Home to stunning mountain landscapes and rich coal mining history, West Virginia is also a treasure trove for those seeking to explore abandoned places. The Mountain State’s past is etched into its landscape, with deserted mines, defunct factories, ghost towns, and other abandoned places in West Virginia that tell captivating tales of the state’s industrial and cultural heritage.
Urban explorers, history enthusiasts, and photographers are drawn to these forgotten places that have been reclaimed by nature, each location providing a unique window into West Virginia’s past.
Note: Many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on locations, such as coordinates or maps, are not given. This is done so purposefully as a barrier to entry to those who may mean harm to these spots. I want to ensure that these abandoned places in West Virginia are known about, but stay as vandalism and destruction free as possible. Remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Breakdown: The Top 10 and More
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 West Virginia location.
- Lake Shawnee Amusement Park (Princeton)
- St. John’s Episcopal Church (Harper’s Ferry)
- Thurmond Ghost Town (Thurmond)
- Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Weston)
- West Virginia State Penitentiary (Moundsville)
- Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District (New River Gorge)
- West Virginia Ordnance Works Bunkers (Point Pleasant)
- Shepherdstown Cement Mill (Shepherdstown)
- The Ruins of Harper House/Hill Top House Hotel (Harpers Ferry)
- Sweet Springs Resort (Sweet Springs)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond West Virginia
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of West Virginia? Maybe you live close to the state line, or maybe you’re just looking for adventures outside your home state. Whatever the case may be, here are some guides to bordering states that may be helpful in effective urban exploration:
Don’t Forget About Trespassing Laws
It is important when considering abandoned places in West Virginia to know the basics of West Virginia trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to West Virginia, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in West Virginia
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park (Princeton)
In the heart of West Virginia, near the town of Princeton, the overgrown remnants of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park silently testify to a forgotten era of joy and tragedy. It’s an eerie landscape, where rusting Ferris wheel cars sway gently in the breeze, the haunting echoes of children’s laughter long since replaced by the quiet rustle of encroaching nature.
The land upon which the amusement park was built has a storied and bloody history. It was originally a Native American burial ground, then became the site of a violent conflict between European settlers and the local tribes in the late 18th century. It was this land that businessman Conley Snidow purchased in the 1920s, transforming it into an amusement park as a means to entertain the children of the local coal miners.
In its prime, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was a carnival of delights with a swing ride, Ferris wheel, roller coaster, swimming hole, dance hall, and concessions. It was a hub of local activity, with the gleaming lights of the Ferris wheel reflecting off the lake and the happy screams of thrill-seekers filling the air.
However, the amusement park also seemed to be marked by tragedy. During its operation, it witnessed at least six fatalities, including children, adding a dark undertone to the park’s seemingly cheerful facade. It was these tragedies that eventually led to the park’s closure in 1966.
The park was briefly reopened in the 1980s for a Halloween event, but the plans were quickly abandoned after unearthed artifacts and remains revealed the property’s original use as Native American burial grounds. This discovery seemed to solidify the park’s reputation as a place of tragedy and loss.
How Things Look Today
Today, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is an eerie monument to a bygone era. Its rusted rides stand as if frozen in time, overgrown with weeds and vegetation. The once bustling and vibrant hub of activity is now a quiet, spectral landscape, the dilapidated remnants of the amusement park creating a hauntingly beautiful tableau of decay.
For the intrepid visitor, a tour of the site offers not just a peek into a forgotten chapter of West Virginia’s history but also a chillingly stark testament to the march of time and the transience of human endeavors. This abandoned amusement park, with its poignant mix of innocent joy and tragic loss, serves as a potent reminder of the complex tapestry of history that shapes every landscape.
St. John’s Episcopal Church (Harper’s Ferry)
Situated in the historic town of Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, the remains of St. John’s Episcopal Church offer a hauntingly beautiful snapshot of a bygone era.
The church, now mostly in ruins, stands on a lofty perch overlooking the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, its once-sturdy stone structure now weathered by time and the elements.
St. John’s Episcopal Church was built in the 1850s, a time when Harper’s Ferry was a thriving industrial town. The church’s location on Church Street — aptly named for the three churches it hosted — offered parishioners a panoramic view of the town and its surrounding natural beauty.
Constructed in the Gothic Revival architectural style, the church showcased a traditional design characterized by pointed arch windows, a steeply pitched roof, and intricate stone masonry.
The church’s peaceful existence was interrupted by the onset of the American Civil War. Given Harper’s Ferry’s strategic location, the town became a focal point of military action. St. John’s Episcopal Church was not spared, suffering extensive damage during the conflict. The church was rebuilt after the war and continued to serve the local community until 1895 when a new Episcopal Church was built in a more accessible location.
