They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the state’s wealth of abandoned places is no exception. With hundreds of vacant buildings, abandoned infrastructure and other interesting sites to visit, it can be hard to narrow down your choices to a manageable list.
We’ve done the homework for you, and the result is the following list of the 10 best abandoned places in Texas to explore in 2021 and beyond. Be sure to add some of these must-see sites to your next travel itinerary.
The Best Abandoned Places in Texas
Baker Hotel (Mineral Wells)
In this tiny community about 90 minutes west of Dallas, the now-vacant Baker Hotel is easily the largest building in town, despite the fact that it’s been closed for almost half a century and sits as one of the most prominent abandoned places in Texas.
Built in 1929, the 14-story Baker Hotel quickly became a destination for well-heeled tourists in the region. Buoyed by visitors drawn to Mineral Wells for its therapeutic springs, the hotel complex featured a bowling alley, two ballrooms, a spa and beauty shop and 450 lavish guest rooms.
After World War II ended in 1945 and nearby Fort Wolters was shuttered a year later, the town’s population declined significantly, and its hospitality industry soon followed. The hotel muddled along, hosting the Texas Republican Party conventions in 1952 and 1955 and the Texas Democratic Party convention in 1954, but lack of steady business forced the hotel to close in 1963. The Baker Hotel was briefly resurrected by a group of local investors a few years later, but its fortunes failed to improve, and it closed its doors for good in 1972.
The abandoned structure was named to the National Register of Historic Places a decade later, but very little has changed about the hotel since then. The building is privately owned, so you risk a trespassing charge if you attempt to explore the property, but you can get a pretty good view of the legendary hotel from the sidewalk in front of it.
A three-year renovation plan for the hotel was recently announced, with the goal of reopening it with 157 guest rooms, so if you want to see it in its original form, you’d better hurry. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best abandoned places in Texas, this is a great option.
Mariscal Mine (Big Bend National Park)
Located in Big Bend National Park on the southern border of Texas, the now-abandoned Mariscal Mine was once a major source of cinnabar ore that provided nearly one-fourth of the mercury produced in the U.S. between 1900 and 1943.
With the vast blue sky stretching out in all directions around it, the mine’s three aging, sand-colored structures are all that remain of one of only nine mercury production facilities established in the American West. Founded at the turn of the 20th century, the mine primarily employed Mexican immigrants who crossed the border to escape the ongoing revolution.
For their grueling labor, the mine workers earned less than $2 an hour, and their constant exposure to mercury often resulted in lost teeth, respiratory illnesses and even early death. The mine closed permanently in 1943, with much of its infrastructure auctioned off for cash, including the mercury-containing bricks from its furnace. Big Bend National Park was established a year later.
Today, the site is marked by signs warning of potential exposure to mercury radiation, although visitors don’t face any major risk from the trace elements remaining on the property. The desolate structures are located on the park’s south side, requiring travel down unpaved, poorly-maintained roads and across dry stream beds, so taking a vehicle with four-wheel drive is recommended.
You’ll also want to wear sturdy shoes for climbing the gravel-studded hill to reach the mine, and bring sunscreen and plenty of water to combat the relentless sun. Despite this, the risk is worth the reward, as the Mariscal Mine is one of the most interesting abandoned places in Texas.
Aldridge Sawmill (Zavalla)
Similar to the Mariscal Mine, the skeleton of the Aldridge Sawmill represents a once-thriving industry stalwart that was abandoned and left to decay decades ago.
Completed in 1905 by the facility’s namesake, Hal Aldridge, Aldridge Sawmill processed lumber from the abundant acres of longleaf yellow pine in Angelina County. The mill’s 500 employees were soon producing as much as 125,000 board feet of lumber a day, and it soon evolved into its own township, with a post office, commissary, hotel, train station, blacksmith, two schools and a handful of stores and saloons as well as plenty of employee housing.
A devastating fire razed the mill’s original wooden structures in 1911, which were then replaced with reinforced concrete structures, the remains of which are still visible on the site. Just two years after the blaze, the town’s population reached its peak of approximately 1,500 residents.
After a second fire in 1914, Aldridge apparently decided to exit the lumber industry, leaving the company’s vice president (who happened to be his brother) in charge of operations. Business continued largely unchanged until a third and final fire in 1919 finally drove Aldridge Lumber Company out of business for good. Most of its residents left when the mill closed, and the community was absorbed into the Angelina National Forest in 1920.
Four crumbling concrete structures remain on the land, along with the pond that provided water to the mill’s massive boilers. Curious visitors can reach the site on foot via a 2.5-mile trail that starts at Boykin Springs Recreation Area or take Highway 63 from Zavalla to a right turn on County Road 32, followed by another right on County Road 34, which leads to the gated entrance to Aldridge Sawmill.
