In the 1940s, the United States Army decided to build a massive ammunition manufacturing plant near Charlestown, Indiana. It would produce a few specific items, including rocket propellant, propellant charge bags, and, most notably, smokeless gunpowder. The news of the upcoming plant quickly spread, and people looking for work began flocking to the area.
Between 1940 and 1942, about 13,000 people moved to Charlestown and the surrounding area of the soon-to-be-completed ammunition plant.
Construction was completed in 1942, and the plant opened just in time for World War II. The newly formed town went crazy, and job opportunities exploded.
River Ridge became a neighborhood for high-ranking officials and their families on the grounds of the Ammunition Plant, and shops and amenities began to appear nearby.
During this time, the River Ridge Post Office saw a 300% increase in mail volume; the neighborhood soon had a baseball diamond, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, a pool, and other amenities. It was alive and kicking.
The Army Ammunition Complex had over 800 buildings at its peak, 17 of which were homes.
World War II and subsequent conflicts provided the plant with seemingly endless work. The Indiana Army Ammunition Plant employed literally tens of thousands of people during its most productive years.
The plant managed to stay in business for a long time after WWII, producing gunpowder for several international conflicts in which the United States was involved until the end of the Vietnam War.
After Vietnam, the plant’s output dropped dramatically. Layoffs began around that time, signaling the beginning of the end. It wasn’t going away without a fight, and many ideas for repurposing the plant were hatched over the years, though nothing ever came to fruition.
There were fewer than 1,000 employees left by 1987. The plant and the surrounding town were nearing the end of their lives.
River Ridge was slowly dying; families were leaving, and homes and businesses were closing their doors for good.
The US Army made the final decision to end production in August 1991. The call would forever change River Ridge’s fate.
Okay, so the abandonment of this once-thriving neighborhood wasn’t exactly “mysterious,”but it’s always strange to see flourishing homes and entire towns turn completely desolate in just a few years.
6,000 acres of plant grounds were formally transferred to the Clark County Reuse Authority in 1997 The remaining land, totaling approximately 4,000 acres, was donated to the Charlestown State Park.
Surprisingly, Charlestown State Park is also the location of an abandoned theme park, implying that River Ridge is not alone. The two long-forgotten locations aren’t far apart and make for a fascinating afternoon of exploration. It is critical to note that the structures that remain on these sites are not stable and should not be entered for any reason.
Click here for more information on the defunct theme park on the same grounds as River Ridge!
Have you been to this state park and the abandoned memories it contains? Let us know in the comments!