Abandoned towns abound in Texas.
By Eva Frederick
Ghost towns abound in Texas. In fact, a look back at state maps through the years turns up nearly 1,000 towns that were … and then were not. Some were large, thriving epicenters, others just small collections of homes, but between them all one thing remains constant: On each empty patch of Texas dirt, people lived, loved and then, for one reason or another, left. Read on to discover some of the towns they abandoned, standing crumbled and bent beneath the harsh sun, struggling against nature’s inexorable pull back to wildness.
West Texas, close to Big Bend
Sun-drenched, dusty Terlingua feels like a scene from an old Western movie. Derelict adobe buildings match the desert landscape, and the remaining businesses are full of quirky West Texas character. After miners exhausted the supply of mercury-containing ore, the town dried up, leaving it a ghost town by the 1940s. In the years since, the town has become a sort of haven for outsiders, artists and those seeking the expansive solitude of the West Texas landscape.
If you visit: The famous Terlingua Chili Cookoff takes place on Nov. 3, but you can see the ruins of the old quicksilver mining town anytime you visit.
East Texas, about an hour southeast of Lufkin
Deep in East Texas’ towering forests lie the ruins of the Aldridge Sawmill, once the beating heart of a town of nearly 2,000 people. Now, all that remains are vine-smothered walls and graffitied stone structures, with sunlight filtering through the leafy canopy above. The tale of Aldridge’s abandonment is one of just plain bad luck. Town founder Hal Aldridge started a successful sawmill in the forest in 1903. Eight years later, the mill burned down. Aldridge rebuilt it. Three years later, it burned again. And then again. Finally, Aldridge gave up and the town was deserted.
If you visit: The main attraction here is the sawmill, which is a historic site owned by the U.S. Forest Service.
Hill Country near Fredericksburg
To find what is left of Grapetown, you’ll leave the buzzing tourist town of Fredericksburg and venture down a back road that is too small for a center stripe and looks permanently in danger of being engulfed by the bordering seas of Hill Country grass. Along the roadside, a sign written in German denotes the area where a small community — mostly immigrants — settled in the mid-19th century.
If you visit: The town's remains consist mainly of a cemetery, a school building and a sign.
East Texas, outside Rusk
The former “Iron Queen of the Southwest,” New Birmingham’s crown fell a long time ago — in the 1890s, in fact, when loan defaults and unlucky explosions put the town’s lucrative furnaces and power plants out of business. The quick rise and fall of the metal boomtown led to speculation about its demise — some accounts involve the curse of a grief-stricken widow. Others simply blame the economy.
If you visit: Pull off U.S. Highway 69 at County Road 1104A and drive back into the woods. Be prepared for some searching.
West Texas, about an hour northwest of Marfa
Some friends rent vacation homes for a weekend getaway, others buy an entire abandoned West Texas town. This was the case with tiny Lobo, deserted in the 1990s, standing only an hour from the stark desert hot spot of Marfa. The town was bought by three German friends, who have been working to revitalize the area since 2001. The town currently hosts art events such as the Desert Dust Cinema.
If you visit: The town is little more than a pull-out in the road, consisting of several buildings and a dried-up swimming pool.
On the coast near Powderhorn Lake
A few miles from the verdant, marshy wetlands of Powderhorn Lake on Texas’ Gulf Coast are the vestiges of Indianola, a once-thriving seaside town that was all but wiped out by hurricanes in the late 1800s. Fun fact: In 1857, a visitor arriving in the port might have stumbled across the camels that were shipped there to move military equipment across the southwestern U.S.
If you visit: A visit to the area won’t turn up much, but the remains of the town are visible in a few dilapidated houses and, at low tide, the remnants of an old courthouse foundation.