From Bridges to Stadiums: 18 U.S. Icons That Are Falling Apart

These American architectural wonders have seen better days.

By Manasa Reddigari and Katie Nolan | Updated Dec 12, 2020 01:32 AM

Dilapidated Landmarks

American Landmarks That Are Falling Apart

America is a veritable treasure trove of famous bridges, lighthouses, stadiums, and other architectural wonders that are as historically and culturally significant as they are artful. Yet the triple threats of vandalism, neglect, and harsh weather have reduced some of these stalwart structures to crumbling ruins. Here's a selection of great American landmarks that have, for various reasons, lost their looks yet retained their importance.

Six Flags New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana

Six Flags New Orleans

Eighty percent of this 140-acre amusement park was submerged underwater during Hurricane Katrina, yet even the few rides that escaped the flooding remain nonoperational due to safety concerns. Although prior attempts to reopen the abandoned park have failed, it has found a semblance of life as a film location for hit movies like "Jurassic World" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

Related: After Disaster: 8 U.S. Cities That Went from Ruin to Rebirth via Erik Jorgensen

Westlake Theater in Los Angeles, California

Westlake Theatre

L.A.'s Westlake Theater, recently purchased for $2 million, has undergone multiple conversions, from a popular vaudeville venue in the 1920s, to a Spanish-language cinema in the '80s, to a swap meet destination and National Historic Landmark in the early '90s. By then, the Renaissance-style murals bore major signs of wear, though restoration efforts have improved their appearance as well as the looks of other original elements of the theater.

Wikimedia Commons via Visitor7

The New York State Pavilion in Queens, New York

New York State Pavilion

Built for the New York World's Fair of 1964, the New York State Pavilion consisted of three structures: an elliptical Tent of Tomorrow, three concrete Observation Towers, and the drum-shaped Theaterama. While the Theaterama now houses the Queens Museum, the towers and the Tent of Tomorrow have slowly fallen victim to deterioration and vandalism. While its terrazzo floors have faded and its roof and red ceiling tiles are gone, the pavilion's artful architecture and cultural significance earned it a National Treasure designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2014.

Related: 15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once via Dave Addey, Erwin Bernal, and slgckgc 

Michigan Central Station in Detroit, Michigan

Michigan Central Station

The decline in train travel in post-World War II America heralded the demise of this Beaux-Arts-inspired rail depot, which was finally closed in 1988 after 75 years of service. Though the building has since decayed, proposals for renovation and redevelopment are still in play. In the meantime, the ramshackle roof has been repaired, the flooded basement drained, and minor structural repairs performed—and an imposing barbed-wire fence now surrounds the depot to ward off vandals. via Johnathan Nightingale and Thomas Hawk

The Palladium in St. Louis, Missouri

Palladium St Louis

Threats to bulldoze this important building led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to label it one of the most endangered historic places in 2014. But in its heyday in the 1940s and '50s, the Palladium served as a popular dance club featuring acts by Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, and other African-American musical icons. via Paul Sableman

Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, California

Historic Wintersburg

While the owners of this property are reportedly in talks to sell Historic Wintersburg for use as a self-storage facility, preservationists believe its historic past is worth protecting. Its shabby state aside, the cluster of six paint-chipped buildings on an abandoned 4.3-acre lot remains a symbol of Japanese-American life in the American West.

Related: 25 Tiny Towns to Visit for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live via Chris Jespen

Frank Lloyd Wright Spring House in Tallahassee, Florida

Frank Lloyd Wright Spring House

One look at the rotted wood and deteriorating facade of this 64-year-old dwelling and it's plain to see that it's lost its original grandeur. The Spring House, however, also known as the Lewis House, still holds the honor of being the only private residence in Florida to be built by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Related: The Secret Histories of 15 Grand Old American Mansions via Artie White

Old Mint in San Francisco, California

Old Mint San Francisco

Remarkably, the San Francisco Mint survived the 7.9-magnitude earthquake and fire that rocked the City by the Bay in 1906. The building stopped producing coins way back in 1937, and the intervening years have not been kind to the weathered sandstone structure. For preservationists and architecture buffs, however, "The Granite Lady" represents the city's transformation from a shanty town to a Gold Rush hub to a modern-day leader of technology.

Related: America's Most Indestructible Buildings via James Carnes

Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey

Hinchliffe Stadium

Since its closure in 1997, vandalism and neglect have transformed this concrete stadium into the overgrown and graffiti-covered wasteland it is today. But for most of its history, the 10,000-seat venue, one of few remaining ballparks with a Negro League pedigree, was filled with spectators eager to attend must-see events ranging from ball games to rock concerts.

