In photographs: Missouri's eerie abandoned places

Peter Watson

From deserted workhouse jails to a failed public housing project, these abandoned places in Missouri are fascinating forgotten sites.
Missouri State Penitentiary is long-abandonedNagel Photography/Shutterstock

Abandoned places in Missouri

There’s often an eerie silence that surrounds abandoned places, emitting a unique energy that speaks to something deep within us, playing on our curious nature.

If you do visit, don't trespass and be careful as many of these sites are now considered dangerous.

Kessler Park Reservoir

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

In the early 1900s, Kansas City’s Fire and Water Commission proposed building a reservoir to provide water to the increasing number of manufacturing industries in the region.

Construction began in 1919 and the Kessler Park Reservoir was completed in 1920. The reservoir was supposed to hold around 16 million gallons of water.

However, soon after it became operational, cracks emerged under the immense amount of water pressure.

Other means of water sourcing and treatment were found and/or constructed and the reservoir was drained and has been left abandoned since 1931.

Odd Fellows Home

Location: Liberty, Missouri

Odd Fellows Home includes three contributing buildings, one contributing site, and four contributing structures associated with an institutional home and hospital.

The district was developed between around 1900 and 1935 and was intended to provide shelter and care to those in need, such as the elderly, widows, and orphans.

Long since abandoned the remaining buildings are in a state of decay with broken windows, doors, and damaged roofs.

However one of the most impressive buildings, the Belvoir Winery and Inn, has renovated the first floor, and it is now a tasting room and event space for the winery.

Wheatley-Provident Hospital

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

The Wheatley-Provident Hospital is the sole surviving hospital building in Kansas City that was established for and run by the African-American community from 1902 to 1972.

It was one of the first hospitals in the nation entirely staffed by African-American doctors, nurses, and administrators.

The hospital closed in 1972 and laid vacant for several years until it briefly served as a haunted house, known as The Asylum in the 1980s and then Dr. Deadly’s Haunted Hospital in the 1990s.

The placed on a dangerous buildings list in 2012 following a series of fires and remains abandoned.

Cotton Belt Freight Depot

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

The five-story Cotton Belt Freight Depot was constructed in 1911 to handle freight movement. The depot opened in 1913 with two miles of house, team, and storage tracks, but has now been closed and vacant since 1959.

Today, graffiti is scattered across its walls, but the building retains the integrity of design, workmanship, setting, and community.

Despite its current condition, the building and grounds continue to be used as a setting for wedding, engagement, and graduation photos.

In 2011, the Cotton Belt Freight Depot was named "Best Old Building" by the Riverfront Times, a weekly newspaper in St. Louis.

Kansas City Workhouse

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

The medieval-styled Kansas City Workhouse (also known as the Vine Street Workhouse Castle and Brant Castle) was built in 1897 out of the yellow limestone which had been quarried by inmates of the nearby workhouse jail.

The site stopped functioning as a correctional institution in 1924 and was repurposed more than one dozen times across the next five decades including as a city storage facility, a Marine training camp, and a dog euthanasia center.

It was finally abandoned in 1972 and has lain empty ever since crumbling and succumbing to erosion and local graffiti artists.

Pruitt-Igoe's Remains

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

From its fanfare opening in 1954 to its live-on-TV demolition over 30 years later, the St Louis public housing project remains a powerful symbol of the social, racial and architectural tensions that dogged many of America’s cities throughout the mid-20th century.
The Pruitt–Igoe complex was composed of 33 buildings of 11 storiesUnited States Geological Survey / Public Domain

The neighborhood of highrises was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, best known for his design for the World Trade Center, but Pruitt-Igoe never lived up to his other designs.

There's very little left of the 33 buildings of 11 stories now, with much of the site fenced off.


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Cementland is an incomplete public art exhibit on the 54-acre site of a former cement factory.

The sculptor Bob Cassilly, who also created St. Louis' City Museum, tragically died during his famed last project.

He was intending to turn this site of an abandoned cement factory into a castle-themed amusement park.

However, in 2011, Cassilly died when the bulldozer he was operating allegedly fell off of an unstable ledge killing him in the crush.

According to some reports, his widow and several medical experts do not accept this and believe he was intentionally beaten to death with the bulldozer accident being a cover-up.

Renz Women's Penitentiary

Location: Jefferson City, Missouri

Renz Women’s Penitentiary opened up in 1926 initially as a women’s prison but was first an asylum, before turning into a workhouse jail.

It flooded in 1993 – hardly surprising considering it was built right in the floodplain of the Missouri River – and was abandoned.

At the time, it housed between 500-550 female offenders and operated as a prison farm with inmates raising chickens and growing produce.

Today, rumors suggest it is used periodically as a training ground for armed forces with SWAT teams and possibly the military using the remains to practice tactical manoeuvres and Close Quarter Combat training.

Missouri State Penitentiary

Location: Jefferson City, Missouri

When this prison opened in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo was going on in Texas. Missouri's prison was 100 years old when Alcatraz started housing federal prisoners. In 1967, the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) was named the "bloodiest 47 acres in America" by Time magazine.

Before it closed in 2004, MSP was the oldest continually operating penitentiary west of the Mississippi River.

Today, tours showcase the history of MSP and the early penal eras in the U.S. Tours may include: the control center; the upper yard; cellblocks in housing units A (the oldest remaining cellblock on the grounds; built in 1868) and other housing units; the dungeon cells (where inmates often went mad); the industrial area; the exercise yard; and the gas chamber (where 40 inmates, men and women, were executed).

Imperial Brewery

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Built in 1902, Imperial Brewing Company Brewery is now an abandoned industrial site located in downtown Kansas City.

At the time, it could produce 50,000 barrels of beer per year. However, following Prohibition in the 1920s, the building transitioned into a flour mill.

It remained in operation through the 1980s, producing 1,200 barrels of flour per day, but now sits abandoned.

The building was certified by the National Historical Society in 2011.

Comments / 0

Published by

Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ

More from Peter Watson

Comments / 0