If your travels take you through the southeast in 2021, be sure to make some time for the abundance of fascinating vacant sites in the “Empire State of the South.” Below, we’ve reviewed the 10 best abandoned places in Georgia for you to add to your itinerary.
The Best Abandoned Places in Georgia
The Atlanta Prison Farm
For a half-century, this 400-acre site in DeKalb County served as a correctional facility for nonviolent criminals. The Atlanta Prison Farm opened in 1940s to provide vocational training and rehabilitation to as many as 1,000 inmates through its massive working farm operation. Prisoners operated the dairy, raised livestock and harvested produce, selling their surplus goods on the open market. Inmates also operated the commissary and barbershop on the premises.
When the facility shut down in 1995, the property was abandoned, and the remaining facilities were soon covered in graffiti and thick kudzu vines. In 2009, a fire consumed most of the main facility, with the fire department opting to let the fire burn itself out rather than risk the safety of its firefighters on the derelict property.
Proposals for future uses of the property have been complicated by the fact that while the City of Atlanta and Fulton County own the site, it’s actually located in DeKalb County, and the agencies have not yet come to an agreement on what to do with the land. A plan for a 500-acre regional park remains in limbo, with DeKalb County considerably less enthusiastic about the proposal than the city. Meanwhile, the burned-out building is still occasionally used for fire department training sessions.
Visitors to the site should use extreme caution, as many of the structures are dangerously unstable. Despite this, it remains one of the most sought-after abandoned places in Georgia.
Central State Hospital
At one time holding the record as the world’s largest mental health facility, Central State Hospital first opened in 1842 as the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum. Despite the insulting moniker, the facility treated its patients with unusual compassion and dignity. The chief medical officer banned the use of chains and ropes as restraints, and patients contributed to the operation of the asylum by helping maintain the building and care for the property.
However, as the years went by, overcrowding became a problem at the hospital, with more than 12,000 patients living in cramped, inhumane conditions by the 1960s. With a doctor-patient ratio of 1 to 100, quality of care plummeted, and reports of abuse ran rampant. Electroshock therapy, insulin shock treatment, ice baths and prolonged use of straitjackets and other restraints were common treatment methods, and a 1959 investigation showed that none of the doctors on staff were trained as psychiatrists.
Following the trend of deinstitutionalization in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the population of Central State Hospital declined rapidly, finally closing permanently in 2010. The buildings on the vast campus were simply abandoned, and though on-site security prevents visitors from accessing the interiors of the decaying structures, it is possible to drive through the property to view them from the outside.
The site also includes a peaceful pecan orchard and a large cemetery that holds as many as 25,000 mostly unmarked graves. A museum on the property has collected items from the hospital to provide visitors with additional insight into life at the hospital over the decades.
The Dungeness Ruins of Cumberland Island
Over the centuries, the historic Dungeness property on Cumberland Island has provided the foundation for multiple residences of the same name. First established as a hunting lodge by James Oglethorpe in 1736, the next iteration of the property was built by the widow of Nathanael Greene, a hero of the American Revolution.
The four-story tabby mansion was constructed on a Timucuan shell mound in 1803, and the British commandeered the home as a headquarters during the War of 1812. After being passed down through the Greene family, the home was abandoned during the Civil War and burned not long after the Union victory.
The site’s next resurrection took place in the 1880s, when Thomas Carnegie—brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie—bought the land and commissioned a luxurious new mansion on the property. Sadly, he died just a year after the 1885 completion of the 59-room Queen Anne-style residence. His widow, Lucy, continued to occupy the residence and later built similar mansions for her children, as the Carnegie family ultimately acquired roughly 90 percent of the island’s total acreage.
The Carnegies departed the mansion in 1925, and the historic home was consumed in a suspected arson in 1959. The ruins were acquired by the National Park Service in 1972 and incorporated into the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The skeletons of the stately brick buildings remain partially intact, as well as fountains, cisterns and other features on the vast property. This remains one of the most easily accessible abandoned places in Georgia.
New Manchester Manufacturing Company
When it opened for business in 1849, the five-story New Manchester Manufacturing Company textile mill stood taller than any building in the nearby state capital of Atlanta. This marvel of modern engineering was constructed primarily by slave labor and powered by a 45,000-pound wheel churning water from the adjacent Sweetwater Creek. The mill employed around 100 workers, most of whom lived on the company property and shopped at the company store.
