Legacies of the Empty Haunt - Legacy Week


By Zach Schepis

Considering the sheer magnitude of worldwide architectural undertakings that occurred over the past couple of centuries alone, it comes as no surprise that a fraction of these projects failed to serve as their desired outcomes. Whether a direct result of poor funding, transforming infrastructure, or even disaster, abandoned structures stand testament to the fading yarn of history and the power of change.

But there are a special handful that have taken on second lives of a sort. In their hollow silences remain stories waiting to be discovered. Many attract curious visitors–tourists, sightseers, history buffs, and even ghost hunters draw to the allure of a distant past.

These places are relics from another world that stand mysteriously triumphant both apart from and within our own. Here at BTR we’ve selected some of our favorite and most surprising examples to share with you.

The Deserted Underground

Aside from being America’s unhappiest city to currently work in, Cincinnati, Ohio, boasts another interesting secret.

Snaking along beneath Central Parkway for two miles, between Walnut Street and just shy of the Western Hills Viaduct, lies buried the largest abandoned subway tunnel in the country.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The city started work on the underground labyrinth with a mission to construct six interconnected stations between the central business district and industrial suburbs. However, the project was dropped in the late ‘20s before even half of the 16-mile passage reached completion.

Continual maintenance helped to prevent future collapse, and while the tunnels could still be used for the next hundred years or so, many Cincinnati natives still have no idea that they exist under their feet.

No passengers have ever ridden between the six stations.

There is another abandoned subway station, however, that you can still ride through. If you’re in New York City, hitch a ride on the subway’s downtown 6 train and take it to the bottom of the line. The train’s last stop is the Brooklyn Bridge, but if you remain seated when the vehicle makes its turnaround, you can behold one of the city’s most gorgeous relics.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

City Hall Station was originally slated to be the last stop of the original “Manhattan Main Line,” which was built by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and opened in 1904. The station was meant to symbolize a crown jewel of the new subway system, and features a beautiful array of tiled arches and skylights.

In 1945, the City Hall stop was abandoned due to a need to expand the IRT line with longer carts. What remains today is a crowned jewel of New York’s underground that’s still well worth taking the time to admire.

Sinister Silences

Cincinnati might lay claim to the largest abandoned subway tunnel, but even that doesn’t hold a candle to the bloody legacy that lurks beneath the feet of unsuspecting people in Portland, Oregon.

From 1850 to 1941, this Victorian locality was known as the “Unheavenly City” and the “Forbidden City.” Why? Portland was considered the most dangerous port in the world thanks to an illegal maritime practice known as “shanghaiing.” If you were an able-bodied worker, such as a sailor, logger, or construction worker, there was a large chance that you might become kidnapped and sold to a sea captain to work aboard his vessel for no pay.

Known as the Shanghaiing Trade, the kidnappings were made possible by a vast series of interconnected brick and stone tunnels that connected under the streets.

Photo courtesy of Damian Spain.

Shanghaiers and “crimps” would install trap doors throughout Portland, in some of the most popular saloons, brothels, gambling parlors, and opium dens, where they would ensnare unsuspecting individuals and later sell them for blood money on the waterfront.

The prisoners would be contained in makeshift wood and tin jails underground before being purchased for $50 to $55 a head. Many of these men wouldn’t make it back to Portland for two full voyages.

That’s six years, by the way.

Ghosts Don’t Wait in Lines

Remember that dream you’ve always had–the one where you stumble into your favorite amusement park and don’t have to wait to ride any of the attractions? There are a couple of places where you can entertain that fantasy.

Well, sort of.

Photo courtesy of Chris Hagerman.

If you’re feeling adventurous, ignore the “No Trespassing” signs and check out Jazzland’s Six Flags Amusement Park in New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The park was abandoned after taking a considerable toll from Hurricane Katrina. While some of the rides are still standing, and developers come up with new plans to transform the park, it will most likely be a while before anything comes around to make the place look like less of a horror movie set.

Similarly there is Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park, located in Kawaguchi, Japan.

This majestic getaway based upon the fantastic world of Jonathan Swift was built to overlook Mt Fuji in 1997. Unfortunately, even with financial help from the Japanese government, it only functioned for a little over a decade before being abandoned.

Out with the Old, in with the New

Of course, not all abandoned architectures remain abandoned forever. Take North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel for example.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Also known as the “Hotel of Doom,” this concrete behemoth towers over 1,000 feet above Pyongyang. It was initially meant to open for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, but construction ceased when the country began running low on raw materials after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Obtaining information on this mysterious structure is notably difficult. The North Korean government has even gone as far as to deny the existence of the structure–in some cases manipulating photographs to remove it from the city’s skyline.

In 2008, however, construction on the hotel recommenced. Large investments on the behalf of the Orascom Group of Egypt allowed for an entirely new glass facade.

As most clandestine government activities in North Korea usually go, no one is entirely sure yet what will take the place inside, but we can only imagine.