Parking is available on the shoulder, and the mill’s remains are roughly 100 yards down the trail on the other side of the gate. As far as abandoned places in Texas go, this one is likely going to be one of the most commonly visited.
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church (Hondo)
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church is the only structure that remains of the curious settlement known as D’Hanis. The town was founded by Henri Castro at the urging of the Texas Congress, which sought to increase the area’s population of immigrants from Europe. Named for one of Castro’s favorite employees, the town was established in 1847 and originally consisted of several dozen families living in ramshackle mesquite dwellings.
In the years that followed, the town flourished, and the primitive housing was replaced by impressive stone structures designed to mimic the architecture of Europe. D’Hanis soon added a school, post office and a grand Catholic church, St. Dominic, where residents attended mass led by a priest imported from one of Castro’s other settlements.
When the railroad expansion through the area didn’t include a depot in D’Hanis, many of its residents opted to relocate closer to the stop added nearby, and the town’s location essentially shifted a few miles closer to the tracks. However, the residents continued to attend services at the original St. Dominic’s church until it was mostly destroyed by fire in 1912. The new church building was constructed near the town’s second location by the train depot, and the ruins of its predecessor were abandoned.
Very little of the church building remains today, with only the grave markers of its cemetery providing evidence that it existed in that location. The engravings on the stones provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the town’s residents, many of whom came from French and German heritage.
For example, one marker tells of the sad fate of Mary Anne Rudinger, who was the first settler to die upon the establishment of the village: “Carrying smaller children over streams, she became ill and died” on May 25, 1847. Another villager, Alexander Bohemia Hoffman, was “Killed by Indians in Uvalde County.” These historic markers stand as a stark reminder of how physically grueling—and fragile—life in the mid-19th century could be.
The tiny, extremely rural town of D’Hanis still exists, with a population that hovers around 500. The remains of the church and cemetery have since been incorporated into the D’Hanis Historic District, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best abandoned places in Texas, this is a great option.
Futuro House (Royse City)
Futuro Houses—a fleeting trend in the late 1960s that yielded fewer than 100 of the quirky-looking dwellings—were designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Influenced by the era’s fascination with science fiction, these prefabricated homes were intended to provide durable, inexpensive housing suitable for virtually any environment.
Resembling spaceships with their elliptical shape and bubble windows, the homes were constructed primarily of fiberglass and plastic and consisted of 16 pieces that could be easily broken down and reassembled in a new location if the owner so desired. Meant to be an innovation for the future, sadly, many of this sit as just another example of interesting abandoned places in Texas.
Unfortunately, the unconventional design of these modest dwellings failed to catch on, not only in Suuronen’s home country but also in America, New Zealand and dozens of other locations around the globe where they were introduced. In many places, zoning laws prevented their construction, and the oil crisis of the 1970s made plastic and other petroleum-based building materials prohibitively expensive.
Fewer than 50 of these eye-catching pod-style homes remain in existence today, with some in better condition than others. The years have not been kind to the Futuro Home in Royse City; the interior is gutted and graffiti-covered, and the exterior has been subject to the elements, although an unknown party saw fit to slap a fresh coat of orange paint on it a few years ago.
If you want to visit a well-preserved example of a Futuro Home, you’ll need to search elsewhere, but drivers along Highway 276 east of Rockwall can get a glimpse of this ill-fated architectural trend in the form of an abandoned home strongly resembling a spaceship that made an emergency landing in a Texas field.
Zedler Mill (Luling)
Built on the banks of the San Marcos River by John and James Merriwether and Leonidas Hardeman in 1874, the Zedler Mill complex originally consisted of a grist mill and saw mill as well as a stone dam across the river. A decade later, a group of investors that included Fritz Zedler purchased the operation and added a cotton gin.
Armed with decades of experience in the mill industry, Zedler bought out his partners in 1888 and replaced them with his oldest son, with his two younger sons joining the company a few years later.
The Zedler Mill flourished for decades, ultimately becoming the main source of power and water to the City of Luling. The operation began to wind down in the mid-20th century, and the mills shuttered for good in 1960.
Today, the 9-acre site contains the residence Fritz Zedler built in 1900 as well as seven other structures featuring wooden feed chutes, grain towers and grain elevators. The Luling Economic Development Corporation purchased the neglected property in 2002, and in 2007 the Zedler Mill Foundation was created to preserve and restore the site.
Following a $1.5 million renovation, the historic site now includes a museum and event space. While it may no longer seem like a “bando” in the sense you might expect, this is still one of the most well-kept abandoned places in Texas.
Toyah High School (Toyah)
Once a thriving trading post and hub of the Texas & Pacific Railroad, the town of Toyah is little more than a ghost town today, with fewer than 100 residents living among dozens of abandoned and crumbling buildings, including the community’s former high school.
