These once-bustling properties in varying states of decay and disrepair remain captivating because they continue to hold so many special memories for so many different people. Once upon a time, these hotels were the sites of honeymoons, anniversaries, family vacations, weekend getaways and escapes from reality. For those who have spent time in these hotels pre-abandonment, it’s difficult to imagine them any other way.
More haunted house than Holiday Inn, abandoned hotels attract non-overnight visitors in the form of adventurous shutterbugs, intrepid history buffs and seasoned urban explorers. That being said, many abandoned hotels, like most long-vacant buildings, are off-limits to the public. Accessing them might be both illegal, not to mention perilous. Even those who don’t intend to vandalize or steal are considered trespassers.
With an eye toward top-notch photography and properties with a distinct sense of place, we’ve rounded up a diverse bunch of famously abandoned hotels and resorts from across the world for your ruin porn pleasure. If there’s a certain long-deserted hotel in your neck of the woods that we’ve missed, tell us about it in the comments section. We realize there are more than eight out there! And if you happen to have fond memories of any of the hotels we’ve included in better days, we’d love to hear those too.
Mineral Wells, Texas
If you’ve traveled through the dusty little Texas spa town of Mineral Wells, there’s no way you could have missed it: a boarded-up high-rise that juts out from the landscape like a particularly haunting — or haunted — sore thumb. Erected as the glitzy grand dame of a once-bustling health resort renowned for its healing “crazy” waters, the 14-story Baker Hotel was a huge deal, literally and figuratively, when it opened in 1929. The hulking $1.2 million property boasted hotel amenities unheard of at the time: central air conditioning, door lock-controlled fans and lights, ice water delivered to the 450 lavishly appointed guest rooms by a sophisticated hydraulic lift system, an Olympic-size swimming pool and more. The Baker Hotel’s guest registry was no less impressive. Presidents, politicians, performers, and according to local legend, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, all enjoyed the hotel’s super-deluxe accommodations during its heyday.
Business began to slow in the 1950s and, following a brief closure, there some scandals and a change of hands in the early 1960s. In 1972, the same year that former owner/manager Earl Baker suffered a heart attack in his private suite, the Baker Hotel closed its doors for good. Despite placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and several serious proposed efforts to renovate and reopen the property over the years, the vandal-ravaged Baker Hotel still stands vacant. A magnet for scrappers, urban explorers, ghost hunters and local teenagers up to no good, the grounds of the abandoned hotel are also, apparently, a great place for engagement photography.
Photo: Ilia Torlin/Shutterstock
Bokor Palace & Casino
Thanks in part to an entryway staircase that “looks as if leads straight to hell” and an abundance of simply charming graffiti (“Everyone died,” reads one English tag), the paranormal-obsessed folks at Fortean Times have gone as far to deem the Bokor Palace & Casino as “Cambodia’s equivalent of the Overlook Hotel.” But seriously, this abandoned imperial edifice erected by French colonists in the early 1920s is grade-A spooky — even if it doesn’t have a haunted topiary garden/hedge maze.
Looming gloomily atop a fog-swept hill on the grounds of a defunct — and mostly demolished — colonial resort that’s now part of Preah Monivong National Park, the crumbling remnants of the old hotel are so foreboding, so filled with bad vibes that even the park rangers assigned to keep watch over it won’t get near the godforsaken place after the sun goes down. “Every time we walk past, we can hear the dead walk in there. It’s full of ghosts,” says one. Others, including abandoned building aficionados, foolhardy tourists and the producers of Korean horror films, have been more courageous. As for us, we get the shivers just looking at photos.
Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel
Liberty, New York
Not too long ago, New York’s Sullivan County was at the heart of a not-so-vibrant ghost hotel region. Yes, region. For a while there, the number of fabled Borscht Belt summer resorts sitting empty in various states of decay was a formidable one. In recent years, however, big changes have been afoot in the sleepy Catskills as many of these storied properties have been completely or partially demolished — The Concord, The Pines and, most recently, Kutsher’s among them — to make way for new development (read: casinos).
For now, Grossinger’s, one of the largest of the Borsht Belt resorts, is still standing (or a small chunk of it, anyway). And still very much abandoned. It would seem that although the resort was permanently shuttered in 1986, Grossinger’s is just as widely photographed today as it was back in its prime. Believed to have been the inspiration for the fictional Kellerman’s Resort depicted in “Dirty Dancing,” Grossinger’s — its indoor swimming pool, in particular – now serves as the poster child of a struggling region whose once-flourishing tourism industry has long gone belly-up. Writes AbandonedNYC of the Grossinger’s swimming pool: “It’s growth, not decay, that makes this pool so picturesque — the years have transformed this neglected natatorium into a flourishing greenhouse. Ferns prosper from a moss-caked poolside, unhindered by the tread of carefree vacationers, urged by a ceiling that constantly drips. Year-round scents of summer have bowed to a kind of perpetual spring, with the reek of chlorine and suntan lotion replaced by the heady odor of moss and mildew — it’s dank, green, and vibrantly alive.”Hotel Belvedere
While numerous ghost hotels dot Croatia’s Adriatic coast, none garner foot traffic quite like the once-stunning (some would argue still stunning) Hotel Belvedere. Opened in 1986 on a hillside overlooking the majestically clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, this sprawling luxury resort welcomed an international assemblage of well-heeled guests for only a few years before it was severely damaged by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) during 1991’s months-long Siege of Dubrovnik and was subsequently abandoned.
