Ghost towns are often described in terms of “what was” or “what could have been.” During their heydays, these once-booming places were often filled with both people and hope. Today, they are decaying shells of promise and prosperity. They can be haunting, sad, exciting—sometimes perfectly preserved time capsules.
America is home to a plethora of mining and frontier boomtowns, whose heydays only exist in memory. In Drummond, Montana, one of the last remaining vestiges of the region’s Gold Rush stands frozen in time, while in the middle of the Mojave, a former silver mining town creates a picturesque setting amid a desert landscape.
However, not all of these settlements were built by those looking to strike it rich. A few were established by Black Americans as safe havens from discrimination, where the American Dream could become a reality. From the Alaskan coast to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, here are a couple dozen of America’s best preserved ghost towns.