Wikimedia Commons via KForce

Miami Marine Stadium in Miami, Florida

Miami Marine Stadium

Hurricane Andrew caused the closure of this unique 6,566-seat stadium, built in 1963 for viewing powerboat races. More than 25 years of disuse have resulted in the graffitied seats, rotted platforms, and pot-hole-ridden walkways that plague the site today. Despite the stadium's chaotic condition, plans to raze it in 2006 were met with public furor, leading to its designation as a local landmark in 2008 and sparking a $45 million investment in its renovation. via Ines Hegedus-Garcia

Montauk Point Light in Montauk, New York

Montauk Lighthouse

This postcard-worthy lighthouse in the picturesque Hamptons hamlet of Montauk is at risk of sinking if the rapidly eroding cliff on which it stands is not reinforced, or if the structure itself isn't permanently moved to higher ground. Its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2012, however, gives locals hope that the 110-foot tower will have a future.

Related: These 15 American Cities Are Experiencing the Effects of Climate Change


Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

The draw span of this neoclassical bridge was permanently closed in 1961, but the bridge still managed to earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. While the bridge, built in 1932, has been repaired over the years, its beauty, utility, and historical significance have inspired a $22 million rehab, slated for completion in 2021.  

Related: The 12 Most Infamous Goofs in Architecture History

Wikimedia Commons via National Park Service

Coco Palms Resort in Kapaʻa, Hawaii

Coco Palms Resort

This legendary Hawaiian resort was a hotspot getaway fro the rich and famous—even serving as the backdrop for several movies in the 1950s, including the wedding scene from the Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii. For years, many came to have their own Blue Hawaiian wedding and enjoy a slice of paradise. However, in 1992 Hurricane Iniki forced the upscale hotel to shutter its doors. There have been attempts to renovate the property, but defaulted loans and protests from Native Hawaiians have delayed work.

Wikimedia Commons via FunksBrother

City Hall Subway Station in New York City, New York

city hall subway station

Below the hustle and bustle of New York City’s City Hall is a hidden gem many New Yorkers are unaware of: Old City Hall Subway Station. Unlike today’s stations, the Old City Hall station had vaulted tile ceilings, glass skylights, and chandeliers. It was the inaugural stop of the subway system on October 27, 1904. However, as the subway system developed and expanded the stop became irrelevant and was shuttered in 1945. The stop isn’t entirely abandon; you can catch a glimpse of the station if you ride the downtown 6 train or you can become a New York Transit Museum member and sign up for one of their periodic tours.

City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana

city methodist church

Opened in 1926, the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana was more than a grand Gothic Revival, it had a flourishing community to go with it. In addition to services, it hosted city meetings, a gym, and even a 1,000-seat theater. At its peak in the 1950s it was the largest Methodist congregation in the Midwest, but white flight during the 1960s forced it to end services in 1975. Due to neglect and a fire, the building has deteriorated and become a symbol for the decline of Gary. It attracts many urban explorers, as well as filmmakers who use it as a backdrop for movies and TV shows. In recent years the city has started discussions and brainstorming ideas for turning it into a garden. In 2019 it was given an Indiana state historical marker.

Wikimedia Commons via Peter Fitzgerald

Santa Claus, Arizona

santa claus arizona

No, this wasn’t a retirement community for mall Santas. Santa Claus, Arizona was founded in 1937 by a realtor, Nina Talbot, hoping to attract homebuyers to the desert town through zany marketing. The holiday-themed town was a success as a pitstop for roadtrippers who enjoyed eating at Santa Claus Inn, but it failed at getting people to stay for good. Once the popularity of Route 66 dwindled, so did Santa Claus. The remains of Christmas castles and gift shops can still be found in the ghost town. via mlhradio

Astrodome in Houston, Texas

astrodome houston

Nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome was quite the feat when it opened in 1965; it was the world’s first enclosed, air-conditioned stadium, and was the first use of artificial turf (aka Astroturf). In addition to being home to the MLB’s Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers, it hosted countless events like the iconic Battle of the Sexes tennis match, NBA finals and All-Star games, and Wrestlemania. The Astros and Oilers eventually left for newer stadiums, and since 2008 the dome has been left empty and purposeless. In more recent years, the city of Houston has been having discussions whether to renovate it, demolish it, or just let it be.

Related: America's Most Endangered Historic Sites

Catskill Game Farm in Catskill, New York

Catskill Game Farm

Once a vibrant zoo filled with exotic animals, the 206-acre Catskill Game Farm is now little more than a collection of dilapidated animal pens, weathered signs, and overgrown brush. The zoo closed in 2007, and a campground now occupies the site where nostalgic tourists can hike and play outdoor games on the old grounds, or even meet April the Giraffe, a four-legged resident of the former zoo. via Cory Seamer

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