The Tallest Abandoned Structures on Earth

  • Today, we’re going to do some urban exploring as we’re searching for the tallest abandoned structures around the world. We’re going to visit Russia, North Korea, the US and Poland on our quest for the rustiest. Once found, we’re going to climb the towers and buildings, so make sure you leave your vertigo behind…

  • 1. Ostankino Tower, Moscow – 540 m (1772 ft)

    The Ostankino Tower in all its glory…

    The Ostankino Tower was completed in 1967 to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was the first free-standing structure to exceed 500 m (1640 ft) and held that title for nine years until it was surpassed by the CN Tower in Toronto in 1976. The Ostankino Tower is named after the Moscow district in which it is located.

  • The Ostankino Towerduring the fire in 2000…

    It served telecommunication, observation and tourism purposes until it caught fire in August of 2000, when most of the tower’s interior was destroyed.

  • …And a stomach-churning view down during construction

    Rebuilding the heavily damaged tower proved a long and costly task, meaning both the tower and the idea of renovation have been abandoned ever since.

  • 2. Ryugyong Hotel, North Korea – 105 floors, 330 m (1,100 ft)

    Not yet properly under construction in June 2007

    The Ryugyong Hotel was named after the historic name for Pyongyang, “capital of willows”, the district it can be found in. Unlike a willow and more like a pyramid that would be every skater’s dream, it towers over the city of Sojang-dong; the whole country in fact. Construction of the ambitious project began in 1987 as a response to Singapore’s Westin Stamford hotel built by a South Korean company the previous year.

  • Something’s going on: In February 2009

    Construction went on for five years but ceased due to lack of funds, electricity and building materials. It was abandoned for 16 years, but construction resumed in 2008 and the hotel is now being readied to open its doors in 2012 for the 100th anniversary of Kim II Sung’s birth. With 360,000 sq m (3,900,000 sq ft) of floor space and 105 stories, it would be the world’s tallest hotel. It is currently the world’s 28th tallest building.

  • 3. Mystery Tower, somewhere in Russia – around 300 m (1,000 ft)

    Where do you even hold on?

    The next tower is one of Russia’s tallest abandoned structures, but that’s pretty much all we know about it…

  • The tower when it’s not frozen over

    It certainly looks like a TV or radio tower, and someone without vertigo has made the climb up those icy steps to take some dizzying pics.

  • 4. PacBell Building, San Francisco – 26 floors, 133 m (435 ft)

    The PacBell Building rises behind SF’s MoMA

    Though almost 200 m shorter than the previous structure, the PacBell Building in San Francisco’s South of Market district can claim to be the world’s tallest abandoned skyscraper. It was completed in 1925 and housed the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph company, which is why it was called Pacific Telephone Building at first. Part of the Bell System, the company had bell motifs chiseled into its façade.

  • Faded glory: The auditorium’s waiting room on the 26th floor in sunset glow

    Renamed the PacBell Building after the breakup of the two big phone companies, the Neo-Gothic office tower was sold to investor William Meany Sullivan and Stockbridge Capital Partners in 2007 at the recession price of $118 million.

  • The PacBell eagles have kept a watch since 1925

    Though a request for a building permit was made in December 2008, no redevelopment has started yet.

  • 5. Gliwice Radio Tower, Poland – 118 m (385 ft)

    The radio tower today

    Radio Station Gliwice’s tower might not be the tallest abandoned structure mentioned here, but it has two records to its name: it is the only remaining radio tower constructed of wood in the world and the tallest wooden construction on earth.

  • Looking up at the wooden construction

    But that’s not all. The tower was completed in 1935, and with the impending Second World War, had a bit of a tumultuous history. It was used by the Nazis for broadcasting as Gliwice was a Prussian province until 1945 and therefore belonged to Germany. The Nazis even staged an attack on it by Polish soldiers as one of various border incidents on the night of August 31st, 1939 – an excuse for their invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, and a move that would start WWII, 70 years ago almost to the day.

    The radio tower, nicknamed Silesian Eiffel Tower for a resemblance in construction to its famous Parisian cousin, was used until the 1980s. Though not in service any more, the tower has served as a museum since 2005. Most other wooden radio towers, popular in the ‘30s, disappeared by the ‘50s.

  • 6. Broderick Tower, Detroit – 35 floors, 113m (369 ft)

    The Broderick Tower with a whale mural by local artist Wyland painted in 1997

    The David Broderick Tower in Detroit, Michigan is a Neo-classical and Beaux-Arts limestone skyscraper completed in 1928. It was commissioned by Theodore Eaton, an importer and trader in chemicals and dyes, and was initially known as the Eaton Tower.

  • A view from the 17th floor down

    The building was bought by David Broderick, an insurance broker, in 1945. Since Broderick’s death in 1957, the tower has changed ownership many times and closed completely in the 1980s. Except for bars or restaurants occupying the first floor, the building has been abandoned ever since. However, redevelopment has been underway and the tower is set to reopen in early 2010. Planned is a mall on the first four floors, office space on the two floors above and residential apartments on floors 5 through 34.

  • A view from Broderick’s once exclusive Sky Top Club on the 33rd floor

    Who would’ve thought that so many amazing towers and buildings would just get abandoned? If only we could put all that wasted space to use for where it is needed. Some of the buildings portrayed here are already under new contract while the others will be left to crumble.

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Simone Preuss
Simone Preuss
Scribol Staff
Anthropology and History
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