Visiting abandoned spaces and places is one of my favorite things to do. Fortunately, there are several spots in and near NYC where you can do just that! Here are six of my favorite abandoned places that you can actually visit without, you know, getting arrested for trespassing!
The 204-acre Welwyn Preserve can be found in Glen Cove, NY. It’s located at the site of the former Welwyn Estate, which was owned by oil industrialist Harold Pratt (son of oil magnate Charles Pratt, who was also the founder of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute). There were several Pratt children, all of whom had opulent homes on Long Island’s Gold Coast (several of which you can also visit!)
When Harold and his wife died, the Welwyn estate was gifted to Nassau Country who let several of the buildings and greenhouses on the grounds fall into disrepair. Today, though, they are a popular canvas for graffiti artists, and they also offer adventurers (like you and me!) a pretty cool place to wander for a day.
Welwyn Preserve: 100 Crescent Beach Rd, Glen Cove, NY 11542. Visitors are welcome to roam the grounds anytime during open hours.
Once upon a time, there was a place in Jamaica Bay called Barren Island, where NYC sent most of its trash for more than 80 years. It’s also where fish would be turned into fertilizer and dead horses would be dismembered and turned into glues and oils. Eventually, these not so delightful practices were stopped, and Barren Island was joined to mainland Brooklyn with landfill and “covered”.
However, the trash and debris weren’t covered very well, and nowadays you can walk along Glass Bottle Beach and discover treasures from more than 100 years ago (and a surprising number of horse bones!) that have been unearthed by the ever-changing tides.
Glass Bottle Beach and Dead Horse Bay: Enter the trail at the Rockaways-bound side of Flatbush Avenue where it meets Aviation Road. The beach is on public land, and you’re welcome to visit from dawn to dusk.
Built in 1904, the Old City Hall Subway Station was the crown jewel of NYC’s new subway system. When trains became larger, though, the small station could no longer accommodate them, and subway traffic was diverted to the nearby Brooklyn Bridge station.
Old City Hall Station was abandoned in 1945, and you can only see it today on a New York Transit Museum tour (or if you stay on the downtown 6 train when it makes its loop after Brooklyn Bridge to start heading back uptown again.) The arched ceilings were designed by Guastavino, and it’s by far the most beautiful subway station you’ll see in NYC (or possibly anywhere).
Old City Hall Subway Station: You can only access the station through New York Transit Museum tours, which are offered several times a year. You must be a museum member to purchase a ticket, and the next round of tickets goes on sale in January 2020.
Ellis Island was used as an immigration center for more than 60 years, and during that time, it was where millions of immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, not all of those immigrants arrived in good health, and they would need to spend some time in the island’s hospitals while they recovered. In some of the saddest cases, the hospital would be the only part of the U.S. they would ever see.
After Ellis Island closed, the hospitals were abandoned and left to deteriorate. Today, you can only visit them on special hard-hat tours, with the proceeds from your tour going to a nonprofit that is attempting to restore the old hospital buildings.
In the middle of the Hudson River near Beacon, NY is an old abandoned castle, called Bannerman Castle. It was not a castle in the sense that it was anyone’s home. Instead, it was used by a man named Francis Bannerman to store his massive inventory of weapons, gunpowder, and other generally explosive materials.
The castle was abandoned after Bannerman’s death but not until after a massive explosion, fire, and sunken ferry all occurred at the island. The castle and island were reopened to the public in the 1990s after the formation of the Bannerman Castle Trust. They offer tours departing from Newburgh and Cold Spring, and you can even do a kayak tour! Once on the island, be sure to stay in marked areas because there have been modern-day discoveries of unexploded ordinance!
Bannerman Castle: Catch a tour boat from Beacon, NY or Newburgh, NY. Go in the fall for peak leaf-peeping season!
The Execution Rocks Lighthouse is located in the Long Island Sound, between New Rochelle and Sands Point. Rumor has it that during the Revolutionary War, British soldiers used to chain colonial prisoners up to the rocks during low tide. When high tide would roll in, the prisoners wouldn’t be able to escape their chains and would consequently drown on the rocks.
The light was automated in 1997 and the lighthouse wasn’t maintained for quite some time. A nonprofit took it over in 2009 and they allow guests to tour and even spend the night on Execution Rocks!
Execution Rocks Lighthouse: Visit with a New York Adventure Club tour or by arranging an overnight with the nonprofit, Historically Significant Structures, Inc. Transportation to the island typically departs from Port Washington, NY.