How Things Look Today
Abandoned and left to the mercy of time and nature, the church gradually fell into disrepair. The roof has since collapsed, leaving only the four stone walls, the belfry, and an outline of the nave. The arched windows, once filled with stained glass, now provide unobstructed views of the picturesque landscape beyond.
Despite its dilapidated state, the remnants of St. John’s Episcopal Church continue to exude a certain charm. The site has become a favorite among photographers and history enthusiasts, offering not only a visually striking vista but also a compelling story of resilience and change.
The weather-beaten walls and overgrown vegetation lend the site an air of mystery, inviting visitors to imagine the services, ceremonies, and community gatherings that once filled its now-empty sanctuary.
Today, the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church serve as a silent reminder of Harper’s Ferry’s rich history — a testament to the town’s resilience through times of war and peace. Despite the passage of time and the ravages of human conflict, these evocative ruins continue to stand, gazing out across the rivers as the world changes around them.
Thurmond Ghost Town (Thurmond)
Nestled in the steep, forested canyons of the New River Gorge in West Virginia, the ghost town of Thurmond stands as a silent sentinel to a past era. Once a prosperous railroad town humming with activity, Thurmond is now a near-deserted relic, its well-preserved buildings bearing silent testimony to the rhythms of life that once pulsed through its streets.
Founded in the late 19th century, Thurmond thrived during the heyday of coal mining and railroads. The town was a pivotal stop on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway due to its proximity to plentiful coal mines and its position on the river, which provided an easy way to transport goods. At its peak, Thurmond boasted a bustling population, complete with hotels, banks, shops, and a vibrant social scene.
The town was uniquely constructed with the railway tracks running through the center, and the buildings, including the renowned Thurmond Depot, lined up along the tracks. This design, necessitated by the steep, mountainous terrain, gave Thurmond a distinctive character. The Depot, an impressive two-story structure built in 1904, served as the heart of the town, witnessing the constant movement of coal, goods, and passengers.
However, as coal mining declined and the popularity of the automobile rose, Thurmond’s fortunes waned. By the mid-20th century, its population had dramatically dwindled. Businesses closed, residents moved away, and the once-vibrant railroad town gradually slipped into obscurity.
How Things Look Today
Today, Thurmond presents an almost untouched picture of the past. Many of the town’s structures remain intact, including the iconic Depot, which now serves as a visitor center managed by the National Park Service. The old Commercial Hotel, once a lively hub for travelers, stands empty but retains its elegant, turn-of-the-century façade. Other structures, like the dilapidated coal docks, offer an evocative glimpse into the town’s industrial past.
A walk through Thurmond now is a walk through a silent, nearly deserted town, but the echoes of its bustling past remain. The train tracks still slice through the heart of the town, and the New River continues to flow past, just as they did in Thurmond’s prime. It’s an eerily beautiful place, where history seems to hang in the air, and the past feels only a whisper away.
In its quiet abandonment, Thurmond invites visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in a forgotten slice of American history. Its well-preserved remnants, surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty of the New River Gorge, continue to tell the tale of a once-vital community, the rise and fall of the coal and railroad industries, and the relentless march of time.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Weston)
Constructed between 1858 and 1881, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, also known as the Weston State Hospital, is a haunting relic of a bygone era. Located in Weston, West Virginia, this formidable edifice – one of the largest hand-cut stone masonry buildings in the United States – sprawls across 242,000 square feet, a ghostly monument in the landscape of rural West Virginia.
The asylum was built following the Kirkbride plan, a system of mental asylum design advocated by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride in the mid-19th century. Kirkbride’s philosophy called for long, rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, ensuring all patients received sunlight and fresh air. The building’s distinctive Gothic Revival and Tudor Revival architectural style are a testament to this design, with its expansive, bat-wing layout, lofty ceilings, and large, airy windows.
During its active years, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum housed thousands of patients, many of whom were afflicted with mental illnesses ranging from depression and epilepsy to more severe conditions. However, like many institutions of its era, it was plagued by overcrowding and substandard conditions. Reports of inhumane treatments were not uncommon, casting a grim shadow over the asylum’s history.
The asylum was closed in 1994, and for many years, the enormous building stood empty, its halls silent. Over time, the effects of nature and neglect took their toll, and the once-grand structure fell into a state of disrepair.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a significant landmark. Its decaying façade, towering walls, and eerie, abandoned interior create an atmosphere of profound melancholy. Echoes of past patients seem to linger in the deserted corridors, whispering stories of an age that modern society would rather forget.
