For Roads Untraveled

The Abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange

Written by: Sean

Photographs by: Amanda

Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for paths left lone.

‘Cause beyond every bend is a long blinding end.

Its the worst kind of pain I’ve known.”

I could not get this song out of my head as we walked through the abandoned wasteland. We have seen and explored many places across New England in our time. But this one was truly breathtaking. It was like being in another dimension, so close yet so far from civilization. With every step I was expecting this place to just magically come back to life. It is place where time seems to stand still, waiting for man to return to it. We had heard many legends and stories about this place over the years. And with recent rumors of it being redeveloped, we figured it was finally time for us to pay a visit to the abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange.

Connecticut is, and probably always will be, my home. But I can honestly say that it is a place that is no stranger to lucrative, and ultimately foolish, design projects. This is not the first abandoned stretch of highway we have come across, and it probably won’t be the last. With the project originally launching in the 1960’s, it was planned to extend Route 9 North and allegedly connect 291 with the city of Hartford (we have read conflicting information). Things came to a sudden halt in 1973, however, over complications with the local reservoirs in West Hartford. The interchange has lain dormant ever since, trafficked now only by vandals and pigeons.

  Not one NO TRESPASSING sign or anything of the sort was here. The fences were all open or simply taken down. But curiously, the grass and vegetation is definitely being cut and maintained.  There was also plenty of evidence that vehicles have been riding up and down this stretch very recently. Someone has clearly been keeping an eye on this place. Graffiti has been spray painted all over the barren wasteland.  It is deathly silent, except for the faint chorus of the summer bugs. The great steel and concrete bridges show no sign of decay. Farther down the road, the busy I-84 runs like a roaring river below the abandoned interchange.

Finally visiting the abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange was haunting. It is one of those few special places that is a true representation of what life after people looks like. Though there are rumors of revival, and clearly somebody is maintaining it, this place remains nothing more than a broken road.  It is sad to see this industrial titan standing silent and alone, so close to completion. Who knows how much it cost the people of Connecticut. It stands as a grim reminder of a big mistake. Even now as I sit here at my desk writing this reflection, the haunting tune of my favorite Linkin Park song still rings in my head.

“Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for sights unseen.

May your love never end and if you need a friend,

there’s a seat here along side me.”

Fallen Attraction

The Abandoned Gillette Castle Railroad

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

In the absence of light, darkness prevails. When there is no heat, there is only cold. And without love, there is nothing left but despair. It’s funny because Gillette Castle, along with Hublien Tower, was one of my favorite places to visit when I was a kid. A short half-hour drive away, it was one of those magical places to visit and get ice cream at during the heydays of summertime. With its winding trails and classical feel, it truly is a sight to see. I honestly believed I had hiked every inch of this park. But I was wrong. Lost deep in the woods and along the rocky banks of the Connecticut River is the fallen attraction of this fabled place – The Gillette Castle Railroad.

Located in picturesque East Haddam, Connecticut, Gillette Castle was the luxurious and mystical castle of prolific actor William Gillette. With no children to leave his estate to, Gillette left the grounds to the state of Connecticut after his passing. Today it is enjoyed by many for its hiking and wonderful view of the Connecticut River. But unbeknownst to most, myself included for a time, is that there once stood a railroad around the estate. Though it was a small train, which can now be viewed at the Visitor’s Center, tracks once covered the entire grounds to carry visitors from place to place. When it was originally sold off, most of the tracks were ripped up and the old railroad disappeared…but not completely.

We made our trip to Gillette Castle on one of the final weekends of summertime 2017. The park was just as lively as I had remembered it. But far down one of the quieter sides of the grounds lie the remains of the railroad. An old bridge has been closed down for being unstable. Another has collapsed into the underbrush. Far down the cliffs by the roaring Connecticut River stand several old pieces of track and framework. Old rusty barrels rot into the fertile forest floor. But the star of the show is by far the old tunnel. Though it may not run as long as we had hoped, inside is pure unadulterated darkness. With its entrance nearly lost to the woods around it, its certainly a fun little walk through.

A special shout-out of this piece goes to our reader who called himself “Mike.” A few weeks ago, he contacted us with several suggestions of places to visit in his area including the Gillette Castle Railroad. And this place really didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, we really don’t get as much fan interaction as we would like. And we love it when people tell us their stories or suggest places for us to explore. It makes this hobby just a little bit more fun and meaningful. I wish that I had been able to see this railroad during its heyday, but alas, it is no more. Though this is more of a hiking piece, the old train tunnel really is pretty cool. And just as this place was highly recommended for us to visit, I encourage you to do the same.

Welcome Home

The Abandoned Marlborough Commons

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Marlborough, Connecticut, is and always will be my home at heart. I grew up here. I spent my entire childhood and young adult life here. I know this town like no other, especially growing up in the time where kids used their bikes to get everywhere. But as much as I love this little town, so many things have changed about it. Many of the smaller local businesses are no more. Construction is underway on a large supermarket. And many of the people I once knew have moved on. It is simply the way of life. We have covered the abandoned Marlborough Commons shopping center in the past. But several years later, it has taken a grim turn for the worse.

