“Gateways to the World” can have many meanings, from incredible structures and global cities to transportation hubs and wonders of industrial progress. But a gateway can also refer to something – a building, place or even an idea – that played a role in shaping the world we live in today. In this article, we explore six incredible abandonments that each contributed to, or were inspired by, the progress of our society before fading into obscurity.
Travel and adventure have been part of human history since the dawn of civilization, but it wasn’t until the advent of large merchant vessels that the world truly opened up to the masses – even if it meant never seeing home again. Shipyards such as Harland and Wolff in Belfast and Swan Hunter at Wallsend, UK, not only built some of the most famous ocean liners in history, they were also vast operations within a booming industry that has all but vanished from modern Britain.
Abandoned Factories and Car Plants, Detroit
Detroit‘s booming automobile industry not only earned it the nickname “Motor City”, but also helped develop its reputation as the “Paris of the West”, an architectural jewel in America’s crown and at one time the fourth largest US city. Fast forward several decades and Detroit has become one of the worst examples of urban decay and decline in the western world. While the city has clung to some of its grand buildings, many have been demolished and many of the factories and car plants that fueled Detroit’s boom lie in ruins.
The Crystal Palace, London
Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, The Crystal Palace was a 990,000 square foot structure made from cast iron and plate-glass – a new invention which allowed for clear walls and ceilings and thus no internal lights, earning the building its name. Housing 14,000 exhibitors from around the world and displaying the best technology the Industrial Revolution had to offer, the magnificant structure first stood in Hyde Park but was later moved to Sydenham Hill, where it attracted thousands of visitors before being destroyed by fire in 1936. The grassy site of Crystal Palace is evident today.
Abandoned International Airports
Ships may have played a major role in commercial transportation over the centuries, but it was the advent of air travel that really made far flung corners of the world accessible, albeit initially to wealthier members of society. As more people could afford to fly, airports were built to accommodate the growing demand. But even large international hubs, such as Hong Kong’s Kai Tak, sometimes fail to cope with volume and have to be abandoned in favour of new designs. Others, like Nicosia Airport, are abandoned for other reasons.
Abandoned Railway Stations
Railways grew rapidly from their humble origins to enable large numbers of people and freight to be transported vast distances, relatively quickly and safely. A product of the Industrial Revolution, they played a major role in expanding the British Empire as well as those of other countries also. Competing railway companies built grand stations in a bid to gain customers, but changing times, the advent of aviation and nationalization meant the death nail for many railway stations.
Abandoned Cinemas and Movie Theaters
Cinemas and movie theaters revolutionized the world, bringing moving pictures – initially silent – to the screens of vast downtown picture palaces and small neighbourhood theatres. Many older variety theatres and opera houses were converted to meet the needs of the modern audience, and all manner of architectural styles from classical to Art Deco were integrated into their architecture. But the advent of television led to the closure of many smaller cinemas, with massive modern multiplexes catering to modern needs. Many picture palaces have since been demolished, while others are simply abandoned, their auditoriums eerily silent.