11 Must-See Abandoned Sites In And Around Chicago

by | Jun 4, 2024

Searching for Cool Abandoned Buildings to Explore in Chicago?

Decrepit houses that would be a hit for urban explorers – and even spelunkers?

Deserted sites where you could maybe shoot an amazing YouTube video?

Here are my favorite abandoned sites in and around the Windy City.

From closed-down police stations to eerie graveyards…

And even a spot guarded by Homeland Security (yes, really)…

You’ll find various kinds of deserted wonders from all around Chi-Town in this blog post.

The 21st District (Prairie) Police Station at 300 E. 29th St.

Two cops, like would be present inside the now-closed 21st District police station.

Representative image.

A police station like the ones you may have seen during the final seasons of Law & Order (back in 2010, before the 2022 reboot).

Built in 1952, it used to serve the former Prairie district. A district running from Cermak Road and the Penn Central railroad to Cottage Grove Avenue.

A 2012 efficiency drive by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel shut the station down.

The building still stands, eerily silent, with paint and plaster flaking off the walls.

You may still see decade-old wanted posters on the walls and shift schedules on the mission board.

The Prairie District doesn’t exist anymore either – it’s been merged into the Wentworth District.

Location: Google Maps (Approx Location)

Nearest Train Station(s): 35th-Bronzeville-IIT (“L”, Green Line) and McCormick Place (Metra). Check Moovit for details.

Current Status (as of May 2024): The building still stands. You can enter it and look around, and there appear to be no plans to demolish or renovate it.

Damen Silos

Graffiti on the Damen Silos, abandoned grain warehouses in Chicago

Know that place in Chicago PD where Voight takes suspects to threaten them into leaving town?

(What can I say? I’m a huge Dick Wolf fan 😀)

Would you be surprised if I told you that those scenes are filmed at a real Chicago location?

A former granary on S. Damen Avenue, along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal?

Welcome to the Damen Silos.

Built in 1906, the Silos were used to stock everything from wheat to corn. 

At its peak, the complex included 35 silos with a storage capacity of 400,000 bushels and an extensive underground tunnel complex, among other things.

Unfortunately, an explosion in 1977 destroyed the grain elevator and rendered the Silos pretty much useless.

Today, the Silos are largely run-down and a key Chicago attraction for urban adventurers, graffiti artists, and anyone else interested in our city’s past.

A key point of interest is the underground tunnels, which are largely accessible and will take you inside some of the silos.

PS – The Silos were bought by business owner Michael Tadin Jr., and there could be security on-site. Explore at your own risk!

#DidYouKnow: The Damen Silos was originally known as the Santa Fe Elevator.

Location: Google Maps (Approx Location)

Nearest Train Station(s): Damen-Cermak (“L”, Orange Line) and the Western Avenue Station (BNSF). Check Moovit for details.

Current Status (as of May 2024): The current owner, Michael Tadin Jr., wants to use it as a headquarters for his company MAT Asphalt, but local advocates want the space to be turned into a community center.

Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank Building

An abandoned hall, like the central hallway of the Pioneer Trust & Saving Bank.

Representative image.

When it was completed in 1926, the Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank Building was called “Chicago’s most beautiful bank.”

Located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, the bank played a pivotal role in the growth of the local markets and communities.

It survived the Great Depression and became one of the USA’s 300 largest commercial banks.

However, changing banking practices led to the building being abandoned in 2008 by its then owner – Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular.

Today, even as it’s been ransacked for brass fixtures and whatnot, the bank’s interior still stands as a testament to the past.

Especially noteworthy is the huge main hall with tellers’ counters on either side – a glimpse of what banks looked like before the age of ATMs.

The basement vault is flooded and is a hotspot for urban explorers and spelunkers in Chicago.

If this building fascinates you, search for abandoned mansions in Illinois – you’ll have a field day!

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): Pulaski Station (“L”, Green Line).

Current Status (as of May 2024): In 2023, the City Council voted to have the building redeveloped into an office space. The surrounding area will also be redeveloped into a cafe & restaurant and affordable housing.

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church (a.k.a. Pilsen’s Ghost Church)

zion evangelical lutheran church

The restored walls & garden look like this. Representative image.

Most abandoned sites are stories of former glory leading to decay. 

From mansions falling into disrepair after their owners lost their fortune to factories and warehouses being deserted as industries and jobs moved away.

Pilsen’s Ghost Church, however, has a happier tale that’ll reinforce your belief in community feeling and activism.

Built in 1888, the Church had numerous striking features like a 90-foot-tall bell tower, arching doors, and inscriptions in Gothic German script.

It served its congregation in the Lower West Side for decades till a 1979 fire destroyed the roof and most of its interior. 

Then, a storm in 1998 flattened almost the entire church, leaving only the bell tower and doors standing.