Located just outside the walls of Dubrovnik’s medieval Old Town, the shelled-out and heavily vandalized ruins of the Hotel Belvedere are a popular destination for intrepid tourists looking for something a little different. It's an unsettling and at times eerie detour from the UNESCO-listed path, if you will, that serves as an evocative reminder of Croatia’s bloody struggle for independence. Although the forsaken hotel does have a new owner as of May 2014 in the form of Fabergé egg-collecting Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, it’s unclear what the future holds for the Hotel Belvedere. Armchair urban explorers will enjoy this extensive — and, refreshingly, spooky music-free — video tour filmed at the Hotel Belvedere in early 2014.
Hotel Ponce Intercontinental
Ponce, Puerto Rico
For a hotel that’s been closed since 1975, Puerto Rico’s Hotel Ponce Intercontinental – or, simply, “El Ponce” — still manages to get a heck of a lot of attention from tourists and locals alike largely because of its impossible-to-miss locale and reputation as a glitzy, celebrity-attracting hotspot back in the day. Perched atop El Vigia Hill overlooking the south coast of Puerto Rico, this 170-room hotel, opened in 1960 and hastily shuttered for unknown reasons 15 years later, is now a futuristic creep-fest, or, as Mark Chesnut of LatinFlyer.com so eloquently puts it, an “abandoned mid-century spaceship plopped down on a mountaintop.”
Referring to the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO)-owned hotel as a prominently positioned “symbol of what was and what might be,” Chesnut has extensively photographed El Ponce, noting: “With so much infrastructure damage, it appears less likely that anyone will take on the sizable investment of returning the property to any level of functionality.” In addition to viewing Chesnut’s hauntingly beautiful photos, you can also take a quick video tour of El Ponce here. (Good stuff, but we’re going to go ahead and opt for the Holiday Inn on our next Puerto Rico getaway as the swimming pool looks to be in slightly better shape.)Lee Plaza
In 2008, the down-but-not-totally-out city of Detroit celebrated a major triumph in the abandoned hotel department. Having been left to rot in the early 1980s, the Book-Cadillac — when completed in 1924, the Neo-Renaissance beauty towering above Washington Boulevard was the tallest hotel in the world — was reborn following a $200 million gut renovation.
Other historic Motor City hotels haven’t enjoyed the same good fortune, however. Opened as a residential hotel in 1929, the 15-story Art Deco landmark known as Lee Plaza was considered to be among the finest buildings in all of Detroit. It was, quite simply, astounding. But while it was busy taking breaths away, Lee Plaza was also bleeding money. By 1935, it was bankrupt. Over the next three decades, the lavish tower persevered through financial woes and legal struggles. In 1969, it was sold to the city and converted into low-income senior housing. With its former grandeur still mostly intact, Lee Plaza was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. While an honor, the designation was not a savior: 16 years later, it was shuttered for good. Cinderblock fortifications managed to keep interlopers temporarily at bay, but vandals and scrappers eventually gained access. From the copper roof to the terra cotta lion heads, Lee Plaza has since been pillaged and plundered beyond repair. “Built for the city’s rich and powerful, the Lee Plaza still stands today, ravaged by the city’s poor and destitute,” writes Historic Detroit. “Like the Michigan Central Station, it is a gut-wrenching reminder of how far the city has fallen from its preposterously prosperous past.”
Penn Hills Resort
In addition to young Jewish summer campers and NASCAR enthusiasts, Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains was, once upon a time, swarming with canoodling couples, starry-eyed honeymooners and outdoorsy polyamorists. It was the type of crowd whose ideal hotel room might include a heart-shaped Jacuzzi tub, red shag carpeting on the walls and a round bed with a mirror affixed to the ceiling directly above it. The Penn Hills Resort — an all-inclusive resort “for lovers only” promises/warns this delightful 1978 TV spot — truly had it all (and tennis, golfing, boating, ice skating, archery, skiing, disco-dancing and swimming in a wedding bell-shaped swimming pool).
After suffering though years of neglect, financial troubles and perfectly terrible online reviews, the once swingin’ 500-acre resort was finally shuttered in 2009 shortly after co-founder Frances Paolillo passed away at the age of 102. It’s somewhat of a surprise that this beyond-kitschy relic lasted as long as it did in a region that’s now lousy with defunct couples-only getaways which, in their prime, were booked solid months in advance. Once abandoned, it didn’t take long for Penn Hills Resort to slip into an advanced state of decrepitude and for the camera-wielding urban explorers to come a-knockin’. If you like your ruin porn with a healthy dollop of '70s-era grooviness, you’ll fall in love the Penn Hills Resort.
Sweeping views. Check. Quiet rooms. Check. Super-quick check-in. Check. Check. Trees growing through the floor. Check. In addition to sporting one of the world’s most unnerving — and shortest lived — amusement parks, the forsaken city of Pripyat is also home to a once-bustling hotel where the last guest checked out on or shortly thereafter April 26, 1986 — the day when the worst nuclear accident in history, the Chernobyl disaster, brought the entire world to a standstill.
The '70s-era Polissya Hotel is still very much standing as one of the tallest and most recognizable buildings in the heart of a prosperous, purpose-built city-turned-bleak, post-apocalyptic wasteland that was home once to nearly 50,000 residents, most of them workers at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and their families. A not-so-well-preserved specimen of Soviet Brutalist architecture, the Polissya continues to receive a fair amount of (escorted, non-overnight) guests via Kiev (via all over the world) who come clutching Geiger counters and fancy cameras instead of toiletry kits and eye masks. Heck, some of the guest rooms in this Chernobyl Exclusion Zone hotspot have even been featured on TripAdvisor! For those whose immediate travel plans don’t involve abandoned hotels in abandoned cities, this video walk-through may suffice in the heebie-jeebies department.
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