 A mere stone’s throw from the now hustling and bustling center of town lies the now abandoned Marlborough Commons. I can’t tell you exactly what year it officially went under, but I do know that this place never quite picked up traction as a local business. Maybe it was their location, sitting pretty right off the entrance/exit ramp from Route 2. From what I remember, it was always a two-floor business complex with the restaurant a bit further down the lot. Many different establishments came and went from here, none sticking around for too long. The complex limped on as long as it could, and has now sat empty and deserted for almost ten long years.

On a beautiful summer day in 2017, we decided to pay the Marlborough Commons a visit. Though it is still listed as FOR SALE, we did not encounter a single NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT, or PRIVATE PROPERTY sign anywhere on the property. Since the almost three years since our last visit, the Commons has certainly entered a downward spiral. The once minimal vandalism has run rampant at this former shopping center. Windows have been smashed. Doors have been boarded up. Graffiti stains the old brick walls. Farther down the lot, the old cafe is slowly being engulfed by the wild and hungry vegetation.  Nature, much like the vandals, has struck back in a big way.

They say the older we get, the more things we have to leave behind. That’s life. And as my old hometown grows and grows, places like the Marlborough Commons seemingly get left behind. Most of the old businesses I grew up with are now gone. It is sad to see what was once a cornerstone of our local community now sitting in a state of such disrepair. But like I said, a big FOR SALE sign sits out front. The Marlborough Commons is not beyond salvageable yet. I hope to see her rise again someday, stranger things have happened. And if I’ve learned anything growing up in this lovable little community, it’s that you can never count the town of Marlborough out.

My Sweet Summer

The Abandoned Case Cabin

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

What is it about summer time that makes it so magical? To me, it always seems like the shortest season. When I was a kid, August was my least favorite month of the year. And it was because the shadow of September and the dread of going back to school made it so hard to enjoy anything. But July, that was always the best. Vacations. Ice cream. The beach. Hiking. All the best summer memories come from July. And yet it always feels like the shortest month of the year. You had no worries about school, or homework. All that mattered was having fun. But I guess that’s just the brevity of human existence. Enjoy what you can while you can, because time stands still for no man. And few places we have ever visited have experienced such an extreme fall from grace as the once adored now abandoned Case Cabin.

In 1862, two brothers of the well-known Case family purchased two acres around the beautiful Case Reservoir in Manchester, Connecticut, and this is where they built their summer home. The Case family were successful industrialists from the area who owned and operated multiple factories and processing plants. The exquisite log cabin was first built in 1917 using sturdy chestnut wood from the neighboring forests. Throughout the early twentieth century, this place was the vacation paradise of the wealthy Case family. But much like the summer beauty, the prestige of this wondrous place eventually waned. The prestige of the family slowly came to end, and the summer home was eventually left behind.

We have visited Case Cabin many times over the years. And with each passing visit, the magic of the grounds disappears ever so slightly. And this was the visit for us where the most changes had been made to the grounds. There was a time where there were no fences, security systems, and renovations. The back and side decks were once accessible, now removed from existence. The entire back house has even been demolished at this point, leaving only a bare foundation of stone walls and broken memories. While a family of chubby bunnies now happily resides within the perimeter, the entire Case Cabin has been sealed off by a chain link fence. A few yards away, the boat house still stands. An old swimming ladder still pokes out of the nearby pond.

Much like the passing days of summer, the time for Case Cabin seems to be sadly drawing to a close. Though she was once enjoyed by the local high society, today she is nothing more than a withering spirit. She is lost to the slow decay of time, at the mercy of the unstoppable sands of the hourglass. But that’s what makes places like this, and summer itself, enjoyable. We know that our time is short, which is what drives us to make the best and most out of each moment. She once had a flourishing history and pedigree. But those days are gone. The sun is slowly setting on this once wondrous and wealthy place. Case Cabin will inevitably be gone someday. But the memories will always be with us.

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” -Troy (2004)

Mansions of Memory

The Abandoned Elmcrest Hospital

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

We’ve explored many different abandoned hospitals in our time. Each one has had their own special little details that make them unique. Undercliff Sanatorium, before her demolition, was full of darkness and danger. Seaside Sanatorium is both captivatingly beautiful and hauntingly tragic. Mansfield Training School is its own Twilight Zone dimension in the middle of a bustling campus community. But today’s subject is a little different. Her name is Elmcrest Hospital, and she is bit more peculiar than most. With a much more intimate setting and a much less trouble past, Elmcrest Hospital stands in a class all her own. Though her future is uncertain, her halls are still full of memory.

 Unlike the other facilities that we listed earlier, Elmcrest Hospital was a private psychiatric treatment center. Opening in the early 1940’s, Elmcrest was established by uniting four mansions together in Portland, Connecticut, to form the facility. For decades Elmcrest Hospital went about its business, serving a small number of patients. In 1997, it was then purchased by the larger Saint Francis Hospital. This is where things took a turn for the worse, a patiently tragically died a year later following an accident. Under increased scrutiny, ownership was transferred to Hartford Hospital shortly after before the grounds closed all together in 2006.