The site offers guided daytime tours that delve into its history, architecture, and past treatments. For the more adventurous or those interested in the paranormal, the asylum also hosts nighttime ghost tours, as it’s reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the United States.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum serves as a chilling reminder of our society’s complex and often troubled relationship with mental illness. It’s a monument to a past that was often characterized by misunderstanding and fear, but also a symbol of how far we’ve come in terms of understanding and treating mental health conditions.
It’s a place where the past and the present intersect, providing an unforgettable, thought-provoking experience for all who visit.
West Virginia State Penitentiary (Moundsville)
The West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia, is a formidable and imposing structure, a stark, gothic monument to the state’s penal history.
Erected in 1866, just three years after West Virginia became a state during the American Civil War, the prison was modeled after the Northern Illinois Penitentiary at Joliet with its distinct neo-Gothic architectural style, reminiscent of a medieval fortress with turreted towers, grim stone walls, and a foreboding facade.
The prison’s history is marred with violence and suffering. Over the course of its 129 years of operation, it housed thousands of inmates and was the final stop for many. Notorious for its executions, the penitentiary saw the demise of 94 men on its gallows before they were replaced by an electric chair. Additionally, the facility was known for its harsh living conditions, outbreaks of violence, riots, and prison escapes.
The penitentiary’s cellblocks were known to be particularly oppressive. Initially designed to house one inmate each, by the 1930s, they often held up to three men due to overcrowding. The cells were narrow, with little light, and amenities were rudimentary at best. In 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the small 5×7 foot cells were cruel and unusual punishment, contributing to the penitentiary’s eventual closure in 1995.
How Things Look Today
Today, the now abandoned West Virginia State Penitentiary stands as a chilling testament to a harsher era of justice. The towering stone walls enclose a silent world where time seems to have stopped. The echoing cellblocks, empty yards, and abandoned facilities provoke a somber reflection on the realities of the American penal system.
However, the site has found a second life as a tourist destination. It offers daily tours, providing a glimpse into the lives of the inmates who once resided there. The tours cover various aspects of the prison, including the more macabre elements such as the execution chamber and the “Sugar Shack,” a recreational area known for its violent incidents.
For those interested in the paranormal, the West Virginia State Penitentiary is considered one of the most haunted locations in the United States, with numerous reports of ghostly sightings and unexplained phenomena. The site hosts ghost tours and overnight investigations for those seeking a more supernatural experience.
The West Virginia State Penitentiary is a compelling symbol of the evolution of the penal system in America. It is a haunting and chilling relic, a historical monument that tells the stories of those who lived, suffered, and died within its oppressive walls. It’s a place of somber reflection and undeniable intrigue, a portal to a darker chapter of West Virginia’s past.
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District (New River Gorge)
In the heart of the New River Gorge in West Virginia, the remnants of the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District serve as a poignant testament to the state’s rich coal mining history. Established by John Nuttall in the 1870s, Nuttallburg was once a bustling coal mining town, one of the many that sprung up in the Appalachian Mountains during America’s Industrial Revolution.
The town was built around the Nuttallburg Mine, a testament to the era’s innovation and industry. The Nuttallburg Mine is particularly notable for being the second mining operation in the United States to have a steel tipple – a loading and sorting station for the coal. The massive structure, composed of iron and steel, was an engineering marvel in its time, standing out against the verdant mountain landscape.
The mine also made use of a unique conveyor system to transport coal from the mine to the tipple, a series of vast, long cables and bins that navigated the steep mountain terrain. This conveyor was, for a time, the longest such system in the world, a testament to the innovation of the time.
Around the mine, the town of Nuttallburg thrived. At its peak, it was home to hundreds of miners and their families, complete with a school, churches, a post office, and a company store. The homes, mostly simple wooden structures, were situated along the steep hillside, creating a tiered effect against the backdrop of the densely forested mountains.
Yet, like many coal towns of the era, Nuttallburg’s prosperity was not to last. The mine changed hands multiple times during the 20th century, and with the decline of the coal industry, Nuttallburg gradually fell into abandonment. The mine ceased operations in the 1950s, and the town’s population dwindled as families moved away in search of new opportunities.
How Things Look Today
Today, what remains of Nuttallburg provides a fascinating glimpse into the past. The tipple, though rusted and overgrown, still stands, a silent monument to the town’s industrious roots. The conveyor, too, remains, though its cables no longer hum with the weight of coal. The foundations of the homes, the school, and the company store can still be found, slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Visitors to Nuttallburg can walk the now-quiet streets, explore the mine’s ruins, and imagine life in this remote coal town. Educational plaques dot the site, providing insights into the town’s history and the lives of the miners who once called it home.
