When most people think of ghost towns, they think of abandoned boom towns out in the Wild West-- but there are all kinds of ghost towns hidden across the East, South and Midwest. Places like Old Cahawba Archaeological Park in Alabama, Centralia (Ghost Town) in Pennsylvania, and more all have stories and memories, despite the fact that they've been abandoned and almost entirely forgotten. Batsto Village is tucked away in the Wharton State Forest of New Jersey-- and it turns up, it's one of the country's best preserved ghost towns!
The town's unusual name comes from the Swedish word for "bathing place", batstu. The town started with the Batsto Iron Works, built right on the Batsto River in 1766. Bog ore was abundant in the area, plus there was tons of wood that could be turned into charcoal to smelt the ore. Plus, as an added bonus, the river was harnessed for the making of iron. The Batsto Iron Works made its money crafting supplies for the American Continental Army during the Revolution, and also made cooking pots, kettles, and other household items. Eventually a little town sprung up around the Iron Works.
Around the mid-19th century, the iron industry began to tail off, and the town of Batsto went into glassmaking to keep going. Eventually, the glass business went under too, and the town of Batsto found itself in bankruptcy. In 1876, Batsto, along with lots of other property around the area was purchased by Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia businessman. He fixed up some of the buildings and improved a good deal of the land with forestry and agricultural projects, building, among other things, a cranberry farm and a sawmill.
When Wharton died in 1909, his properties were managed by a trust company in Philadelphia until the state of New Jersey purchased his land. The state allowed citizens to remain living there, and once the town was entirely vacated, began operating it as a historic site. Despite the fact that the last residents moved out in 1989, leaving the town abandoned, (imagine being the only family left in a creepy, old-school ghost town), the Post Office is still a working US postal office, and the Batsto-Pleasant Mills Episcopal Church still holds regular services.
Plus, you can tour the old buildings, which have been made to look as they did back in Batsto's prime; they've got a general store, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a gristmill (complete with sidewinder water turbine), an ice house (which was partially underground to keep things cool year-round), an iron furnace, and more! The mansion is particularly awesome to tour-- it's such a cool old building. Plus, the post office is one of the four oldest in the country. Pretty impressive, considering that Batsto doesn't even have a zip code!
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Header via Flickr/J.D. Thomas