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10 Deserted Places and Why They Were Abandoned

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With a total population of over 7 billion people, it's hard to imagine that any place in the world could be abandoned. And yet, they exist, each one with an eerie past and an uncertain future. Here are the tales of 10 abandoned places and how they came to be deserted.

1. I.M. Cooling Tower, Belgium

The I.M. Cooling Tower is part of an abandoned power plant located in Monceau, Belgium. While in use, the tower cooled incoming hot water by using wind. The wind would enter the opening at the bottom of the tower and rise up, cooling the hot water. The air would then become warm and leave the tower. During its prime, the I.M. Cooling Tower could cool up to 480,000 gallons of water per minute.

2. Kolmanskop, Namibia

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Kolmanskop, a ghost town in Sperrgebiet of Namibia, was built during the burgeoning diamond trade in the early 1900s. In 1908, a railway worker named Zhacarias Lewala was shoveling sand away from the railroad tracks when he spotted a diamond. The news spread quickly, and many Germans poured into the area to hunt for the precious gems. A bustling town soon developed, complete with a hospital, ballroom, school, factory, and casino. However, by the end of the first World War, the town declined. Later, richer diamond deposits were found farther south and operations moved to Oranjemund. Kolmanskop became a ghost town. In 1980, the De Beers mining company restored many of its buildings and turned Kolmanskop into a tourist attraction.

3. Michigan Central Station, Detroit

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In the early 1900s, Detroit was a bustling epicenter for factory jobs and industrialization. The city’s railroad business was quickly expanding, and the company decided that a much larger depot should be built. By 1910, Michigan Central had purchased 50 acres of property in the Corktown neighborhood outside of downtown Detroit. The station was comprised of a 3-story train depot and an 18-story office tower; the final price for the building was about $2.5 million (around $55 million today). Once built and in use, the station inspired awe in all of its passengers: “The grandeur of the interior is something that will be lasting, for it is of marble, brick and bronze, all of this is set off by one of the best lighting schemes ever installed in a building,” wrote the Free Press in 1913.

But a busy future for the station wasn't meant to be. The railroad industry fell into decline as the government began constructing highways and subsidized intercity airline traffic. Over the years, railroad companies tried to sell the station, and train lines began to abandon the station because of the upkeep. On January 5, 1988, Train No. 353 became the last train to leave the station. During the 1990s, the station fell into disrepair and became vulnerable to trespassing and looting. Today, the battle between demolition and restoration continues.

4. Underwater City in Shicheng, China

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Shicheng City—which translates to Lion City—was submerged under Qiandao Lake in China in 1959 during the construction of the Xin’an River Hydropower Station. Now that the city, which is approximately 1400 years old, is underwater, it's protected from erosion by wind, rain, and sun and remains in a relatively stable condition. Today, international archeologists refer to Shicheng City as a time capsule of ancient China; its arches, gates, and towers are so well preserved that they give archeologists an almost perfect view of what the city looked like hundreds of years ago. Back then, Shicheng City was the center of politics, economics, and culture of Sui’an County.

5. Salto Hotel, Colombia

Situated near a 515-foot waterfall outside of Bogotá, Colombia, the Hotel del Salto first opened in 1928. It was a building that welcomed many travelers visiting the area. Over the next few decades, the Bogotá River became contaminated, and the tourism industry waned. The hotel finally closed in the 1990s and was left abandoned. Some believe the hotel is haunted, mostly because of the prevalence of suicides around the waterfall. In 2012, the hotel was renovated and converted to a museum.

6. Abandoned Military Hospital in Beelitz, Germany

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This abandoned sanatorium in Beelitz, Germany has an eerie past. The German National Insurance Institute constructed the military hospital in 1898 to house tuberculosis patients. Later on, the sanatorium played host to a recuperating Adolf Hitler, who was injured in the 1916 Battle of the Somme during World War I. During the 1920s, the hospital quickly expanded to accommodate thousands of patients. The building was even equipped with a butcher’s shop, bakery, beer garden, and restaurant. As World War II enveloped the globe, Beelitz Sanatorium was once again a haven for the German military. After the war, the Soviets took control of Beelitz-Heilstätten and used it to treat Soviet soldiers stationed in the area. After the Soviets withdrew in 1994, the building was left empty and abandoned.

7. Craco, Basilicata, Italy


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Craco is an abandoned medieval village located in the Region of Basilicata and the Province of Matera. Greeks settled the town in 540 AD when they originally moved into the area. After its settlement, a university, prison, and four large plazas were constructed. But the town was also subject to various calamities, including plagues, poor agricultural conditions, and earthquakes. Between 1959 and 1972, destructive landslides damaged the area and made the town uninhabitable. In 1963, the last 1800 citizens were transferred to a valley in a different area. Today, the town is empty and abandoned, although it has played the backdrop of films like King David, Quantum of Solace, and The Passion of the Christ.

