Philadelphia is a beautiful city wrapped in a Rust Belt era semi-industrial wasteland of abandoned buildings and locations ripe for urban exploration. Knowing your way around and knowing where the best abandoned places in Philadelphia and the surrounding area are located makes for an incredible hobby.
Killer Urbex Note: It is important to note that many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on the locations are not given purposefully to ensure the abandoned places in Philadelphia stay as vandalism and destruction-free as possible. Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Interested in venturing outside Philadelphia? Check out our guide to the Best Abandoned Places in Pennsylvania.
Instead, wanting to look outside Pennsylvania? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in Philadelphia:
- Finding the Best Abandoned Places in New York In 2021
- Our Choices For The Best Abandoned Places In New Jersey
- The Best Abandoned Places In Maryland For 2021 And Beyond
- Finding the Best Abandoned Places in Virginia In 2021
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in Philadelphia location.
- Adam Scheidt Brewing Company Plant
- Mount Moriah Cemetery
- Eastern State Penitentiary
- Willow Street Steam Plant
- PECO Delaware Station
- Freibofer Baking Company
- The SS United States
- Philadelphia Graffiti Pier
- Byberry Asylum Tunnels
- Fairmount and Spring Garden Street Stations
The Best Abandoned Places in Philadelphia
Adam Scheidt Brewing Company Plant
Founded in Norristown in the mid-19th century, the Adam Scheidt Brewing Company was a near-instant success, quickly ranking among the largest of the Philadelphia-area breweries. Lagers were the company’s top sellers, with Twentieth Century Ale and Lotus Export Beer leading the way.
When Congress amended the Constitution to outlaw the production and sale of alcoholic beverages across the nation, Adam Scheidt Brewing Company nimbly pivoted to manufacturing sodas and “near beer,” with an alcohol content low enough to skirt Prohibition laws.
Though the original Philadelphia plant shut down in 1926, the company remained in business for almost another half-century, finally dissolving in 1974.
With the brewery gone, a new tenant moved into the facility in the early 1930s: Pottstown-based Mrs. Smith’s Pie Company. The plant was reconfigured to produce frozen pies—primarily of the pumpkin variety—for another decade or so.
After World War II, the building changed hands yet again and became the site of a hardware store. At some point in the waning years of the 20th century, the property was vacated and never reoccupied.
Today, the neglected brick building is little more than a dingy eyesore in this industrial neighborhood. The property is nominally protected by a dilapidated, rusty chain-link fence, and the cracked concrete pad of the former loading dock is overgrown with weeds. Despite rumors that the site may be slated for redevelopment as residential units, no solid proposals have publicly materialized.
Mount Moriah Cemetery
This distinctive graveyard in southwest Philadelphia was once recognized as the largest cemetery in the state. It opened just before the start of the Civil War, inviting mourners to its peaceful confines with a handsome Romanesque gatehouse and Gothic-style mausoleums comparable to the world’s most recognizable burial grounds, including Pere LaChaise in Paris and Greenwood in New York City.
The cemetery was established by the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 1855 on a 54-acre parcel of land spanning Cobbs Creek. The cemetery gradually expanded to about 200 acres, with churches and other organizations claiming smaller sections within the vast property.
Over the decades, Mount Moriah welcomed souls of all backgrounds to its gently rolling terrain. Those buried there represent all races and economic classes, and its plots represent the changing needs and makeup of the surrounding area, including areas honoring Muslim burial traditions, U.S. military veterans and even communal sections.
Governed by the loosely organized Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, the state of the cemetery began to deteriorate significantly in the late 20th century. Lack of regular upkeep led to overgrown weeds and brush, crumbling and fallen headstones and the near-total destruction of the iconic brick entrance.
When the last surviving member of the association died in 2011, the cemetery was left with no one responsible for its maintenance, and it fell into even greater disrepair.
After a few years in which nature threatened to completely swallow up the once-dignified final resting place, a local non-profit formed with the goal of restoring the historic site. Since 2014, the Friends of Mount Moriah have donated their time, money and sweat equity toward clearing overgrown brush, re-establishing walking paths and ensuring that area residents can safely visit the graves of their loved ones.