Though the mill turned a handsome profit from the start, the onset of the Civil War was a boon for business, as the company received orders totaling nearly $25,000 from the Confederate Army. However, the war eventually claimed the mill as one of its many casualties: Sherman’s troops burned it along with most of metro Atlanta in 1864, and many of its employees were arrested and relocated first to Marietta and later to Louisville, Kentucky.
The partial ruins of the burned-out facility drew millions of visitors over the next century and a half, and its walls are riddled with bullet holes left by locals who used the structure for target practice. The ruins were incorporated into Sweetwater Creek State Park upon its founding in 1976 and have subsequently been used as a filming location for several major films, including the popular Hunger Games series.
In 2017, a massive preservation effort was launched to stabilize the ruins and protect them for future generations. The $375,000 project included installation of steel rods, new mortar and concrete caps to reinforce the historic brick structure.
Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory
Tucked away in the dense pine forests of Dawsonville, the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory—also known as Air Force Plant 67—was a joint venture between the weapons manufacturer Lockheed and the U.S. Air Force. The ultimate goal was to engineer a nuclear-powered aircraft, and starting in the 1950s, the facility’s nuclear reactor was used to irradiate various prototypes to discover whether they could withstand the destructive forces of nuclear energy.
Though most of the activity that took place on site remains highly classified, reports at the time indicated that the unshielded reactor released massive quantities of residual radiation into the remote forest, resulting in many of the trees losing all of their leaves. Fortunately, underground bunkers protected lab staff from the effects of the poisonous rays.
After years of unsuccessful attempts at developing a nuclear-powered aircraft, the facility was shut down and mostly dismantled in 1971. Today, only the concrete foundations and a single building from the original campus remain visible on the site, although some areas of it are still restricted by fencing. Urban explorers and people hunting abandoned places in Georgia continue to search for the hidden entrance to the underground bunkers where lab workers waited anxiously to learn the outcome of their latest experiment.
For more than a century, the Pratt-Pullman yard has been a mainstay of the industrial area of Atlanta known as Kirkwood. First opened in 1904 by Pratt Engineering and Machinery Company, the 27-acre complex was used to test chemical processing equipment. In 1926, the campus was acquired by railcar manufacturer Pullman Company and was transformed into a rail yard for building and maintaining luxury passenger railcars.
The property changed hands again in 1955, when the Second American Iron and Metal Company took ownership but continued its use as a railcar manufacturing and repair facility until it shut down and abandoned the site and the adjoining rail line in the late 1980s. The Georgia Building Authority took over the 12-building campus in 1990 but left it vacant and unused, leading to its precipitous deterioration and its placement on the Atlanta Preservation Center’s most endangered places list in 2001.
The state finally began soliciting bids for redevelopment of the property in 2016 but refused to include any requirements for preserving the historic structures, prompting protests from community preservation groups. The following year, film production company Atomic Entertainment purchased the site at 225 Rogers Street with plans to redevelop it as an entertainment district while also preserving the site’s historic roots.
The company has pursued historic tax credits as well as federal, state and local funding for environmental remediation efforts and other improvements for the “Pratt-Pullman District,” which is ultimately expected to include restaurants, office space, a boutique hotel, an outdoor concert venue sound stages and film production facilities.
The Cartersville Abandoned Plane
Despite rampant rumors, the graffiti-covered G-159 Gulfstream aircraft sitting in the middle of a wooded area in Cartersville didn’t crash there. Instead, the twin-turboprop was simply abandoned at the site by Phoenix Air in the early 2000s. Since then, street artists have covered the exterior in boldly-colored spray paint, and salvagers have removed all items of potential scrap value, including the wings, tail, instrument panels, and wiring.
However, the plane’s fuselage and leather seats are still present and relatively intact, and the out-of-place aircraft is now a popular destination for hikers, teenagers, and other curiosity-seekers in the area.
The plane is located on land owned by the City of Cartersville and is relatively easy to access via gravel service roads and hiking trails, with parking available at a nearby kayak launch site. If you go, be sure to wear sturdy shoes and long pants, as you are likely to encounter snakes or ticks during the warmer months.