8. San-Zhi, Taiwan


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In 1978, the Taiwanese government began subsidizing an architectural project that involved building futuristic pods for the rich to use as summer villas. However, the investment capital disappeared in 1980 before the project was completed, and the architecture company went bankrupt. One major reason that San-Zhi failed was because of intense local superstitions. Several fatal accidents occurred during construction, and as the number of fatalities increased, the government withdrew its support. Many believed that the land was cursed, and the construction company eventually destroyed all of its records regarding the project.

9. Angkor Wat in Cambodia


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Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Angkor was the powerful capital of the Khmer Empire in northwestern Cambodia. Armies from Thailand captured the city in 1431, and Angkor’s citizens fled. Angkor Wat was the city’s monastery, and it was built by King Suryavarman II to honor the Hindu gods. However, as Buddhism was prevalent in the surrounding area, the temple’s Hindu decorations were replaced by Buddhist carvings, and Angkor Wat became a Buddhist shrine. From its abandonment in 1431 to the late 19th century, Theravada Buddhist monks preserved Angkor. Today, it is known as one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Southeast Asia.

10. 1984 Winter Olympics bobsleigh track in Sarajevo


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In 1977, the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia was chosen as the host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics. That same year, Bosnia proposed the construction of the bobsleigh and luge track and, by 1982, had completed its construction. During the 1984 Winter Olympics, the track had a total of 30,000 bobsleigh spectators and 20,000 luge spectators. After the Olympics, the track was used by world cup competitors. In 1991, the Yugoslav wars shook the region, and the Siege of Sarajevo caused damage to the track since Bosnian Serb forces used the track as an artillery position. Today, the bobsleigh and luge tracks have fallen into disrepair and have been tagged with graffiti.

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5 Frank Lloyd Wright Homes You Can Buy Right Now
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It can be hard for homeowners to sell Frank Lloyd Wright houses, even if they are live-in works of art. Some prospective owners don't want to deal with pilgrims or rubberneckers, while others simply aren't fans of Wright's style, or his penchant for building in far-flung locations. The upside? The architect's mega-fans have a better chance of scoring a genuine Wright original, occasionally at a relatively bargain price. From suburban Minnesota to rural New York, here are five drool-worthy Wright residences that you can purchase right now.

1. THE PAUL OLFELT HOUSE IN ST. LOUIS PARK, MINNESOTA

Exterior shot of the Paul Olfelt House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Courtesy of the Berg Larsen Group, Coldwell Banker Burnet

Address: 2206 Parklands Lane, St. Louis Park, Minnesota 55416

Asking Price: $1.3 million

History: In the 1950s, Wright designed one of his moderately priced Usonian homes for clients Paul and Helen Olfelt, who lived with their young children in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. A fan of Wright’s work, the couple had written the architect a letter requesting that he design their family one of his stylish single-family residences.

“We hoped for a refuge from the world for part of our day, a place where we could enjoy nature and the beauty of man’s creativeness in harmony with nature,” Olfelt, a radiologist, wrote in 1969 in the journal Northwest Architect. “We wanted a home that by virtue of its character would help us and our children be dissatisfied with the ordinary.”

Wright accepted the commission and briefly met with the Olfelts to discuss his vision, although he never visited the actual site—a tree-filled cul-de-sac—in person. The three-bedroom home's design was completed shortly before the architect’s death in 1959, and the Olfelts officially moved into the home in September 1960, and listed it for sale for the very first time in 2016. It’s still on the market, just waiting for a lucky Twin Cities area buyer to snap it up.

Bona Fides: The Paul Olfelt House comes equipped with a wood-burning fireplace; a fully equipped kitchen; and a master suite with both a dressing room/closet and an en suite three-quarter bath. It also includes many furniture pieces—including chairs, ottomans, desks, lamps, and tables—that Wright custom-designed for the home. Many, if not all, of these items are included the home’s sale price.

Fun Facts: The home has a basement, which is “rare for Wright homes,” a representative from Berg Larsen Group of Coldwell Banker Burnet tells Mental Floss. “He drew the line at the request for a bathroom; therefore, there’s an odd little commode in the unfinished storage area that we refer to as ‘plumbed for additional bathroom.’"

The basement also includes an office, which was designed for Olfelt; a play area for children (complete with swing); and a bar with banquette seating.

