New Jersey has a rich history that lives on in so many ways. Our state’s achievements and major moments are captured in monuments, museums, literature and well-preserved historic structures. We also offer a variety of restored
living history villages that reflect life in the Garden State at various points in time. While these are all amazing ways to surround yourself in our state’s past, there is another way. New Jersey is home to a variety of abandoned sites offering a unique (and often eerie) picture of what once was.
Weymouth Furnace - Weymouth
The ruins of Weymouth Furnace are located in a public park, with hiking trails and opportunities to paddle along the Egg Harbor River. Open from dawn until dusk, you'll find a towering smokestack and other remains of a circa-1800 bog iron furnace. The site once contained a gristmill, sawmill and blacksmith. While certain structures are fenced off, several sites are accessible to visitors.
Atlantic City Race Course - Mays Landing
This spot has only recently been abandoned, closing in January, 2015. The track was a popular thoroughbred racing venue, opened in 1946; original shareholders included Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. In August of 1969, New Jersey's own version of Woodstock was held here. Nearly 100,000 flocked to attend the Atlantic City Pop Festival, spilling out into the streets and nearby forests. From August 1-3, the "Summer of Love" was in full force with performers including Little Richard, Janis Joplin, Santana and Joni Mitchell. The facilities are already falling into disrepair and may soon be demolished.
Toms River Silo Ruins - South Toms River
Along 1st Avenue (near where it intersects 10th Street) in Toms River, there is something hiding behind the trees - over a dozen seemingly abandoned silos, easily accessible by a short trail. Just a quick walk from the street, these structures are an urban explorer's dream. Visitors can peek (or even climb) inside the silos for a very unique experience and spectacular photo opportunities. Little is known about the silos and I've only found brief mentions of them in police blotters and planning board meeting minutes. It seems that they were once used to store sand and crushed gravel. If you have any more information about the silos, please share.
McNeal Mansion - Burlington
Adjacent to the former site of the U.S. Pipe Company, this magnificent mansion was built by its founder, Andrew McNeal. Constructed in 1890, the home briefly served as the company's headquarters just before WWII. The 10,450 square foot estate was once the largest private residence in the country. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has been abandoned since 1974. With significant fire damage, it was slated for demolition in 2015. A restoration would cost millions, but a recent development provides some hope that at least a portion of it might be converted into a riverfront bed & breakfast. Currently, the site is unsafe and located on private property near state police barracks.
Trenton Psychiatric Hospital - Trenton
Opened in 1848, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was the first public mental hospital in New Jersey. While it was founded to help the mentally ill, it took a dark turn in 1907. The new lead physician, Dr. Henry Cotton, used unconventional treatment methods that regularly killed or maimed patients. His disturbing practices were discontinued in the 1960s and certain areas of the hospital were abandoned. Still, some of the facility remains in use and trespassers can be prosecuted.
Fort Hancock - Sandy Hook
Fort Hancock is an abandoned army base located in Sandy Hook's Gateway National Recreation Area. There is so much to explore here, it's an absolute must-visit. You'll find barracks and other buildings in various states of disrepair along with battery fortifications and formerly classified missile sites. Inquiring minds can enjoy Sandy Hook through a variety of tours, offered on select weekends from April through November. Be aware that poison ivy can be found in some areas of Fort Hancock.
Union Hotel - Flemington
This abandoned hotel has since been boarded up, but remains a vital part of New Jersey history. Built in 1814, with the current exterior dating to 1878, the hotel was once a popular stagecoach stop. In 1935, members of the media stayed here during Bruno Hauptmann's trial. Bruno was convicted of killing the son of famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh. The hotel was eventually converted to a restaurant, and many former employees claim that the building is haunted. Closed in 2008, it now faces demolition.
Hinchliffe Stadium - Paterson
A 10,000-seat stadium above Paterson's Great Falls, Hinchliffe was opened in 1932 to provide entertainment and recreation for locals struggling during the Great Depression. A popular boxing, auto racing and football venue, one of the stadium's most historically significant moments was hosting the "Colored Championship of the Nation" in 1933 - the Negro Baseball League's equivalent to the World Series. Now a National Historic Landmark, the "Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium" are working to preserve it.
Devil's Tower & Cliff Dale Manor - Alpine
Easy to spot, the Devil's Tower was built by a wealthy plantation owner whose wife allegedly jumped from the top after finding out about her husband's infidelity. Rumor has it that the spot was set to be demolished but mysterious occurrences scared construction workers away. Anyone can visit the site, though the tower is gated.
A bit more difficult to find, but just a short hike from the Alpine Lookout Parking Area in Palisades Interstate Park, you'll find Cliff Dale Manor. The imposing ruins overlook the Hudson River and are quite incredible to see. Built by flour magnate, George A. Zabriskie, the property was purchased by John D. Rockefeller to be demolished. He hoped to preserve the natural charm of the area, but while upper floors were bulldozed, a significant portion of the manor still remains.
While these are spectacular places worth knowing about, please note that some are on private property and are dangerous to enter. Explore the publicly accessible spots to your heart’s content and learn more about several of these abandoned New Jersey locations in the following posts:
Cliff Dale Manor, Fort Hancock and Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. For directions and specific location details, see this map.