but by the 1920s, it had expanded its guidelines to accept all patients, no matter how advanced their disease.
When new treatments for tuberculosis helped get the epidemic under control in the mid-20th century, the facility once again evolved to treat all diseases of the chest and lungs. However, with its population and the state of the facility in decline, the hospital closed its doors in the late 1970s and was left to decay.
Soon afterward, a new treatment center named for former Senator Garret Hagedorn was erected on the adjacent property. The Hagedorn Gero-Psychiatric Hospital was primarily intended to function as a state-operated nursing home, but soon broadened its mission to become a 288-bed psychiatric hospital for the elderly. Hagedorn’s run was considerably shorter than that of its neighbor, and the facility was shuttered in 2012 and likewise abandoned.
Today, both the sanatorium and the state hospital are vacant and deteriorating. According to posted signs, the state-owned property is outfitted with 24-hour video surveillance to catch trespassers on the site. The safest way to view both crumbling buildings is to take Sanatorium Road past the entrances on the right to the veterans’ medical facility, where you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the red tile roof of the sanatorium and the newer psychiatric hospital next to it. Compared to the new hospital, this is one of the most derelict abandoned places in NJ.
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Van Slyke Castle Ruins (Oakland)
This once-grand mansion was built at the turn of the 20th century by wealthy stock trader William Porter, who named the estate Foxcroft after the hill on which it was constructed. Sadly, Porter only enjoyed a few years in the residence before he died in a 1911 car accident; his wife Ruth was on her way home from a European vacation and thus survived.
Ruth remarried in 1913 to attorney Warren Van Slyke, who later served as an assistant to the commander of naval intelligence during World War I. Renamed Van Slyke Castle, the vast property was transitioned into a vacation home for the couple, although Ruth made it her permanent residence after she was again widowed in 1925.
Upon Ruth’s death in 1940, the castle sat empty and unclaimed for nine years. A couple bought it in 1949, then sold it again two years later to a new owner who also quickly abandoned it for unknown reasons, although rumors suggest her departure was related to a messy divorce.
After sitting empty for several more years, vandals broke into the mansion and set it on fire in 1959, destroying much of the building, although significant portions of the castle remain on the site along with the nearby pool and water tower. The ruins have since been incorporated into Ramapo Mountain State Forest and are marked as part of the Castle Loop in the park’s trail system.
Amatol Ghost Town (Hammonton)
In the waning days of World War I, supplies of much-needed TNT were dwindling, spurring scientists to create a substitute form of explosive. The solution they invented was known as Amatol, and munitions factory and surrounding community was established to fuel its production.
Named for the substance to which it owed its existence, the town of Amatol sprang up on 6,000 acres in the state’s Pine Barrens region. Almost as quickly, the town and its factory became obsolete when the war came to an end that same year. The plant was quickly shuttered, the homes abandoned and many of the buildings demolished.
Today, all that remains of this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community are the concrete foundations and piles of rubble where the factory and its employees’ homes and businesses once stood. If you’re looking for abandoned places in NJ that are perfect for moody photography, look no further than the Amatol Ghost Town.
You can also see the ghostly outline of the wooden racetrack that was built on the site in 1926. Known alternately as the Amatol Racetrack and the Atlantic City Speedway, the 1.5-mile track briefly held the distinction of being the largest on the East Coast. It too was eventually abandoned and torn down.
Today, the site of the former racetrack is partially maintained as part of the Hammonton Creek Wildlife Management Area, and this section is open to the public for hiking and exploration. The remainder of the ruins sit on private land, which is well-marked with “No Trespassing” signs. From the parking lot, you’ll hike about three miles to access the remains of the track and the town.
Sandy Hook Nike Launch Site (Highlands)
This site on the northern New Jersey coast is a mysterious relic of the Cold War era. At one time, it represented part of the nation’s top-secret efforts to defend the homeland against a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Today, it is little more than a poorly-marked, rusting structure on a wooded patch of land.