A walk through Nuttallburg is a walk through a significant chapter of West Virginia’s – and America’s – industrial history, a haunting reminder of the rise and fall of the coal industry. It is a place of stillness and history, where the past echoes in the silence.
West Virginia Ordnance Works Bunkers (Point Pleasant)
In Point Pleasant, West Virginia, an eerie quiet hangs over a vast, forgotten landscape. Scattered across a sprawling tract of land are the skeletal remains of the West Virginia Ordnance Works – an abandoned World War II era munitions facility. But the most prominent features here are the ghostly remnants of hundreds of massive, concrete “igloos” or bunkers that were once used to store TNT.
Constructed in the early 1940s, the West Virginia Ordnance Works played a significant role in the United States’ war effort. The site was primarily involved in the production of TNT, a critical component in many military explosives. The production of this high explosive necessitated the construction of numerous storage facilities, which took the form of peculiar, half-dome structures colloquially known as “igloos.”
Built of reinforced concrete and covered with a layer of soil, these bunkers were engineered to contain the blast should an accident occur, preventing a chain reaction among the vast amount of explosives stored on-site. Each igloo, stretching approximately 25 feet in height and 50 feet in diameter, was isolated and camouflaged, designed to blend into the natural landscape from an aerial view.
At the height of its operations, the plant employed thousands of workers and produced hundreds of tons of TNT each day. However, with the end of the war in 1945, the need for such a facility rapidly diminished. The site was eventually declared surplus to requirements and was shut down.
How Things Look Today
Today, nature is gradually reclaiming the land where the Ordnance Works once hummed with activity. The concrete igloos, now empty and overgrown, stand as silent reminders of a time of war. Some have succumbed to decay, their once sturdy structures crumbling under the relentless march of time, while others remain surprisingly intact, with sturdy concrete walls still echoing with the memories of a bygone era.
Although access to the interior of the bunkers is restricted due to safety concerns, one can walk around this sprawling site, tracing the outlines of the bunkers and marveling at this vast, ghostly testament to the past. The West Virginia Ordnance Works Bunkers serve as an eerie, yet intriguing reminder of the war effort, standing as both a historical monument and a testament to the passage of time.
Shepherdstown Cement Mill (Shepherdstown)
The sleepy town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, nestled along the Potomac River, hides an industrial relic of the past, the Shepherdstown Cement Mill. It’s a testament to the area’s past prosperity and industrial prowess.
Constructed in the 1820s during the era of the American Industrial Revolution, the Shepherdstown Cement Mill, also known as Boteler’s Cement Mill, played a crucial role in the development of the region. It was built by Potomac River entrepreneur and businessman John H. Boteler, who capitalized on the natural resources available in the area to create one of the first industrial sites in West Virginia.
The mill, which initially started as a grist mill, underwent a significant transformation when hydraulic cement was discovered to be a lucrative industry. Boteler capitalized on this opportunity and converted his grist mill into a cement mill, which then became a pivotal point in the area’s economic growth.
With its prime location on the Potomac River, the Shepherdstown Cement Mill was able to facilitate the transportation of cement to various construction sites, including significant infrastructure projects such as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the B&O Railroad.
The cement mill was a bustling hub of activity, employing many local workers and contributing to the region’s industrial growth. However, like many industries of the time, it was not immune to the tides of change. The Civil War and subsequent economic instability led to a decline in operations, and by the late 19th century, the mill was abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Today, the mill lies in ruin. The stone structure, once buzzing with activity, is now a silent testament to a bygone era. A significant portion of the building has collapsed, with only a section of its stone walls remaining. Overgrown with vegetation and worn by the elements, the ruins paint a picturesque scene of desolation and time’s inexorable march.
The ruins of the Shepherdstown Cement Mill are an echo of the region’s industrial past. Each stone and piece of crumbling infrastructure speaks of a time when the clatter of machinery and the hustle of workers filled the air. Despite its state of decay, the site serves as a poignant reminder of the area’s history, its role in the growth of the region, and the evolving nature of industry and technology.
The Ruins of Harper House/Hill Top House Hotel (Harpers Ferry)
Situated atop a commanding bluff overlooking the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, the ruins of the Hill Top House Hotel, also known as Harper House, evoke an air of faded grandeur and the whispers of a more prosperous past.
The original hotel was constructed in 1888 by Thomas Lovett, an enterprising businessman who recognized the scenic beauty of the location. The grand hotel capitalized on the breathtaking, panoramic views of Harpers Ferry and the surrounding rivers and mountains, promising guests an unforgettable experience.
