American ghost towns quite popular with tourists

Darko Nanevski

The United States has the largest number of abandoned towns per capita in the world., and yes, most of them are completely deserted by its inhabitants and left in ruins.

But there are some instances where a few ghost towns succeeded getting a second chance. By having a period-specific architecture and interesting backstory, they were restored and now function as open to visit museums. They became really popular tourist attractions, and a whole minor industry is created of them. These are the ghost towns that are most beloved and attractive for the public to come and see.

1. Thurmond, West Virginia

The Depot, Thurmond, West Virginia. Author: Mike Tewkesbury CC BY-ND 2.0

The Depot, Thurmond, West Virginia. Author: Mike Tewkesbury CC BY-ND 2.0

Located in the Appalachian Mountains, this coal mining town thrived during its heyday. Built in the late 1800s, it achieved its peak during the coal boom in America in the early 20th century. The coal fields brought more profit and revenue than all of the other spots in the vicinity of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

The town counted two banks, several restaurants, plenty of stores, even a movie theatre. Also, two hotels were built: the Lafayette which was located near the railway, and Dun Glen, a hotel quite big for its time that counted 100 rooms.

Historic District – Thurmond, West Virginia. Author: bobistraveling CC BY 2.0

Historic District – Thurmond, West Virginia. Author: bobistraveling CC BY 2.0

But, by the 1930s, with the coal business steadily declining and the diesel taking over, the town fell apart, and by the end of the 1950s, it was basically a ghost town.

Once a town that counted several hundred people, in 2010 the population got down to only five remaining.

Coaling Tower – Thurmond, West Virginia.Author: bobistraveling CC BY 2.0

Coaling Tower – Thurmond, West Virginia.Author: bobistraveling CC BY 2.0

Today Thurmond is virtually owned by the National Park Service. By restoring the train depot in the 1990s and repairing all the abandoned houses, they managed to turn the town a living museum and a highly popular visitor center.

It is also a part of the New River Gorge National River because of its river rafting capacity which is the reason why most folks and many tourists come here on a regular basis throughout the year.

 

2. Jerome, Arizona

View of the town – Jerome, Arizona. Author:  Ken Lund CC BY-SA 2.0

View of the town – Jerome, Arizona. Author:  Ken Lund CC BY-SA 2.0

The town of Jerome, Arizona has been abandoned since 1941, but today it’s a regular holiday destination for over 200 000 tourists a year.

Founded in 1876, it was known as the wickedest town in the west and the fourth largest in the Arizona Territory. What started as a small copper mining camp of settlers, by 1899 it became to be a booming mining community. Men and women from around the world came in Jerome to find work and start a new life. The population reached its peak in 1920 when it counted 15, 000 people.  The town had the biggest copper mine in Arizona and was producing and astounding 3 million pounds of copper per month.

Period House – Jerome Arizona. Author:  Ryan Harvey CC BY-SA 2.0

Period House – Jerome Arizona. Author:  Ryan Harvey CC BY-SA 2.0

But after World War II, when the demand for copper drastically slowed down, there was no need for the mine to keep working and the town was already deserted.

Today, Jerome is a town with a totally different personality. While it is commonly known as the largest ghost town in America, it didn’t perish entirely. Located on top of  Cleopatra Hill (5,200 feet) between Prescott and Flagstaff, the town now is a dashing magnet for tourists and somewhat an artistic community where many writers, painters, and musicians found a safe haven in this place.

Hanging out in a saloon – Jerome, Arizona. Author:  Ryan Harvey CC BY-SA 2.0

Hanging out in a saloon – Jerome, Arizona. Author:  Ryan Harvey CC BY-SA 2.0

This is an enchanting town and a photographer’s paradise.

 

3. Calico, California

Main Street – Calico, California. Author: Artur Staszewski CC BY-SA 2.0

Main Street – Calico, California. Author: Artur Staszewski CC BY-SA 2.0

Calico had its short, but very profitable peak in the 1880s and 1890s when it had 500 functioning mines and produced over $20 million worth of silver ore in 12 years. When the silver started to lose its value in the 1890s, Calico lost its residents.

But today this little ghost town still manages to thrive today as a popular San Bernardino County regional park near Barstow, Calif.

Period Hotel – Calico, California. Author: Tracy Elizabeth CC BY 2.0

Period Hotel – Calico, California. Author: Tracy Elizabeth CC BY 2.0

By being open all year round, this attraction of a town is regularly and mostly visited in winter and spring. The old silver mining queen draws the biggest crowd during the holidays. Other popular are the strange Mystery Shack and the Lane House Museum where visitors can try out their gold panning skills, explore the parts of an actual mine, take a ride on a scenic railway, even spend a night in the old jail.

All of the surviving buildings are accurately restored and maintained in their original manner. That way the old and authentic spirit of Calico is being kept.

Fire Hall – Calico, California. Author:  m+A+s CC BY-ND 2.0

Fire Hall – Calico, California. Author:  m+A+s CC BY-ND 2.0

 

4. Garnet, Montana

Garnet is an abandoned gold mining town, located on the dirt Garnet Range Road in Granite County, Montana. It dates back to the 1860s.

Winter in Garnet, Montana. Author: mypubliclands CC BY 2.0

Winter in Garnet, Montana. Author: mypubliclands CC BY 2.0

Authenticity – Garnet, Montana. Author:  footloosiety CC BY 2.0

Authenticity – Garnet, Montana. Author:  footloosiety CC BY 2.0

 

Over a thousand people called this place a home, but by 1905 the gold was running out, and a massive fire in 1912 made the matters even worse. But despite all that has happened, this town, today owned by the Bureau of Land Management, is one of the best-preserved towns in the state. It is said to be Montana’s most intact ghost town.

Because of its beautiful mountains and forest, this town attracts 16,000 visitors and hikers annually. They can all be amazed by its gorgeous scenery and visit over 30 historic buildings, including a salon and cabins.

5. St. Elmo, Colorado

St. Elmo, Colorado. Author: Jeffrey Beall CC BY-SA 2.0

St. Elmo, Colorado. Author: Jeffrey Beall CC BY-SA 2.0

Even though St. Elmo is considered a ghost town it is still inhabited. It is one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns.

The town was at its peak in the 1890s when almost 2, 000 people settled while the gold rush lasted and the majority were working in the mines. There were over 150 patented mine claims in the area at the time.

 

Hiking Trail – St. Elmo, Colorado. Author:  bad9brad CC BY-ND 2.0

Hiking Trail – St. Elmo, Colorado. Author:  bad9brad CC BY-ND 2.0

Today St. Elmo thrives on tourism which brings many people here every year., especially for fishing enthusiasts because there are so many good places to fish along.

Many of the authentic period houses and buildings are restored and left intact. That way the town’s original feel will not be harmed.