Though the full restoration effort has a long way to go, the group has made enormous progress on this massive undertaking, with more than half of the sprawling property now reopened for public access.
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Eastern State Penitentiary
Located in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, the Eastern State Penitentiary helped pioneer the movement to reform—rather than simply punish—the inmates incarcerated within its walls.
When it opened in 1829, it was one of only a handful of correctional facilities that did not practice corporal punishment, which was commonplace at that time. Instead, the prison used a Quaker-influenced system of isolation and labor in an effort to encourage prisoners to reflect on their misdeeds and live differently in the future.
Whenever inmates were outside of their cells, they would be outfitted with hoods to prevent interaction with guards and discourage them from becoming familiar with the layout of the facility.
The penitentiary’s innovative wagon-wheel design featured seven cell blocks that radiated like spokes from a central rotunda where guards could monitor activity. Prisoners had private cells with central heating, running water, a flushing toilet and a skylight, as well as a private outdoor exercise yard surrounded by a 10-foot wall.
These amenities were more advanced than even the White House, which at that time still did not have running water and was heated by coal stoves. By the early 1900s, the prison had moved away from the solitary confinement philosophy, with most prisoners having at least one cellmate.
Communal dining halls, weaving shops, a commercial-grade bakery and several kitchens were added to the layout, allowing for increased interaction among inmates as they helped support the prison’s operations. The last significant change to the prison’s design was the addition of Cellblock 15—Death Row—in 1956.
By the 1960s, the aging facility was in desperate need of expensive repairs, and the state opted instead to close it in 1970, though it was used to hold short-term prisoners until 1971. The City of Philadelphia purchased the property in 1980 with plans to redevelop it, but a state task force put a stop to what it deemed “inappropriate” reuse proposals in 1988.
In 1994, the prison reopened as a museum and historic site, offering guided tours as well as scavenger hunts for children. Visitors can access a handful of former solitary confinement cells, although much of the prison remains off-limits due to deterioration from age and years of neglect.
Its foreboding atmosphere has also made it a popular location for TV shows and films about paranormal activity, including episodes of Ghost Hunters, BuzzFeed Unsolved and Cold Case.
Willow Street Steam Plant
Constructed in 1927 by the Philadelphia Electricity Company, the Willow Street Steam Plant was once a component in the country’s third-largest district steam hearing system, featuring 33 miles of pipes and 163-foot tall smokestacks. The plant was removed from the steam system in the 1970s, although the broader system remained in use.
After decades of abandonment, the old steam-generating plant is in dismal condition. An abundance of asbestos within the building makes any prospect of redevelopment prohibitively expensive, due to the millions of dollars of environmental remediation that would be required for its safe occupancy.
Much of the interior is a tangled mess of rotting pipes, rusting metal, mold and other filth, although a few rooms still hold relatively well-preserved walls of gauges, dials and other equipment. Explorers daring to visit the site should plan to wear industrial-grade respiratory masks and other personal protective equipment. All in all, this is a wonderful example of abandoned places in Philadelphia.
PECO Delaware Station
The work of architect John T. Windrim, the plant originally known as the Delaware River Generating Station went online in 1920.
The Beaux-Arts building in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood was groundbreaking in multiple ways: not only was it the first major power station built of reinforced concrete instead of steel, but it also incorporated innovative electricity-generation technologies that later became mainstream.
Over the years, additional generators were added to the 223,000 square-foot plant, which remained operational until 2004.
After electricity production ceased at the facility, the five-acre campus was essentially abandoned for the next decade, until it was purchased by developers Joe Volpe and Bart Blatstein, who announced plans to reinvent the site as an event space with a banquet hall, restaurants, guest rooms and parking.
However, the proposal never materialized, and the vacant plant changed hands again in 2020, with an affiliate of Lubert-Adler Real Estate Management paying $14 million for the sprawling waterfront property. No plans for its future have yet been finalized, although the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
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Freibofer Baking Company
This abandoned bakery facility in Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood has its earliest roots in the Charles Baking Company in Camden, New Jersey, which was founded by Charles Freibofer in 1884. His brother William joined the enterprise in 1890, quickly streamlining the company’s delivery process and propelling the fledgling bakery to new heights of success.
