About Me

I've had a fascination with abandoned places for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my dad often took my brothers and me on hikes near my grandparents' farm in rural Wisconsin. Sometimes we'd find collapsed barns or the foundations of old homes. 

I'd try to envision what the structures looked like before they became weathered husks overtaken by nature. I'd wonder about the people that knew those buildings, the lives they lived, the hopes they had for their futures, and whether or not they ever came true. And then I'd try to imagine the circumstances leading up to the abandonment. Was it a calm, deliberate event, or hurried and frantic?


A recent trip to the abandoned military base at Treasure Island rekindled my passion for exploration. It inspired me to spend more time visiting and documenting abandoned sites before they succumb to the elements, vandals, or developers. 

In 2015 I took a series of road trips across the United States. I spent nearly two months on the road exploring hundreds of abandoned places, from the Gold Rush era ghost towns of the Southwest to the decaying industrial powerhouses in the Rust Belt. It was an incredible experience. To see more pictures and the stories that go with them, visit and subscribe to Places That Were

27 comments :

  1. UrbEx has long been of interest to me. Husks of hopes, a breath of wind whispers of the ghosts of dreams in places long bereft of purpose. Sites like yours are always a pleasure.
    It occurs to me as I scroll and browse that there is a tragic juxtaposition, and ironic dichotomy to looking at these corpses of human endeavor & remembering this summer when my wife and I made a flying trip to the Grand Canyon and back to accompany my father and his old army buddy on their bucket list trip. There we were sailing down the road at 75, my wife working on her masters degree via her iPad and the wonder of modern cell connections, undoing the depression dustbowl journey in hours and days where others had plodded and trudged week after week.
    Funny ol' world, ain't it?

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    1. Thanks, Billy. It is indeed a funny world. I had such a wonderful experience driving through the Southwest. Such a sense of freedom behind the wheel. It is indeed strange to think of what such a journey was like 100 years ago. Doing it for pleasure rather than necessity was probably out of the question for most people.

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  2. I grew up in desert center. If you want more info about the places you photographed message me =)

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  3. Sounds like we are kindred spirits. I too have been drawn to abandoned places since I was a young child. Unfortunately I do not have the means to travel to all the places I dream of seeing. I will be following your blog so that I may visit these places vicariously through you.

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    1. Hi Maribeth, it's always great to meet others who love abandoned places. I can't get enough of them. I wish I had time to take more road trips! I'm glad you're enjoying my posts :)

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  4. What and where is your cover photo taken at? it looks very cool

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    1. The cover photo is Phoenix Trotting Park in Arizona. I wrote an article about it here: http://www.placesthatwere.com/2015/09/the-colossal-ruins-of-phoenix-trotting.html

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  5. I thoroughly enjoy your site. I just found it yesterday and have been hooked scrolling each and every location. I live in LA and driving past these places en route to Vegas or Yosemite I've always wanted to stop off and grab pics. Thank you for your bravery and research on these places! :)

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying the site! There are so many great places to explore here in SoCal. We are so fortunate :)

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  6. Hello! Jim, I'm your aficionados. I used your material on Titan 1, translated it and posted in compliance with copyright http://vk.com/urbandodge group. In turn, ready to share with you the material on Abandoned SS-7 Saddler ICBM Nuclear Missile Silo Launch Complex. Photos can be taken here http://vk.com/album-81166761_206660200, description trip http://vk.com/topic-81166761_30919983, https://youtu.be/AdUG7Y1TDQI video. Sorry material in Russian, but the google translator to help you.
    Thank you, and good luck in your travels!

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    1. Thank you for sharing my posts on VK. I visited your urban exploration group. You have some great pictures. Keep up the great work!

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  7. Just stumbled across your site today, looking for a greyhound park that was abandoned in Benson, AZ when I was a kid in the 80's. Loved your site. There is just something about abandoned places, dead malls, and defunct theme parks that draws me in. Great photos and stories!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you found some useful information. Arizona has so many great sites to visit. Dead malls and amusement parks are some of my favorites to explore. I wish I knew of more of them!

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  8. Love this stuff! Is there any process for using one of your copyrighted photos? I have one particularly in mind for a 404 page.

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    1. Sure thing, Gary. Feel free to email me at jim@placesthatwere.com and let me know which photo you'd like to use.

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  9. I rode my Harley through Osiris today. I've been through this place several times and always wondered about the history of the creamery and have a town got its name. Thanks for the information. This is a great site. I have been to many of the same places in my motorcycle wandering around the West. I love your pictures and narrative. Thank you very much for sharing. The next time that you come to Utah, you might consider Grafton (if you have seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you will recognize the town), Gold Springs (lots of buildings) and Modena ( site of the first national weather service station west of the Mississippi River, built in 1903 and home to several really cool old buildings). I see that you had a lot of places in Southern California. Check out Kelso and the restored train station. Thank you again. This is awesome stuff!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked the article. It's always good to meet another traveler who appreciates the monuments of our past. Thank you so much for the suggestions! I'm adding them as new pins on my map of places to explore.

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  10. Hello,

    I accidently chanced upon your site. You give a different outlook to these abandoned places, which for times immemorial have only been famous for ghastly and supernatural experiences. I cannot verify if its true or plain nonsense. But your photos definitely give a beautiful a bit sad outlook to these abandoned buildings, bringing otherwise abandoned and ugly places a certain beauty.

    When I travel, I wonder the same about certain small boarded homes, some fallen to disrepair and some orphaned. I wonder at their history, who must have stayed, what must have made them leave a place they must have called home...(I don't have the actual guts to go an explore, for the fear of law, and that is one more reason, I appreciate your guts).

    Beautiful pics...

    Warmest regards,
    Ash

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    1. Thank you so much, Ash! It's always nice to hear from people like you, who share my appreciation for abandoned places. I'm glad to explore and photograph them so you don't have to :)

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  11. Hi Jim, I grew up in Nutley, NJ and we as kids always played and biked on the ITT Tower grounds. We loved the Tower and property. I included a link here. When they sold the property and the constructions crews started gutting the inside I had checked the lock on the door several times. One Sunday they had left it unlocked and I snuck up twice that day. The second time with my camera. I climbed the pitch dark steps because I had forgot the flash light. But I made it to the top where you see the observation decks. Well more like little outside walk ways with rails. I have pics of the inside and the views outside. Awesome adventure. That was a long time ago and I have lived in NH for decades. They are in a box in my storage area.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz-1k0NNLr8&sns=em

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    1. What a neat tower. It must have been a lot of fun to explore. It's a shame they demolished it. I would have loved to see it in person. Thanks for sharing the link!

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  12. Hi Jim, came across your site via a fb page. Absolutely fascinating articles and wonderful photos. I'm from the uk, my grandfather was born in America but came over here when he was four. I am completely in love with abandoned places, especially the old ghost towns and am desperate to visit USA as soon as I can. In the meantime I shall get my fix from your travels! Thank you, Gail

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    1. Thank you so much, Gail! Let me know if you ever come to the US and want to explore ghost towns and abandoned places. It would be great to meet up, or at least I could recommend some great places to check out.

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    2. Hi Jim, that would be amazing! It's on my list of must do things, I would love to meet up with you and explore! In the meantime - happy travels x

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  13. Hello Jim, A bunch of graduate students from ASU are inhabiting Amboy in the spring. It is going to be an art/science project that imagines a future without much water. They each get 4 gallons per day but they have major food restrictions such as not being able to have foods that would require a lot of water such as rice or coffee. I think they might be staying at Roys. Best, Pamela

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    1. Sounds like a really interesting project. Thanks, Pamela!

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