Beginning in 1945, the U.S. began developing a nuclear missile program capable of responding to overtures by the Soviets, who had just completed their first successful test of an atomic bomb. Known as Nike missiles, the surface-to-air projectiles were strategically and surreptitiously placed at locations around the country, including New Jersey’s Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook. The site was ideal for defending nearby New York City, but remote enough that it could be easily concealed.
After the Nike missile program was discontinued as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the weapons were removed from their underground silos, and the Sandy Hook site was abandoned along with roughly 250 other missile bases across the country. Some of these sites were repurposed as schools, prisons and recreational facilities, while others were simply left to decay; Sandy Hook was among the latter.
Today, remnants of the launch facility are still visible, with a barbed-wire fence surrounding a vast slab of concrete now overgrown with weeds and brush. Rusted bay doors embedded in the ground are marked with fading yellow paint, and decrepit loudspeakers and aging arc lamps ring the structure. The large, seashell-shaped radar guidance systems perched on deteriorating metal platforms still stand guard over the site.
The National Park Service maintains the relics as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and guided tours are available on select weekends from April to October.
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Feltville Ghost Town (Berkeley Heights)
First settled in the mid-18th century, the community later known as Feltville was first settled by Peter Willcox, who came to the area from Long Island to build a sawmill. The region’s population continued to grow for the next century, when another mill owner, David Felt, purchased the property containing Willcox’s mill and officially established the village in his own name. The resolutely religious Felt strongly encouraged his village neighbors to match his regular church attendance, and the townspeople nicknamed him “King David” in response.
Felt sold off the land in the late 19th century, and while many of the businesses soldiered on for a time, they all eventually succumbed in the face of the burg’s dwindling population, and Feltville became known colloquially as the “deserted village.”
The land was later purchased by a new investor who transformed the swath of empty buildings into a mountain resort town, but the aspiring vacation destination simply couldn’t compete with the popularity of the Jersey shore, and it too was soon abandoned.
Though a few residents still remain within its borders, Feltville’s main appeal is its identity as a ghost town, drawing visitors with an interest in local history. Many of the original buildings are still standing, frozen in time until they are renovated, demolished or destroyed by nature here at one of the most well-known abandoned places in NJ.
Jungle Habitat (West Milford)
In 1972, Warner Brothers opened this highly-anticipated zoo and safari park featuring more than 1,500 wild animals.
The attraction offered visitors the opportunity to explore both on foot and by car. The pedestrian section included a petting zoo, reptile house, camel rides and a live show starring actors costumed as popular characters from the Looney Tunes cartoons. The drive-through safari part of the park allowed tourists to get close to free-range elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys and llamas, many of which would even climb on top of the slow-moving cars.
Unfortunately, this proximity to the wildlife wasn’t accompanied by strenuous safety measures, and soon after the park opened, a man in a car was mauled when he taunted the lions from his open window. Another incident saw a young elephant picking up a woman with its trunk, and over the next several years, multiple animals escaped into the adjacent town of West Milford. An outbreak of tuberculosis also swept through the animal population, killing many of the park’s residents.
To offset the challenges posed by the animals, Warner Brothers sought to add rides to make it more of an amusement park destination, but the residents of West Milford rallied against the proposal for the crowds and traffic they feared the park would draw. Without this new revenue stream, Warner Brothers opted to shut down the park altogether in 1976. The animals were relocated to other zoos and sanctuaries around the country, and the facility was abandoned.
The former Jungle Habitat property was bought by the state in 1988 and incorporated into Long Pond Ironwoods State Park. A local cycling club performed a massive cleanup of the site in 2007, clearing brush and removing trash and installing more than a dozen miles of single-track trails for cycling, hiking and horseback riding.
Visitors to the park can still see the scaffolding that once supported the Jungle Habitat sign, as well as the remains of multiple animal enclosures and exhibits in these abandoned places in NJ.
Hinchliffe Stadium (Paterson)
Completed in 1932, the now-abandoned Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson holds a significant role in the state’s cultural history. The 10,000-seat amphitheater-style structure was named for Mayor John Hinchliffe, who championed the project for years before it finally came to fruition.