Interior shot of the Paul Olfelt House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Courtesy of the Berg Larsen Group, Coldwell Banker Burnet

Interior shot of the Paul Olfelt House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Courtesy of the Berg Larsen Group, Coldwell Banker Burnet

2. TIRRANNA IN NEW CANAAN, CONNECTICUT

Exterior shot of Tirranna by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence

Address: 432 Frogtown Road, New Canaan, Connecticut 06840

Asking Price: $7.2 million

History: "Tirranna" is an Australian aboriginal word meaning "running waters"—a fitting choice, considering that the U-shaped residence sits next to a pond fed by a nearby river and overlooks a tiny cascade. The home was built in the 1950s, and was one of Wright's very last houses built before his death.

Bona Fides: "Tirranna is one of the two or three biggest homes Wright ever built or designed, just from a size perspective," Houlihan Lawrence broker Doug Milne tells Mental Floss. "As you enter the main room, it goes from very low ceilings to soaring ceilings and glass, with Brazilian mahogany walls and ceilings that are just in miraculous condition."

Tirranna has seven bedrooms, and is surrounded by 15 acres of forest. Also on the grounds are a barn and stable, a greenhouse, a guest house, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a workshop, and gardens designed by Frank Okamura, the landscape architect for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Fun Fact: If Tirranna achieves its $7.2 million asking price, it will set a record for the highest price ever paid for a Wright house. This money will go toward an important cause: mental health research.

Tirranna's last owner was the late businessman Ted Stanley, who died in early 2016 at the age of 84. But while Stanley became rich selling collectibles, his true passion ended up being medical philanthropy. It all started when Stanley's teenage son, Jonathan Stanley, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the late 1980s. His eventual recovery was largely due to being treated successfully with the right medicine. The experience turned Stanley into a staunch advocate for mental health research, and he spent the remainder of his life donating vast portions of his fortune to research institutions like the Broad Institute, a biomedical and genomic research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Broad Institute employs some of the world's top scientists, who research both the genetic and molecular causes of psychiatric disorders and potential treatments. “My son’s life was saved,” Stanley told The New York Times in 2014. "I would like to purchase that happy ending for other people."

When Stanley died in 2016, he left the Broad Institute much of his fortune. Tirranna's proceeds will also be directed toward the research center.

Exterior shot of Tirranna by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence

Interior shot of Tirranna by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Courtesy of Houlihan Lawrence

3. THE LOUIS PENFIELD HOUSE IN WILLOUGHBY HILLS, OHIO

Exterior shot of the Louis Penfield House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois.
Courtesy of Howard Hanna

Address: 2215 River Road, Willoughby Hills, Ohio 44094

Asking Price: $1.3 million

History: Designed by Wright and built in the mid 1950s, the Louis Penfield House is a nature lover's dream. The restored Usonian home sits atop a knoll overlooking the nearby Chagrin River, and across the street from protected forest, creeks, and hiking trails. The home was commissioned by high school art teacher Louis Penfield and his wife, Pauline, but has operated as a vacation rental house since 2003. New owners can opt to keep renting it or to use the home as a private residence.

Bona Fides: The three-bedroom, two-story home comes complete with Wright-designed furniture, which is included in the cost of sale. Owners can also say bye-bye to heating bills, as the home has a radiant-floor heating system fueled by one of two natural gas wells on the property. And just in case you were looking for even more bragging rights, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plus, prospective buyers have the chance to score two Wright homes for the price of one (well, kind of): "The last original Wright building site in the world is located adjacent to the Penfield House," and is included in the sale, listing agent Karen Eagle of Howard Hanna tells Mental Floss. "The building plans for Wright’s last residential commission, called Riverrock, are owned by the Penfields. The house is historically significant. It is design number 5909, and was on Wright’s drawing board when he died. The Penfields received the plans shortly after his death in April 1959."

Fun Fact: "Louis Penfield was nearly 7 feet tall," Eagle says. "The home was designed to accommodate his tall stature. Frank Lloyd Wright's ceilings are typically low. The staircase is pretty interesting too, since it accommodates for height."

According to legend, Penfield visited Wright's Wisconsin studio and challenged the architect to build a custom home for his towering frame. Wright accepted the dare, and mailed his new client a preliminary drawing six months later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Exterior shot of the Louis Penfield House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois.
Courtesy of Howard Hanna

Interior shot of the Louis Penfield House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois
Courtesy of Howard Hanna

4. THE F.B. HENDERSON HOUSE IN ELMHURST, ILLINOIS

Exterior shot of the F.B. Henderson House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois
Courtesy of Zillow

Address: 301 South Kenilworth Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois 60126

Asking Price: $1 million

History: Built in the early 1900s, the F.B. Henderson House is an early example of Wright's signature brand of Prairie style architecture. The architect built the home in conjunction with Chicago architect Webster Tomlinson, who briefly served as Wright's business partner. The two are both listed as the home's architects, although Tomlinson was reportedly more like the project's office manager and business agent.

