Exploring Chicago’s Forgotten Past: 10 Fascinating Abandoned Places

Exploring Chicago’s Forgotten Past: 10 Fascinating Abandoned Places


Chicago, the Windy City, is known for its towering skyscrapers, bustling streets, and rich history. However, beneath the glitz and glamour lies a hidden world of forgotten relics – abandoned places that tell stories of a bygone era. Urban explorers and history enthusiasts alike are drawn to these eerie, decaying sites that have been reclaimed by time. In this article, we’ll delve into the mysterious world of abandoned places in Chicago, uncovering their histories, legends, and the thrill of exploration.

abandoned places in chicago

List of best Abandoned Places In Chicago

1. Dixie Square Mall:

Located in Harvey, Illinois, the Dixie Square Mall was once a thriving shopping center in the 1960s. However, its doors closed in 1979, leaving behind a haunting shell of a shopping paradise. Some even speculate that its closure was connected to its appearance in the iconic movie “The Blues Brothers.” While entering the mall is illegal, you can capture its eerie beauty from the outside, making it a popular spot for photographers and urban explorers.

2. Brach’s Candy Factory:

Nestled in the West Side neighborhood, Brach’s Candy Factory stands as a symbol of Chicago’s industrial past. This massive factory was once a candy-making powerhouse, churning out sweets for decades. Now, its crumbling structure and graffiti-laden walls offer a glimpse into the city’s history. Although entry is prohibited, visitors can photograph the factory’s exterior and admire its architectural remnants.

3. Old Joliet Prison:

Made famous by the movie “The Blues Brothers” and the TV series “Prison Break,” the Old Joliet Prison has a storied history. Closed in 2002, this Gothic-style prison in Joliet, Illinois, has become a canvas for street artists. While you can’t explore the interior, the prison’s imposing facade and street art make it a captivating subject for photographers.

4. Damen Silos:

The Damen Silos, located in the Pilsen neighborhood, once stored grain for the Archer Daniels Midland Company. Now, these towering silos stand abandoned, their structures marked by colorful graffiti. While entering the silos is risky and illegal, the exterior is a haven for urban photographers seeking striking images against an industrial backdrop.

abandoned places in chicago

5. Congress Theater:

Chicago’s Congress Theater, once a premier entertainment venue, has faced years of neglect. Located in Logan Square, this theater was a hub for music and entertainment. Although the theater’s interior is off-limits, its ornate exterior and faded marquee still evoke the glitz and glamour of its heyday.

6. Trumbull Park Homes:

In the South Deering neighborhood, the Trumbull Park Homes once provided affordable housing for Chicagoans. However, a tumultuous history led to their abandonment. The colorful, graffiti-covered buildings stand as a testament to both their past and the creativity of local artists. While entry is prohibited, the exteriors provide a canvas for photographers seeking urban artistry.

7. Damen Silos:

Another set of Damen Silos, this time in the Lower West Side, served as grain storage for Archer Daniels Midland. These towering structures, though off-limits inside, bear witness to the area’s industrial heritage. Photographers are drawn to the stark contrast between the silos’ imposing presence and the surrounding urban landscape.

abandoned places in chicago

8. Washburne Trade School:

The Washburne Trade School, located in the Bronzeville neighborhood, was once an educational institution for aspiring tradespeople. Now abandoned, it has become a canvas for street artists, and its vast, echoing halls remain frozen in time. While entry is forbidden, the school’s exterior still hints at its historic significance.

9. Chess Records Building:

In the heart of Chicago’s South Side, the Chess Records Building tells the story of the city’s influential role in the history of blues music. This unassuming building was once a recording studio that welcomed legends like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. While access inside is restricted, the building’s exterior serves as a pilgrimage site for music enthusiasts.

10. Pullman Historic District:

The Pullman Historic District, a designated National Monument, offers a different perspective on abandonment. This planned community, built for Pullman Palace Car Company workers in the late 1800s, showcases the beauty of preserved, abandoned architecture. While exploring the interiors of private residences is prohibited, guided tours provide insights into this well-preserved piece of Chicago’s history.


abandoned places in chicago

How to Explore Abandoned Places Safely:

Before embarking on your urban exploration journey, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and ethical considerations. Many of these places are private property, and entering without permission is illegal and dangerous. Instead, enjoy these sites from the outside, capture their beauty through photography, and respect the history they represent.

Photo Documentation: Capturing the Beauty of Decay:

Photography is an integral part of urban exploration. These abandoned places offer a unique opportunity to capture the juxtaposition of decay and beauty. Be sure to bring your camera and document your journey responsibly, leaving these sites as you found them.

Conclusion: Unearthing Chicago’s Hidden Treasures:

Chicago’s abandoned places are windows into the city’s past, offering a glimpse of forgotten stories and architectural marvels. While exploring these locations can be tempting, it’s essential to do so within the bounds of the law and respect their historical significance. Join the ranks of urban explorers who appreciate the beauty of decay, and let these abandoned places serve as a reminder of Chicago’s vibrant and complex history.

Share your own urban exploration experiences or your favorite abandoned places in Chicago in the comments below. Discover more fascinating insights into Chicago‘s hidden treasures and other intriguing topics.

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