What is it about abandoned places that catch your eye and capture the imagination? You can’t help but wonder what these ruins once looked like and who built them. If these walls could talk, what would they say?
1. Cape Romano Dome Homes
Though it may look like the remnants of six homes, it was really just one, built on Cape Romano near Marco Island in southwest Florida. Its builder was a brilliant oil producer named Bob Lee, and it was built of concrete in 1980. Each of the domes held a different room, and the strange design was actually intended to withstand hurricanes. Though it was strong, interior damage from Hurricane Andrew led to its abandonment in the early 90s. It was finally bought again in 2005, but Hurricane Wilma struck soon after. Talk about bad luck. The water has been rising here for quite some time. Though the county demanded its destruction long ago, it has become a sort of odd attraction in the area.
2. Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park
Located about 70 miles west of Key West, this massive fortress is the largest masonry structure in the entire Western Hemisphere. This abandoned 19th-century fort was actually never completed. Fort Jefferson may be huge and desolate, but the impressive masonry and stunning surroundings make it hauntingly beautiful.
3. Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Ormond Beach
This plantation and its sugar mill were burned down by Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. The structures are made of coquina and include what was once the largest sugar mill in Florida. At this park, you can explore the ruins and an outdoor museum preserving artifacts found here.
This group of stilt houses located a mile south of Cape Florida near Miami popped up in the 1930s to provide a place for the wealthy to party and engage in illegal activities like gambling. In 1965, a hurricane damaged the community beyond repair. The surviving seven houses are now protected by the National Park Service.
5. Turnbull Ruins, New Smyrna Beach
This mysterious site is most often associated with an English settlement founded by Andrew Turnbull in the 1700s. Some historians speculate that the foundation was meant to become his mansion but was never finished. Others propose that it may have been a fort. If true, that would mean New Smyrna Beach had a colony that predated the settlement of our oldest city, St. Augustine. Still others see them as the ruins of a colonial church. In the 1850s, a popular hotel was built on this foundation, but it was destroyed in the Civil War. It was later rebuilt only to be torn down 30 years later.
6. St. Anne Shrine, Lake Wales
This (once extravagant) shrine was built in the 1920s by a Canadian man who believed his ailing son had been cured by swimming in Lake St. Anne. For many years, the beautiful shrine drew huge crowds, but the Church had concerns about the site being commercialized. This and other factors eventually led to it being almost totally demolished, leaving only the stone skeleton you see here.
7. Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens, Port Orange
The old sugar mill ruins at this site, which has been a tourist site since 1939, were used as the grounds of a small amusement park in 1948. Called Bongoland, it was named for a baboon that lived on the grounds. Bongoland also included an assortment of life-sized concrete dinosaurs. Unfortunately Bongoland was short lived, and the park was later converted into botanical gardens you can visit today.
8. Bellamy Bridge, Marianna
The steel-frame bridge is the oldest bridge of its kind in Florida and the location of one of Florida's most famous ghost stories. A young woman buried nearby is said to haunt the bridge, either as a female figure on the bridge itself or a ball of light that travels around the surrounding swamp.