Originally commissioned by client Frank Bignell Henderson in 1901, the home has been on and off the market for the past decade. That said, real estate agents tell Mental Floss that they've seen prospective buyers sniffing around as of late.

Bona Fides: Both the interior and exterior of the F.B. Henderson House have been recently restored, but the property still has plenty of original mid-century charm to spare. And if charm alone won't do, there's also three fireplaces, a wine cellar, and an expansive terrace overlooking the lawn.

"There is a real open feel on the first floor," agent Marilyn Fisher of LW Reedy Real Estate tells Mental Floss. "It’s a massive space. It has a huge foyer as you walk in, and then when you come into the main part of the house, you have a really big living room. On either side of the living room are mirror-image rooms. One side is half of an octagon, and the other side is the other half, making for a wide expanse. It's a very dramatic look."

Fun Fact: The F.B. Henderson House has more than 80 art glass, or stained glass, windows. Wright often referred to these mini works of art as "light screens," as they evoked the look of sliding Japanese shoji screens.

Exterior shot of the F.B. Henderson House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois
Courtesy of Zillow

Interior shot of the F.B. Henderson House by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Elmhurst, Illinois
Courtesy of Zillow

5. THE MASSARO HOUSE IN PUTNAM COUNTY, NEW YORK

Exterior shot of a home on Petra Island, in New York, inspired by designs by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Courtesy of Chilton & Chadwick

Address: Petra Island, Lake Mahopac, Carmel, New York

Asking Price: $14.92 million

History: Some Wright purists turn up their noses at the Massaro House, in spite of its spectacular location (on a 10-acre private island), its spectacular design (a 5000-square-foot home with a cantilevered deck that practically puts Fallingwater to shame), and its spectacular scenery (did we mention it's on a lake?). They say it's just "inspired" by the architect, instead of truly being his original work.

Around 1950, engineer A.K. Chahroudi commissioned Wright to design him a dream home on the island, but the client wound up not being able to afford the planned project. Instead, Wright created a small guest cottage for his client. In 1996, sheet metal contractor Joe Massaro purchased Petra Island, and he also acquired Wright's original plans for the site, intending to fulfill the famous architect's ultimate vision.

With the help of architects and scholars, the Massaro House was completed around 2007. However, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation refuses to recognize it as an authentic Wright design, as they're not happy about some controversial design tweaks Massaro made to the plans.

Bona Fides: The home has geometric windows, a wraparound patio, and boulders integrated into the walls, giving it a natural feel. Other structures on the island include the aforementioned guest house and a tea house.

Fun Facts: If you own your own chopper, look no further than the Massaro House. "It has a helipad," Chadwick Ciocci, the CEO and founder of global real estate concierge Chilton & Chadwick, tells Mental Floss. "I don’t know of any other Frank Lloyd Wright homes that have that."

"Also very important is that the home is on a private heart-shaped island," Ciocci adds. (Really? We hadn't noticed.)

Interior shot of a home on Petra Island, in New York, inspired by designs by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Courtesy of Chilton & Chadwick

Aerial shot of a home on Petra Island, in New York, inspired by designs by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Courtesy of Chilton & Chadwick
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Want to Live Like Snow White? Buy This Cottage
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In the 1970s, one family in Washington state decided to bring the magic of Snow White home—and we don't mean on VHS. (That didn't come out until 1994, anyway.) They built a replica of the cottage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Olalla, across Puget Sound from Seattle. And now, you can take over Snow White’s housekeeping duties—the house is for sale, as we spotted on the listing site TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.

The house looks straight out of a Disneyland attraction, with a winding staircase seemingly built into a tree, hand-built doors of different sizes with giant iron hinges, stone details and exposed beams, a wood stove, and a rounded interior that “wraps around you like a big hug,” according to the listing. (Good luck hanging shelves, though.) Honestly, the shiny walls look a little plastic, but it’s all part of the Disneyfied appeal.

The interior of the first floor shows a stone oven, a fake tree, and a chandelier.

A spacious room with two different sized doorways looking through to another room.

A bedroom has a mattress tucked into a cave-like nook.

An exterior view of the cottage through an overgrown garden.

Unlike the Seven Dwarfs’ pad, though, this comes with a hot tub and high-speed internet, not to mention a washer and dryer to save any future Snow Whites the effort of hanging laundry. And there’s no need for everyone to sleep side-by-side in twin beds. The two-story “cottage” has four bedrooms and five baths.

The 2800-square-foot house comes on a five-acre gated property. Outside, there’s a sweet tree house with a fireplace inside, a wooden bridge over a creek, and a garden with fruit trees.

It’s $775,000, zero dwarfs included. You can see the listing here.

All images courtesy TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.

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