Property developer John Podmajersky Jr. bought the site to redevelop it.

However, descendants of the church’s original congregation appealed to Podmajersky to restore the building. They presented him with German-language records of the church’s early history and significance.

The developer was moved by their appeal and restored the building.

Today, a modern skylight sits on top of the bell tower, the walls are restored, and the interior is a serene garden.

The Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church may not be the thrilling adventure site craved by urban explorers, but it’s still an abandoned site with a story to tell in Chicago.

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): Logan Square Station (“L”, Blue Line) and Healy Station (Metra).

Current Status (as of May 2024): The bell tower, exterior walls, and door have been restored. The church interior is a regularly-maintained sculptural garden. However, walking into the church/garden may not be allowed.

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

A gravestone, like you may find at the abandoned Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago.

Representative image.

Finally – an abandoned site near Chicago that’s said to be haunted!

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was established in the 1830s amidst the dense woods of Bremen Township.

Over the years, as the local population shifted, the cemetery fell into disrepair. 

Lack of maintenance led to vandalism, including many tombstones being stolen.

And as the site became more and more neglected, rumors of ghosts and apparitions began to spread.

One of the most famous rumors is that of The Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove, a lady in white carrying a child.

Currently, the cemetery is accessible via a wooded trail from the nearby Rubio Woods car park. The trail and cemetery’s seclusion lend an eerie atmosphere to the area. 

During your visit, you might spot wildlife such as deer and possums. 

Additionally, there’s a nearby quarry pond worth exploring. 

Once popular for swimming and fishing, it is now overgrown with weeds and algae, adding to the site’s mysterious charm.

Whether you’re a ghost hunter or a history buff, this place offers a spine-tingling glimpse into Chicago’s and Illinois’ past.

#DidYouKnow: It’s said that the mob used Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery to dispose of bodies during Prohibition.

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): Midlothian Metra Station and the Oak Forest Metra Station.

Current Status (as of May 2024): It’s open to the public during the day but closed at night. The trail and the cemetery receive occasional maintenance, so you may not find them too overgrown.

Joliet Correctional Center (a.k.a. The Old Joliet Prison)

The facade of Old Joliet Prison, showcasing many of its prominent architectural features.

The main building of Old Joliet Prison as you approach it via Collins Steet. Foreboding, isn’t it?

True crime buffs, history nerds, and architecture buffs will really enjoy this abandoned prison near Chicago!

The Joliet Correctional Center was built in 1858 to alleviate overcrowding at the Illinois State Penitentiary.

You’ll be struck by the prison’s formidable look, with imposing Gothic architecture, 25-foot-tall limestone walls, and narrow, fortress-like windows.

Over the years, inmates ranged from prisoners of the Civil War to bank robber Baby Face Nelson and Martin Luther King Jr’s assassin, James Earl Ray.

After almost a hundred and fifty years of service, the prison was closed in 2002 due to budget cuts and unsafe conditions.

Like the Damen Silos, Old Joliet Prison has been used to film movies and TV shows.

Parts of the 1980 comedy The Blues Brothers were filmed here. In fact, it was the namesake of the character “Joliet” Jake Blue. Brownie points if you know who played the character 😁.

More recently, the TV show Prison Break was shot here.

Today, the prison is open for self-guided and haunted history tours from the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

Remnants from the past persist, from obsolete medical equipment to prisoner graffiti.

You’ll find the eerie, decaying cell blocks, medical rooms, and chapel fascinating – almost like stepping into an urban exploration movie!

#DidYouKnow: In 2023, the Joliet Correctional Center was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): The Joliet Gateway Center, which serves both Metra and Amtrak trains.

Current Status (as of May 2024): It’s open for tours and has developed a reputation for being haunted. In fact, if you visit around October 31st, you may be able to join a Haunted Halloween tour. And if you’re lucky, you may run into a film crew preparing for shooting!

Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building

One of Illinois' most famous former industrial sites.

Representative image.

If you’re searching for abandoned factories in Chicago, the Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building is a must-visit!

Built in 1880, this historic landmark was the heart of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a major manufacturer of railroad cars.

Located in the Pullman Historic District, the building’s striking architecture includes a red brick façade, tall windows, and the iconic clock tower. 

It overlooked the manmade Lake Vista, created to cool steam engines.

During its heyday, this site was considered the most elegant industrial compound in the country.

It was all part of George Pullman’s vision of a utopian company town, complete with employee housing and amenities.

Unfortunately, labor strikes and changing economic conditions led to the company’s decline. The Administration Building itself closed in 1957.

In 2015, President Obama designated the site a National Monument – a testament to Chicago’s days as a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse.

Visitors find the remnants of wooden staircases, large halls, and elaborate stonework fascinating.

