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We Dare You To Take This Road Trip To Pennsylvania’s Most Abandoned Places

Pennsylvania’s vibrant past combined with advances in society has inevitably lead to many places – schools, prisons, hospitals, churches, and even entire towns – being abandoned. Many of those abandoned sites sit empty. Some offer tours to curious visitors while others have been turned into museums. Visit Pennsylvania’s most abandoned places on this road trip that will take you to some pretty neat spots.

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1. Pithole City

You asked for it*, so let’s start our road trip at Pithole, a former ghost town that once had the United States’ first commercial oil well. Only about six miles from Oil Creek State Park, the town once boomed, boasting dozens of hotels, homes, a theater, a railroad, and more than 20,000 residents in 1865. By 1877, however, the town had been abandoned. Prospectors headed to newly discovered oil wells nearby. Pithole sat abandoned until 1972 when a Visitor Center was built. Today, visitors flock to that center to learn more about the former ghost town that once thrived in the mid-19th century.

(*Readers commonly comment on articles about abandoned places in Pennsylvania with the question: What about Pithole?)

2. Centralia

Centralia still has less than a dozen of its original residents but, for the most part, it has become a virtual ghost town. Fire swept through the mines in 1962 and continues to burn today. Experts speculate the fire could burn for hundreds of years. The fire resulted in the exodus of the majority of townspeople with the town itself being condemned in 1992.

3. Penn Hills Resort, Poconos

The abandoned Penn Hills Resort in the Pocono Mountains gives glimpses into what once must have been at this former honeymoon resort that permanently shut down in 2009. Originally opened in 1944, the more than 100 room hotel sat on 500 acres that included a golf course, a ski resort, an ice skating rink, and an outdoor swimming pool. It’s also said that fugitive Eric Frein, who murdered one Pennsylvania state trooper and injured another, wrote his “manifesto” on the walls of the abandoned resort.

4. Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Spring City

Pennhurst State School and Hospital opened in 1908 and functioned as a school and a hospital for the physically and mentally disabled. Lurid tales eventually crept out of the site with people alleging that patients were tortured with young children confined to cribs for years on end, and allegations of sexual abuse of patients. The campus of the school and the hospital were connected by underground tunnels. The court ordered Pennhurst to close in 1986 and, since then, the abandoned campus has become a must-visit for the curious.

5. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia

Eastern State Penitentiary, the one-time home of Al Capone, set the standard for prison operations when it opened in 1829. In fact, several hundred prisons in the United States modeled themselves after the Pennsylvania prison. Eastern State Penitentiary remained in operation until 1971. Today, while it’s technically still an abandoned prison, it has been transformed into a must visit museum that features an audio tour, artistic installations, and a firsthand look at the historic building.

6. Old York County Prison, York

The Old York County Prison sits on private property. However, you can still catch a glimpse of the now abandoned building that once housed York County’s prisoners. Opened in 1907, prisoners used the prison walls as their own canvas, scrawling obscenities and slogans and even drawing artistic portraits of figures such as Jimi Hendrix. Many also spoke of the prison being haunted with the strong smell of cigarette smoke wafting in the air when no one was there. The Old York County Prison, which closed in the 1970s, is located at 319 Chestnut Street.

7. Fricks Locks, Pottstown

Snuggled against the Schuylkill Canal, Fricks Locks’ first farm appeared in 1757 and, from there, Fricks Locks became a vibrant community that continued to grow late into the 20th century. Then, however, fate stepped in when a nuclear power plant was built across the river from the village. That, combined with the canal becoming obsolete, resulted in the village being abandoned.

8. Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, near Breezewood

Most, if not all, Pennsylvanians have traveled on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at least once. But, did you know that a 13 mile stretch of the turnpike was shut down in 1968 in lieu of a more convenient stretch of road? Those 13 abandoned miles, which activists have fought for years to have turned into a bike path, include Rays Hill Tunnel, Sideling Hill Tunnel, and Laurel Tunnel, the latter of which is now used by Chip Ganassi Racing. The abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike draws cyclists, hikers, photographers, and curiosity seekers for its sheer isolation and beauty.

9. Larimer School, Pittsburgh

Larimer School dates back to 1896. The once-elegant building, now but a shell of its former self, boasted terrazzo floors and marble paneling. As attendance began to drop in the 1970s, Larimer School eventually permanently shut its doors in 1980 and it has sat abandoned ever since. The Larimer School, however, isn’t destined to remain forgotten. In fact, a developer recently purchased the building and plans to turn it into affordable housing for Pittsburghers.

Ready for a road trip to Pennsylvania’s most abandoned places? Or, maybe you’re in the mood for a road trip that promises a little more of a quaint experience. Take this road trip through Pennsylvania’s most picturesque small towns.