Though many redevelopment proposals have come up, the grounds still remain empty. Visiting Elmcrest Hospital was a bit of a challenge. Lying smack dab on a very busy intersection and featuring some nosy neighbors, we weren’t able to stay very long. Unfortunately, there was not much to see here anyway. The buildings are all boarded up, some even coated in a thicket of vegetation. But what we were able to see was far different from all other abandoned hospitals we have visited. There were no feelings of dread or despair here. There was no graffiti or vandalism. This place did not feel haunted at all. It almost felt hopeful, like it wasn’t ready to give up.

Elmcrest Hospital has no dark secrets, that we know of. This is one of the rare, positive pieces you will find on this site. This place was not creepy or haunting. It was tragic. It was a unique facility and staple of the local community. Talks of demolition or redevelopment have come and gone over the years, but Elmcrest still stands. There is a local movement currently working towards the preservation of Elmcrest – https://www.elmcrestportlandct.com/ – and its good to see people still invested in this place. The grounds have their own unique mystique about them, and it would be shame to see these old mansions of memory fall.

Imaginary Monsters

The Abandoned Downs Road

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Our imaginations can be fickle things. Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us. Sometimes we can play tricks on our minds. Is it the truth of the mind or the truth of the eyes that can be trusted most? There is a place where the two find a strange sort of middle ground: where both reality and fantasy become one strange amalgamation. The woods of Bethany, Connecticut, are certainly one of the most haunting forests I have ever trekked through. And I was an Eagle Scout. Nestled deep within their fiery core lies a place that time seems to have forgotten. It is a place that has seen more myths and stories pop up about it than any other abandoned place we’ve visited – Downs Road.

There really isn’t much to say about the history of Downs Road. It is a wooded stretch of road that once connected the towns of Bethany and Hamden, Connecticut. But some hundred years ago, a bypass occurred that left a fraction of the road abandoned. Since then, it has become a mythical breeding ground of rumors, urban legends, and haunting. Stories of ghosts, monsters, and all sorts of paranormal madness have been told over the years. Some say they have seen ghosts and other spirits haunting the forest. Others claim to have encountered a wild feral group of humans. It is unclear how or why all of these stories came to be. But clearly people are seeing and/or experiencing something on this lost lonely road.

We made the trek to Downs Road during the early days of Summer 2017. A fierce and torrential rain had just subsided, giving way to clear blue skies. We parked at the Bethany end of the road, greeted by several old stop signs and a yellow gate. The property is apparently owned by the local water company, but we did not find any NO TRESPASSING signs along the road. A walk down it is like a walk into a dreamland. A mere few steps along the path plunges you into a peacefully lively forest. The road is paved at certain points, yet mostly rubble at others. Running alongside it are many old crumbling foundations from days long since passed. The mysterious woods run wild as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes our eyes see what we want them to see. As I passed through the abandoned Downs Road, I could not shake the feeling that I was being watched. Shadows darted around the corners of the tall trees. Though only a short distance from civilization, the forest is as quiet as a tomb. And while we encountered no monsters on our trip, there is certainly a foreboding presence about this place.  I’m not sure what people are seeing out here in these mysterious woods. But it is undeniable that there is some sort of mystique about this place that separates it from all others. Maybe all the legends and stories just give it a bad rep. Or maybe it is something more…

 

Days Gone By

The Abandoned Car Graveyard

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

We’ve been covering a lot of outdoor stuff recently. But hell, with the weather having been so nice lately, and after a really shitty winter, why not? This place has always been one of my favorites to visit. And before you ask, no we will not be revealing the location of it. People have inquired to us in the past about finding it so in an attempt to scavenge metal and parts from the wrecks. So in an effort to preserve them, we will regrettably not be saying how to find this graveyard. Apologies. But what I can tell you is that it rests alongside the banks of a quiet river on the far reaches of the state. It is quiet as a tomb, and almost entirely untouched by the hands of man.

To the untrained eye, this is merely a quiet wooded area. The only sounds are the faint chirping of the birds and the ambiance of the running river. Unfortunately these woods were also full of ticks. We pulled twelve of those little suckers off us combined. But past the old broken bridge and up the wooded pass lies the most unique graveyard I have ever seen. In place of a line of tombstones, the wrecks of a half dozen classic cars and trucks lie deteriorating into the forest floor. Snakes roam about their interiors. Frightened families of mice roost in their rusted roofs. And these once priceless beauties are now nothing more than piles of junk.

 I have tried to find information about the history or story of this graveyard, but have yet to uncover anything. If anyone has any information, we’d be happy to hear it. How did these old cars get here? The road and any nearby homes are in fact a good distance away. Who did they belong to? Surely someone a long time ago must have once cared for these old wrecks. What strange chain of events led them to their current state? It’s not everyday you see a graveyard of old cars. In good condition, some of these may have been worth a fortune today. In the days gone by, they were once beloved and reliable machines. But now they rot in pieces in a forgotten section of the wild woods.

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” -Ecclesiastes 1:4-11