During its prime, the Hill Top House Hotel was a beacon of luxury and hospitality, attracting an illustrious clientele, including presidents, authors, and dignitaries. Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, and Woodrow Wilson were among the many who visited, drawn by the hotel’s reputation and the stunning natural beauty of its surroundings.
The hotel was renowned for its grand architecture and comfortable amenities. It was a sprawling structure with expansive verandas, large picture windows to take advantage of the views, and a variety of spaces for relaxation and entertainment. Guests could enjoy fine dining, ballroom dancing, or simply marvel at the panoramic vista from the comfort of their room.
Unfortunately, the hotel’s glory days were not to last. It suffered multiple fires throughout the years, the most devastating of which occurred in 1912. Each time, it was rebuilt, but with each reconstruction, a little of its original grandeur was lost. The Great Depression further exacerbated its decline, and while it continued to operate sporadically throughout the 20th century, it was a shadow of its former self.
How Things Look Today
Today, the hotel lies in ruins. The once grand building is now a skeletal frame, its windows vacant, the walls stripped bare. The verandas where guests once strolled, taking in the magnificent views, are now weathered and overgrown.
Despite its dilapidated state, the site retains a haunting beauty. The panoramic views that once drew guests from far and wide remain as breathtaking as ever, offering a stark contrast to the decay of the man-made structures.
The ruins of the Hill Top House Hotel serve as a tangible link to Harpers Ferry’s past, a symbol of the transience of material wealth against the enduring majesty of nature. As one stands among the ruins, it’s easy to imagine the hotel in its heyday, alive with the bustle of guests, the clink of dinnerware, the music of the ballroom floating on the air.
Yet for all its faded glory, the Hill Top House Hotel still stands, a silent sentinel watching over the rivers and valleys, a romantic echo of a bygone era.
Sweet Springs Resort (Sweet Springs)
Nestled amidst the tranquil beauty of Monroe County, West Virginia, the Sweet Springs Resort is a poignant testament to the grandeur of a bygone era. Known for its naturally occurring mineral-rich springs, the resort has seen various transformations since its establishment in the late 18th century. Yet, despite its changes and periods of abandonment, the site remains a compelling spectacle of architectural magnificence and natural beauty.
The centerpiece of the resort is its grand hotel, a sprawling, three-story Georgian-style edifice that was constructed in the 1830s. This imposing structure, with its neat rows of windows, broad porticoes supported by Ionic columns, and a roof dotted with dormer windows, speaks eloquently of the building’s illustrious past.
In its heyday, the hotel was a bastion of luxury and refinement, attracting wealthy patrons who sought out the therapeutic benefits of the mineral springs.
Stepping inside the hotel, one can almost hear the echoes of laughter and music that once filled the grand ballroom, the largest of its kind in West Virginia. With its intricate moldings and lofty ceiling, this ballroom once hosted grand dances and glittering parties, the memories of which still seem to linger in the air. A maze of corridors leads to over 200 guest rooms, each with a tale to tell.
The resort’s renowned “sweet” mineral spring, from which it gets its name, is contained within a charming, hexagonal springhouse. Here, visitors would flock to take the waters, believed to possess healing properties. Today, the spring still bubbles up, clear and crisp, an enduring testament to the site’s natural appeal.
Another remarkable feature of the resort is the ‘Old Sweet Springs’ bathhouse, an early 19th-century edifice featuring a cold plunge pool fed by the sweet mineral spring. Its faded elegance is a poignant reminder of the thousands of patrons who sought rejuvenation in its curative waters.
How Things Look Today
The landscape surrounding the resort is as charming as the structures themselves. Rolling hills, verdant forests, and tranquil ponds create a serene backdrop that accentuates the timeless appeal of the place. In the resort’s prime, guests would have strolled along the well-manicured gardens, enjoyed picnics under the shade of towering trees, and savored the idyllic surroundings.
Today, the Sweet Springs Resort stands silent and largely abandoned. Its grand buildings, once teeming with life, are now showing signs of neglect and disrepair. Yet, there is an undeniable allure to the place, a melancholic beauty that makes it impossible to ignore.
The whispers of the past can be heard in the creak of the floorboards, seen in the faded grandeur of the architecture, and felt in the air that, despite everything, still holds a hint of the resort’s bygone glory. The Sweet Springs Resort is a captivating monument to the past, its stories etched into every brick and beam, waiting to be discovered.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in West Virginia
Those who are into urban exploration in the West Virginia area should get comfortable with West Virginia trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to West Virginia, please click here.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission. Finally, if you are wanting to find more abandoned places in West Virginia, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex