The state of Iowa is not only well-known for its state fairs, cornfields, and beautiful attractions. Rather, this state, located in the heart of the mid-western region of the USA, is also famous for its spooky and abandoned places. After sunset, some buildings, museums, pubs, hotels, and heritage monuments look spooky and haunted as if echoing ghostly stories.
If you are an explorer by heart, then cruising through the back roads and abandoned places in Iowa should be on your bucket list. The old and depilated structures standing from the days gone long by might have some kind of phantom or supernatural aura lurking behind every corner.
Thus, if you are planning to move to Iowa anytime soon or are already there, sightseeing and experiencing the spookiness of the below-mentioned 10 places is a must.
Are there any abandoned towns in Iowa?
According to some visitors, Iowa is an uninteresting place with few activities. But in the true sense, this state has many abandoned buildings with certain spooky and eerie vibes that are worth experiencing. It is also said to be the harbor of ghosts as there are various abandoned mansions in Iowa. Apart from this, Iowa is also known to have 30 ghostly and bizarre towns with unique histories, which is worth learning. Some of such towns are; Doris, Herring, Buchanan, Dudley, White Pigeon, Littleport, and many more.
Is it illegal to explore abandoned buildings in Iowa?
Most of the abandoned places in Iowa are in disrepair and wreckage. Thus, exploring these abandoned and uncanny places in the state might be quite dangerous. According to some past reports, people often get hurt or disappear while visiting these unkempt and dark properties while exploring such places.
For exploring these places, you can either find the name of the owners from the public list of property sales and ask permission from them, or if you do not want to contact the owner, you can also visit the abandoned places open to the public.
10 Abandoned Places In Iowa
Apart from the various beautiful and scenic views, this Hawkeye State also has various other hidden & unexpected gems. If you are an explorer craving some unexplored places and less-travelled paths, you are getting in the right direction. Here in this article, we will be telling you about 10 of the best abandoned places in Iowa that are worth exploring.
1. Union Park
Union Park, located in the Dubuque region, was built during the 19th century. In the early 1900s, this property was purchased by General Electric to celebrate the wonders caused by electric power. This multinational conglomerate business company also installed various swings, swimming pools, roller-coaster rides, theatres, and various other attractions for the people to look at and enjoy.
Soon it became the most common and loved place among the people of Dubuque. Until all its prosperity and amazing views got spoiled or disrupted due to heavy storms and floods in 1919. This natural calamity took away the lives of many people The park got repaired and was reopened again with new equipment in 1923. Still, it failed to gain fame and was finally shut down in 1934 for the good of people living in the city.
Currently, the place is a lingering property covered with ivy and bushes. You can find here certain stairs, sidewalks, and weak foundations of swimming pools and theatre walls. This abandoned place in Iowa is open to the public, and in recent years the local authorities have installed a zipline in the course of the property for easy exploration.
2. Sans Souci Island
This piece of the island is spread over 100 acres of land near Waterloo in the Cedar River and was once a major source of timber for bridges and other infrastructures during the mid-1800s. Over the years, the island had a few residential developments, including a hotel and a golf course. But due to natural calamities such as floods in the region in 2008. Everything got washed up by the rising waters of the Cedar River. The then residents were forced to evacuate and leave the island as the floodwaters had made the island completely inhabitable by destroying all the infrastructure and utilities.
Years after the flood, natural beauty took over this vast island and became home to huge trees, white-tailed deers, and a variety of bird species. Thus, lots of hikers and bird watchers often visit the place through the island’s entrance which is filled with lots of concrete and a twisted tangle of bushes and trees. Hence, this beautiful abandoned place in Iowa is worth the visit if you have an explorer attitude.
3. Seasboro Consolidated School
Seasboro Consolidated School is an abandoned place in Des Moines, Iowa, located about an hour east of the main city. This spooky-looking school building was abandoned during the 1960s when the consolidation process started.
The exterior of this school building shows how it was once so magnificent with red brick walls, the school’s name etched with decorative concrete, and arched door frames. Access to this haunted-looking school building is easy as no main door is attached. The interiors are completely dilapidated as the paint on the walls is peeled, and the concrete is completely cracked & crumbled long ago.