When it opened, the stadium hosted primarily Negro League baseball games, and in 1934 the New York Black Yankees established Hinchcliffe as their home stadium. The team’s tenure lasted until 1945, when the team relocated to Rochester, New York.
Hinchliffe later became a prominent destination for other sports, including Diamond Gloves boxing matches, auto racing and professional football. The venue also hosted multiple Victory Bond rallies during World War II, starring famous athletes, actors and other celebrities to raise funds for the war effort.
For most of its operational existence, however, Hinchliffe was used primarily as a site for high school sports. Two local schools, Eastside High School and Central High School, played football and baseball games at the stadium until the late 1960s, and it was also shared by schools in neighboring towns that lacked sports arenas of their own. Though it was initially owned and operated by the city, the school system eventually took over the stadium in the mid-1960s and funded a variety of repairs and upgrades to the facility.
As the Paterson school system began to decline through the 1980s, much of the funding that had gone toward maintaining the massive athletic facility was funneled to other areas, eventually causing it to fall into disrepair. The stadium was finally closed in 1997 amid rampant rumors of its pending demolition.
A group of citizens came together in an effort to preserve the historic arena, forming the nonprofit organization Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. However, the stadium’s designation under the National Register of Historic Places declared it only “locally significant,” rendering it ineligible for certain grants that might have funded its revitalization.
In 2009, Paterson residents approved a ballot measure that earmarked nearly $13 million for renovations to the crumbling stadium, but the project never moved forward, and the mayor who vowed to oversee the stadium project left office amid a corruption scandal in 2017. In 2019, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh proposed a project that would invest nearly $19 million in resurrecting the stadium for baseball, football, soccer and track, but to date, no improvements to the facility have yet gotten underway.
The decrepit stadium remains a notorious eyesore in Paterson, with large swaths of weeds and brush sprouting up through its rows of concrete seating of this sought-after example of the dereliction of abandoned places in NJ.
Huge chunks of turf are missing from the infield, and the surrounding track is pockmarked with holes. Most of the interior and exterior walls have been tagged with crude graffiti, leaving only trace indications of the grandeur the stadium once brought to this working-class community.
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McMyler Coal Dumper (Port Reading)
Located in Port Reading, the McMyler Coal Unloader was once a critical component of the shipping industry in New York Harbor. Built in 1917, the unloader was powerful enough to lift a 72-ton coal car, flip it upside down and empty its cargo onto a barge. Relying on a modest 12-man crew, the machine nicknamed “Big Mac” was capable of unloading two dozen rail cars per hour and sending barges on their way to ports in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Big Mac’s storied efficiency came to an abrupt halt in 1951, when a pier fire sent the machine crashing into the water. The largest components of the dumper were salvaged, and the rest was rebuilt using parts from comparable unloader purchased from another facility. Within four months, Big Mac was back to work.
Conrail took over the aging Reading Railroad in 1976, but the McMyler Coal Unloader eked out a few more good years serving a handful of power plants that still relied on coal for fuel. Big Mac’s legendary career ended for good in 1983, and the mighty machine was left to decay on the abandoned pier. In recent years, high winds have separated the pan and chute from the tower.
The rusted metal hulk remains anchored in place, though marred with graffiti and inhabited by a colony of aggressive Canada Geese. Though scrappers and vandals have made off with much of the equipment left inside the facility, a few larger items—including a pair of steam engines—are still visible inside one of the most interesting abandoned places in NJ.
Despite its historic significance, restoring or relocating it would likely be prohibitively expensive, so the defunct dumper seems destined to rot where it stands until it eventually collapses into Arthur Kill.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in NJ
With many abandoned sites across the United States waiting to be explored, take time to check out these famous abandoned places in NJ. If you live in-state or plan to travel here soon, these 10 sites deserve your attention. The unique culture and history of this state make it a must-see for any urban explorer. Adventure awaits in the Garden State.
Those who are into urban exploration in the New Jersey state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in NJ, should get comfortable with New Jersey trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Louisiana, 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 Louisiana, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.