Nestled deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, this crumbling brick mansion began as a couple’s dream home, but ended up being the site of their gruesome and untimely deaths. The estate was painstakingly hand-built by retired Loyola University professor Dr. Charles L. Scudder in 1977, and for five years, he lived there happily with his partner, Joseph Odom. Sadly, Scudder, Odom and their two dogs were brutally murdered in December 1982 during a robbery attempt by two acquaintances.
The investigation and trial that followed quickly devolved into a local media circus, with leaked information about the victims leading to the creation of an ugly mythology around the doomed couple. Due to the pair’s open homosexuality and Dr. Scudder’s interest in the occult, the two were accused of being “devil worshippers,” and because they were no longer around to defend themselves, the allegations became accepted fact by many.
Today, the site of the dilapidated mansion is referred to as “Devil Worshipper’s Mountain” by area residents, and local legend claims that stealing a brick from the site will result in a lifelong curse for the thief.
A massive fire in the mid-1980s destroyed most of the main residence except for the masonry, but most of the out-buildings—including a well room and gazebo—remain relatively intact. Despite being private property, the site off Black Springs Road just outside Summerville is popular with urban explorers, thanks largely to local law enforcement’s willingness to allow access to visitors as long as they act respectfully and responsibly.
Hancock County Hospital (The Bad Debt Hospital)
Nicknamed “Bad Debt Hospital” for its decades of well-publicized financial woes, Hancock County Hospital was built in 1968 to serve the residents of this rural region of eastern Georgia. With 52 beds, an emergency room and intensive care unit, the county-operated facility employed roughly 150 doctors, nurses and other staff.
Not long after it opened, corruption and financial mismanagement in the county government led to the closure of the hospital in 1974. Members of the community rallied to form the Hospital Corporation, a nonprofit organization that sought to lease the hospital from the county and manage its day-to-day operations. After several long years without an adequate medical facility to serve the region, the hospital reopened, but the financial issues that plagued it soon returned.
By the early 1990s, the Hospital Corporation found itself nearly $1 million in debt and had to ask the county for a $1.7 million bailout to keep it afloat in the short term. The group hired hospital management firm Quorum to assist it with restructuring the facility’s debt and streamlining its operations, which resulted in the layoff of nearly a third of the hospital’s staff.
Disputes about finances once again bubbled to the surface in 1995, when the County Hospital Authority was shut out of board meetings with Quorum and began to suspect financial mismanagement. A subsequent investigation revealed that the hospital did not have sufficient insurance coverage for its emergency room physicians, and the county successfully demanded the resignation of the Hospital Company’s CEO in 1998.
The following year saw massive cuts to the hospital’s Medicaid funding, ultimately leading to the facility’s permanent demise. Hospital staff were gradually laid off until its closure in 2001. Vandals soon broke into the shuttered facility looking for leftover medication, but instead left with copper wiring to sell for scrap. The building remains vacant and filled with abandoned patient records, medical equipment and obsolete electronics.
Meanwhile, county residents must travel 90 minutes to the nearest hospital, and the county’s death rate due to heart attacks has skyrocketed by 40 percent. The county still hopes to one day reopen the ill-fated facility.
Alonzo Herndon Stadium
Despite its starring role in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 15,000-seat Alonzo Herndon Stadium is now a decaying eyesore on the campus of Morris Brown College. The two-sided stadium hosted field hockey matches during the 1996 Summer Games and was also used by the former Georgia Mustangs and the former Atlanta Beat team that played in the WUSA women’s soccer league.
The stadium also served as a stand-in for the demolished Fairfield Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia in the popular 2006 film We Are Marshall.
Due to extreme financial challenges, the college has been unable to maintain the facility, and its condition quickly deteriorated after regular play on its field ceased. The concrete bleachers are cracked and crumbling; its interior corridors are covered with graffiti and littered with trash; its yellowing field is overgrown with weeds; and street artists have tagged nearly every exterior wall on the property.
The stadium provides a sad visual reflection of the institution’s current financial state: After operating for nearly 130 years, the private, historically Black Morris Brown College has lost its accreditation, posting an enrollment of just 42 students in 2020.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Georgia
Those who are into urban exploration in the Georgia state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Georgia, should get comfortable with Georgia trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Georgia, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry.
For these cases, you should familiarize yourself with x. For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in Georgia, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.