In some places, the tiles on the ceilings have also fallen off or disintegrated. The metal beams installed everywhere in the building have been rusted, and wooden frames have been rotted. You can also find the corroded green chalkboard still attached in some of the classrooms and a filthy mixture of other deteriorating materials on the floors.
This place has haunted vibes, so we would suggest you visit it at your own risk.
4. Dubuque Shot Tower
This once abandoned tower located in the Dubuque area of Iowa is a 120-feet tall building that was built to manufacture arms & ammunitions for the muskets of the US Army. The major materials used to construct this tower are red brick and Galena Dolomite Stone. This tall tower could produce about 8 tons of lead shots in a single day by following a common manufacturing technique.
In this process, the molten lava is poured through the sieve from the height. On being cooled, lead formed perfect squares. There used to be a water basin at the foot of the tower in which water balls used to get collected after cooling down.
During the year 1857, when Civil War took place, there was a financial crisis all over the nation, due to which production work was stopped. Later after the war got over, Standard Lumber Company converted the tower into a fire watchtower.
In the year 1911, various suspicious fires took place in the tower, due to which all the wooden frameworks got destroyed, resulting in its abandonment. Later on, in 1976, this tower was registered in the National Register of Historic Places.
How tall is the Shot Tower Inn Dubuque, Iowa? This tower located in Dubuque city is around 120 feet tall. The interiors as well as the exteriors of this now abandoned place in Iowa, were constructed of red brick and Galena Dolomite Stone.
What is the purpose of a Shot Tower? The major purpose of constructing this Shot Tower was to manufacture different ammunitions and weapons for US Army muskets. But later on, when Standard Lumber Company acquired the tower after the Civil War got over, they used it as a fire watchtower.
5. Lehigh Brick and Tile Company
Lehigh, a rural town in Iowa, had two major industries working in the field of brickmaking and coal mining. You can still find the remains of the Lehigh Brick and Tile Company on the banks of river Crooked Creek in the form of an abandoned and crumbling building.
This business was established in the late 19th century and did the job of producing ceramic pipes and bricks. In 1896, the government of Dubuque city appointed this factory to produce paving bricks for the city. But the following year, a major fire broke down in the factory, resulting in a temporary halt in the production of paving bricks.
Around 1903, the factory again reflourished and came into operational mode after spending several years rebuilding the facility. Sometime in the middle of the 20th century, the facility was renamed the Iowa Bricks.
During the 1980s, the operations of this factory ceased, and the brickyard was abandoned unexpectedly, leaving behind various equipment, forklift, workbenches, and more.
Currently, this place has been referred to as one of the best haunted and abandoned places in Iowa as there are still some unused stacks of bricks, scattered equipment & furniture that has been either rusted or rotten, collapsed rooftop, grown mosses & grasses on the wall cracks, a few brick chimneys with debris piled at the base, and dilapidated dome-shaped kiln peeks.
6. Oak Park Academy Boarding School
This abandoned place in Ames, Iowa, is located about 10 miles from a tiny town called Nevada. The Oak Park Academy was a co-ed boarding school constructed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was first established in the year 1902, but there was no place to run high school classes back then. Thus it was held in the rented ballroom of a hotel in the nearby town of Stuart. Until 1911, they permanently shifted to the Nevada campus and continued providing education to the students until the 1980s.
Currently, this is an abandoned place in Iowa, where no education services are being provided now. But the campus is being nominally maintained by the church authorities, which still operate on the property.
There were five campus buildings in total, out of which one has been renovated and is being reopened as the Oak Park Estates Appartments. Whereas the rest four were still empty, with web-covered graffiti walls, broken window panes, and various dismantled and junked cars littering the lawn. The major reason behind the abandonment of this place is still unknown.