After rebranding as the Freibofer Vienna Baking Company in 1893, the brothers acquired a four-acre property in north Philadelphia to support a larger facility. Shortly afterward, the company’s continued growth allowed for construction of a massive new operation on the 12-acre lot in Nicetown.
The sprawling property was large enough to house not only the factory, but also wheat fields as well as stables to support the horse-and-buggy delivery system.
In 1909, Freibofer announced plans for creation of the largest bakery in the world. With almost $200,000 in upgrades, the expanded facility would include massive ovens, mechanical roller beds, industrial-grade mixers and a coal-fired power generating station. The investment also provided for an enormous stable complex, with space for 350 horses, 160 wagons, a repair shop and a horseshoeing shop.
The company kept growing throughout the early 20th century, adding satellite bakeries outside Philadelphia to extend its reach. By the end of World War II, the branch facilities were out-producing the central Nicetown facility, thanks to their modern equipment and newer facilities.
The Nicetown plant shut down in 1956 and was transformed into a textile factory three years later. After the factory was shuttered in the 1970s, the campus was used intermittently for storage until 2000, when it was permanently abandoned.
In the two decades since, the historic Freibofer Baking Company plant has deteriorated markedly, its cavernous interior spaces littered with trash, building materials and other debris.
Water damage and exposure to the elements have allowed moss and mold to grow rampant on the floors and ceilings, and the walls are equally marred with grime and graffiti. All in all, this is a wonderful example of abandoned places in Philadelphia.
The SS United States
When it was built in 1951 at a cost of nearly $80 million, the SS United States became the largest ocean liner to be constructed entirely in the U.S. as well as the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic Ocean in either direction.
Though the ship was designed to function as a troopship by the U.S. military if needed, the SS United States remained a transatlantic passenger service vessel throughout its lifetime. The ship changed hands multiple times from the 1970s to the early 1990s, though none of its new operators were ever able to turn a profit.
By 1994, most of the ship’s fittings had been sold for scrap, and after asbestos panels and other hazardous waste materials were removed, the SS United States was essentially a hollow vessel. In 1996, the dilapidated ocean liner was towed to Pier 82 on the Delaware River and abandoned there.
In 2009, a nonprofit preservation group began raising money in an attempt to purchase and restore the historic ship. The SS United States Conservancy bought the ship in 2011, but no feasible plans to repurpose the ship were identified.
By 2015, the group began considering bids to scrap the ship due to lack of funds to cover the $60,000 monthly docking and maintenance fees, but additional fundraising saved the vessel from obliteration.
The following year, Crystal Cruises indicated plans to purchase the boat, but the sale fell through, although the company did donate an additional $350,000 to secure the ship’s short-term future until a suitable proposal could be identified.
In 2020, New York City-based commercial real estate firm RXR Realty announced an agreement with the conservancy that would repurpose the SS United States as a permanently-docked 600,000 square-foot hospitality and cultural center.
The firm is currently soliciting interest from large waterfront cities for relocating the ship, including Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. For now, the decaying, 70-year-old ocean liner remains marooned along the Philadelphia riverfront.
Philadelphia Graffiti Pier
Once a Conrail pier that functioned as a coal loading dock until the late 1970s, Philadelphia’s infamous Graffiti Pier can be challenging to locate on your first visit. The entrance to the defunct pier is partially concealed by jersey barriers and a fence that remains closed after dark. But once you manage to find it, you’re sure to be awed by this humble monument to street art and raw personal expression.
The deteriorating concrete walls are covered in all manner of graffiti, including political slogans, encouraging messages, tributes to deceased loved ones and even a handful of “wickeds”—a graffiti style unique to Philadelphia that uses seemingly illegible scribbles to communicate ideas.
However, most of the work on Graffiti Pier consists of “throws,” the familiar bubble-letter style commonly associated with graffiti, and “pieces,” non-word art that takes the form of images and graphics.
Though the wall has become a destination for both street artists and curious visitors over the past 30 years, the Philadelphia Police Department has stepped up patrols in recent years due to increased reports of crime at the site.