Location: Google Maps (Approximate Location)

Nearest Train Station(s): 111th Street-Pullman Station and 115th Street-Kensington Station, both Metra stations.

Current Status (as of May 2024): The building hosts the Pullman National Historical Park Visitor Center under the National Park Service. And if you’re wondering, Lake Vista no longer exists – you’ll find a lawn there instead.

Dixmoor Power Plant (a.k.a. The Wyman-Gordon Power Plant)


Representative image.

Back in the 1910s, the Ingalls-Shepard Forging Company used to produce heavy steel parts for the railroad and auto industries.

Their factory was in the southern suburbs of Chicago, near Specialville (that was what Dixmoor was called then).

They became so large that they eventually set up their own power plant.

In 1920, the Wyman-Gordon Company bought the site.

They shifted focus to military manufacturing, especially building parts for fighter planes in World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

As military demands slowed around the 1980s, the factory struggled and was eventually closed in 1986.

Today, most of the site and the surrounding areas have been reclaimed by nature.

Inside, you’ll find vast, empty turbine halls and control rooms filled with rusting equipment.

More strikingly, you’ll spot shuttered and abandoned stores outside the industrial site – laying bare the effect the plant’s closure had on the local economy.

#DidYouKnow: A half hour’s drive from the Dixmoor Plant is Leclaire Courts – an abandoned public housing town in Illinois that was demolished around 2010.

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): Harvey Station & Calumet Station (Metra Electric District Line), and Blue Island – Vermont Street Station (Rock Island Line). 

Current Status (as of May 2024): Many of the buildings have been demolished, but the power plant still stands. However, trees and shrubs have overgrown the entire site, making it difficult to move around.

Chicago Freight Tunnels

former freight tunnels chicago

Representative image.

Did you know there is a labyrinth of tunnels right below the business district in Chicago?

In 1899, a phone company was laying underground cables in downtown Chicago. It’s unknown why, but the company decided to build a network of underground railroads as well.

And in 1906, the 60-mile network – the Chicago Freight Tunnels – was opened.

One key use was moving coal from freight houses to underground boiler rooms, which generated electricity and heated homes.

By the 1930s, however, trucks proved better for moving freight through Chicago. The underground tunnels were slowly abandoned.

They remained accessible for decades till 1992, when a massive flood swept through, causing massive damage, including power cuts.

Since then, the tunnels have been sealed, and entry is no longer possible.

#DidYouKnow: The Chicago Tribune used the tunnels to move newspapers from warehouses to Tribune Tower.

Current Status (as of May 2024): Parts of the tunnel are still used for utility lines. However, they’re sealed off to the general public.

The Singer Pavilion


Representative image.

The Singer Pavilion, in the former Michael Reese Hospital campus, is a fascinating relic of Chicago’s past. 

It was originally built as a psychiatric institute. 

The name honors Isaac M. Singer, a key benefactor of the facility.

The Pavilion is an architectural gem featuring modernist design elements. 

The architecture, with its clean lines, large windows, and functional layout, was rather progressive and ahead of its time.

Following the closure of Michael Reese Hospital in 2008, the Singer Pavilion was abandoned. 

Location: Google Maps

Nearest Train Station(s): The 27th Street Station and the 31st Street Station (both on the Metra Electric Line).

Current Status (as of May 2024): Till recently, you would have found it empty. However, in 2021, the Bronzeville Lakefront Megadevelopment was announced. As part of that, the Singer Pavilion will be “adaptively reused”.

Chicago Water Cribs

AI-generated representative image.

Hidden in plain sight, the Chicago Water Cribs in Lake Michigan are a unique part of the city’s history. 

Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the cribs housed massive intake pipes that drew fresh lake water into the city’s filtration system.

These structures were connected to the shore by a series of tunnels, stretching up to two miles long and 60 feet below the lake bed. 

Workers lived in these cribs, often isolated for weeks, maintaining the machinery and ensuring a steady flow of water to Chicago’s residents.

As technology advanced, the cribs were slowly decommissioned. 

Today, they remain abandoned. Weathered by the elements, they offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past and are popular among urban explorers and photographers.

While you can’t visit the cribs up close due to safety concerns and access restrictions, you can view them from the shore or a boat.

Current Status (as of May 2024): Some are still standing but a few are slated for demolition. And I’ve heard rumors that they’re guarded by Homeland Security.

Which abandoned building in Chicago do YOU want to explore?

Yet another abandoned site in Illinois, near Chicago.

So, which of these fascinating sites has caught your eye? 

Whether you’re an urban explorer, a history buff, or simply looking for a unique adventure, Chicago’s abandoned buildings offer endless stories and mysteries. 

Grab your camera, bring a friend, and dive into the past. 

Share your favorite site or let us know if we’ve missed any must-see locations in the comments below.

Happy exploring!

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