7. Clutier Public School
East of Iowa, there is a small town by the name of Clutier, where half a century back, there was a Clutier public school which now remains abandoned and decaying. Czech immigrants set up this abandoned mansion in Iowa in the early 20th century. These were a community of around 200 people who were extremely famous for their restaurants, summer polka concert series, and the annual Bohemian plum festival. The school campus was built in the year 1925 and has an extremely famous women’s basketball team that took part in various championships and has always emerged as the winner.
In the year 1960, when there was a wave of school consolidation, the Clutier Public School firstly got merged with the Traer School, and then, after some time, it became a part of the Dinsdale Community. Ultimately it formed North Tama County Community School District, and the building of CPS was left behind.
After so many years, the building is completely vandalized with no facilities, leakage of water, broken windows, unwanted growth of grasses & mosses all over the damp place, and also the tiles from floors & roofs being peeled off.
8. Edinburgh Manor
This place was specially designed for the elderly, mentally ill, and disabled residents of the Jones County of Scotch Groove. This is a 1200-square-foot building originally built in the year 1911. It is a three-story building with two wings, one designated for female patients on the east and the other for male patients on the west.
This Manor successfully ran till the year 2010, as the census of the patients kept on decreasing, and the operational costs kept on increasing. Both these scenarios forced the authorities to shut down their operations and relocate the remaining patients to a nonprofit community care center.
The building was then abandoned, along with all the patients’ medical reports and personal effects. In the year 2012, the property was purchased by a couple and made it open for tourists, paranormal researchers, and other such themed tours, thus making it one of the best-abandoned places in Iowa.
9. Squirrel Cage Jail
This Cage Jail, or the correctional facility, was built in the year 1885 in Council Bluff. Rotary Jails were extremely in fashion during that period. As they had rotating Lazy Susan-style cells Where there used to be a minimum interaction between the prisoners and jail staff. Also, only one cell was accessible from the single entryway at a time as a hand crank was used to spin the carousel.
This facility at Council Buffs was a three-layer multi-story building with a stack of various cells that appeared to be like a cage. The cage looks like the one in which rodents are kept. Thus, this cage jail’s name is ‘Squirrel Cage Jail.’
Now there are no residents living here anymore, as the building is quite aged and the frequency of people kept increasing. Later on, the possession of the building was taken by the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, who preserved this abandoned mansion in Iowa into a museum and made it available for the general public to visit and explore the spookiness of this place. The cells do not rotate any longer, but the structure & architecture of the cells is worth a visit, as many of them do believe that there is an eerie presence of past prisoners in the barricades of the jail.
How many squirrel cage jails are in Iowa? There are three cage cells in this building of Iowa. This type of architecture was made to keep a minimum track of conversation between the convict and the jailor.
How does a squirrel cage jail work? The basic idea behind the design of this jail was that all the cells would be located around the central carousel along with a hand crank. By doing so, the cell of a single convict can be accessed at one time in a single entryway. The dors of the cell were designed to look like a cage where you can keep a small animal.
10. Le Grand Bridge
Le Grand Bridge, built over the Iowa River, was completed in the year 1915, and for 50 successful years, this bridge carried vehicular traffic over the river. This massive construction was pursued by the government of Marshal County and was considered one of the most complex and complicated structures of that time. In the year 1960, when the river was rechanneled and due to it, the roadways were rerouted, the bridge remained unused and abandoned. But, this obsolete concrete girder structure is still standing in a deteriorating condition on the Iowa river backwater.
The bridge is the perfect example of the best-abandoned places in Iowa, as only a few concrete structures are left in the state.
Abandoned Places in Iowa – The Bottom Line
If you live in Iowa state and love exploring urban buildings and areas, this article would have been a candy treat for you all. For visiting these abandoned places in Iowa, it will be better for you to settle down there, have complete knowledge of the trespassing laws, should have state citizenship, should know about the job prospects and what is the minimum wage in Iowa, and also have some information about the average cost to build a 1,500 sq ft home. So that you can freely live and enjoy your life in this Hawkeye State.
Some of the above-listed buildings are open to the general public; to explore some of them, you need to take prior permission. So, what are you waiting for now? Plan your itinerary in a way that all the above-listed places are mentioned in your to-visit lists, and enjoy the to the fullest once you are there.