Toyah was founded by Midland merchant W.T. Youngblood in 1879 when he brought his family and a covered wagon full of merchandise to the area about 20 miles southwest of Pecos. Initially, he traveled from ranch to ranch selling his goods, but he eventually established an adobe storefront that became a central gathering point for ranchers and other residents.
When the Texas & Pacific Railroad brought its tracks through Reeves County in 1881, the town’s population jumped, with shops, houses, saloons and restaurants popping up soon afterward. The Youngblood Trading Post expanded to include a hotel as well as a retail store, and the town’s continued growth led to the construction of the A.M. Fields Hotel as well as additional restaurants and saloons.
Like much of the American West at the time, life in Toyah could be a bit rough-and-tumble, with cattle rustling, gunfighting and even the occasional lynching drawing the Texas Rangers to establish a camp in the town.
Toyah’s population peaked in 1910 at just more than 1,000 residents, served by four stores, two banks, two hotels, four churches, two lumber yards and a drugstore. A large red-brick schoolhouse for both elementary and high school students was built in 1912.
With the onset of the Great Depression, however, the town’s population was cut in half by 1930. The town officially incorporated in 1933 but continued to hemorrhage residents, with a population of around 400 by 1950 and less than 200 in 1980. The Toyah School District eventually merged with the nearby Pecos School District, leaving the existing high school vacant.
Over the decades, the harsh West Texas climate wreaked havoc on the town’s abandoned buildings, with high winds and relentless heat causing many to crumble. In 2004, a storm that dropped eight inches of rain in a two-hour period overwhelmed the dike protecting the town, and virtually every structure in Toyah was flooded.
Though some of the buildings were razed, many still stand in varying states of decay. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best abandoned places in Texas, this is a great option.
Bexar County Juvenile Home for Boys (San Antonio)
Originally built in 1915 to house aging and destitute residents of San Antonio and the surrounding communities, this so-called “poor farm” was converted a few years later into the Bexar County Juvenile Home for Boys. The facility quickly established a reputation for cruelty and abuse, with one of its 14-year-old residents sent to the hospital in 1925 after being fed rat poison.
In 1933, the center again made headlines when one of the workers on its dairy farm was indicted for murdering another 14-year-old boy in its care. The defendant later admitted to having beaten the victim with an iron bar in a dispute over washing milk cans, later dumping his body in a nearby creek.
The property has been abandoned for at least 25 years, though the official date of the facility’s closure is uncertain. Four vacant, graffiti-covered structures remain on the site, located at Southton and Farm roads in San Antonio. The buildings are a popular destination for paranormal hunters and organized ghost tours as well as squatters and white supremacist groups, so use caution if you decide to visit.
The buildings are also thought to contain asbestos and rattlesnakes, so this makes it one of the most dangerous abandoned places in Texas. Visit at your own risk, and make sure to carry a first aid kit.
Chief Drive-In Movie Theater (Quanah)
Motorists passing by a desolate field on Texas Loop 285 and Texas 133 Spur in Quanah are sure to notice the sagging skeleton of a massive movie screen, which is all that remains of the town’s once-booming Chief Drive-In Theater.
As a stop along the rail line between Denver and Fort Worth, Quanah was founded in 1884 and grew well into the middle of the 20th century, when the town added the theater at the height of the drive-in movie trend. Though it’s unclear when the theater ceased operations, the screen remained intact and in good condition well into the 2000s.
It may have been damaged when Hurricane Ike roared through the region in 2008, but today its screen has been torn from its wooden scaffolding, which is rotting and leaning precariously. The fate of the theater’s remains is equally precarious, with nature and the possibility of demolition constantly threatening its demise. One of the most threatened abandoned places in Texas, visit this while you have a chance.
Branch Davidian Swimming Pool (Waco)
The town of Waco found itself thrust into the global spotlight in February 1993, when Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh led a compound full of followers in a 51-day standoff with state and federal law enforcement.
The protracted—and ultimately tragic—incident began when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to search the property on suspicion of an illegal weapons stockpile. The Branch Davidians opened fire on the agents, who retreated and sought reinforcement from the FBI, state law enforcement and even the U.S. military.
Despite repeated efforts to convince Koresh to surrender peacefully, negotiations failed, and with government forces eventually employing tear gas, armored vehicles and even grenades to breach the perimeter and enter the compound. Seventy-six members of the religious group lost their lives in the siege, and most of the buildings were gutted by fire and later razed.
The lone remaining structure on the site is the in-ground swimming pool, which the Branch Davidians used for recreation in good times and as a bunker during the standoff. Depending on recent weather, the concrete pool may be empty or filled to some level with dirty rainwater and runoff.
A nearby monument is inscribed with the names of the souls who died on that fateful day in April 1993. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best abandoned places in Texas, this is a great option.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Texas
Those who are into urban exploration in the Texas area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in Texas, should get comfortable with Texas trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of Texas, 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 Texas, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.