Since then, citizens and members of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) have formed an unlikely partnership in an effort to maintain safety at the property while allowing the historic site to survive for now, although there have been rumors that the site is being considered for total redevelopment like other run-down waterfront properties in the city.
Currently, plans are in place to add seating, restrooms, and trash cans as well as increased safety measures and improved access for visitors, with the improvements slated for completion by 2024. The pier remains open for exploration during daylight hours only at this time. All in all, this is a wonderful example of abandoned places in Philadelphia.
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Byberry Asylum Tunnels
Officially known as the Philadelphia State Hospital for Mental Diseases, this notorious asylum established an enduring legacy of systematic abuse and torture of the residents trapped there—a legacy that endures even 30 years after the facility closed its doors.
When it opened in 1903, the Byberry asylum was a modest working farm meant to house a few mentally ill patients. It quickly expanded into a multi-building campus, and a severe staff shortage led to the hiring of candidates who may not have been particularly qualified to work in the mental health field.
A high patient-to-staff ratio also meant that many of the patients did not have their basic needs adequately addressed, with clients often left unbathed and unclothed for days or weeks.
The skeleton crew of housekeepers couldn’t keep up with the sprawling facility, so bed linens were washed infrequently and the floors were almost always covered in a film of urine. Some patients were even left in four-point restraints for months on end simply because there weren’t enough employees to manage them.
These abhorrent conditions persisted for decades, and by the 1970s at least 57 deaths due to patient neglect had been recorded (and probably many more that were never reported). On the other end of the spectrum, high-functioning residents were granted high levels of freedom, leading some to escape the facility and later be found sleeping on nearby residents’ lawns.
Abuses reported at the facility included a “water cure,” during which a wet towel was wrapped around a patient’s neck and slowly tightened, often to the point of the patient becoming unconscious; performing medical and dental procedures without pain killers; overuse of sedatives and other medications; experimental drug testing performed without patients’ consent; beatings, sexual assaults and other physical abuse; and even patients being murdered by staff or other patients.
This “house of horrors” finally closed in 1990, and the buildings where so many unthinkable and grisly acts occurred were abandoned. Many of the structures have since been demolished or destroyed by fire, with those that remain intermittently patrolled by a private security firm.
However, the Byberry tunnel systems—consisting of maintenance tunnels and patient passageways—both remain largely intact. The maintenance tunnels were installed to allow access to the water and steam pipes used to heat the building and connect almost all of the structures on the large campus.
Some of them have been blocked off to deter trespassers, but others remain accessible. The patient transport tunnels are almost completely open and link the newer buildings on the property, but any intrepid explorers should take care not to make too much noise lest they attract notice from the private security staff.
Fairmount and Spring Garden Street Stations
After nearly six decades of service, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) completely or partially shuttered several stops on the Broad-Ridge Spur.
Low ridership and safety concerns prompted the closures in 1989, which included the total closure of the Spring Garden Street Station and roughly half of the Fairmount Station. The other two stops on the spur—Race-Vine and Market Street—were modernized and remain open to riders.
As for the two defunct stations, the walls and platforms of the abandoned stops are now covered in bright graffiti. Fairmount Station also features a mezzanine concourse that was part of the section closed to the public.
The sites have been magnets for local street artists even prior to their closure, with some of the earliest pieces dating back to the early 1980s. Well-known artists have also made the trek to Philadelphia to leave their mark on the dingy underground canvases.
Though the artwork on the platforms and tunnel walls can be briefly glimpsed by riders aboard the trains, hundreds of daring urban explorers have also risked their safety and liberty to get a better look.
If you attempt to visit, keep in mind that the rails remain live and can cause electrocution, and air vacuums created by moving trains can suck pedestrians onto the tracks. Trespassers also face arrest, fines of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison. All in all, this is a wonderful example of abandoned places in Philadelphia.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Philadelphia
Those who are into urban exploration in the Philly area, and want to explore abandoned places in Philadelphia, should get comfortable with Pennsylvania’s trespassing laws.
Luckily, in the state of Pennsylvania, and the city of Philadelphia, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in Texas, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.