Out of Business

The Abandoned Buildings of Route 85

 By: Sean and Amanda

Growing up in the Hebron area, I had driven down and along Route 85 for as long as I can remember. It is a stretch of road that we would always take to get from Hebron to Colchester or vice versa. It could be busy, at times. But other times it felt like any other road, running between a few sleepy little Connecticut towns a lot of people have never heard of. But this road is more than meets the eye. Much like most towns in the world, the communities along Route 85 have not gone unscathed from economic downturn. Over the years, we have seen several well-known and beloved businesses fall under hard times. Owners of these establishments closed up shop, and the buildings themselves were left at the mercy of the elements. On a cold November day, we decided to pay a visit to a few of these forgotten places.

Commonly used as a route for commuters and travelers between the cities of Hartford and New London, Route 85 is a state highway. Though we have often traveled it on our adventures to get to and from Hebron or Colchester, it actually runs from the northern town of Bolton all the way south to the city of New London. Originally established during the nineteenth century, Route 85 has been a commonly used highway in the state of Connecticut. It has had an assortment of different names over the last hundred or so years, but was officially christened Route 85 during 1932. Though it is kind of a small town road, Route 85 has junctions to major highways including I-95, I-384, and US-44. We were on our way to visit three abandoned buildings located along the more rural part of the route between Hebron and Colchester.

On our trip to Route 85, we parked at the local lot for the Airline Trail State Park. Arguably the biggest and most popular walking site in Connecticut, the trail runs all over the state. We have used it several times during our investigations. Ironically, it was a formerly abandoned railway track that was acquired by the state and turned into hiking trails. The three buildings that we were investigating that day were all within a short walk from each other. They included a former mechanic’s garage, an abandoned antique warehouse, and the beloved Route 85 Lumber yard. Believe it or not, the fabled and familiar site of Camp Connecticut was merely a few miles from us. See our write up on the legendary site here. Since it was a weekend, there was heavy traffic both on the trail and Route 85 itself.

The first place that we visited was the abandoned garage. Directly across from the Airline Trail State Park parking lot, this building was the oldest of the three and in the greatest state of disrepair. The roof had completely caved in over half of the building, and the entire back wall had been demolished on the other half. Most of the windows had been smashed and there was quite a bit of liter. It was only one floor. There was a section that appeared to be the office and then three garage bays. Though there was no recognizable sign left to distinguish the name of this former business, we did find a few old racing team signs on the ground. Lots of old tires, broken glass, and even an old sink were strewn about outside of the garage. Inside, we found quite a bit of evidence that some sort of large animal, more than likely a pack of stray dogs, has been living inside.

The second place that we visited was a quick walk down the road. It was formerly used as a warehouse antique business. A place that my parents used to shop at, it had only been abandoned for the last fifteen years or so. Since the building was made of brick, it was in relatively good shape aside from the forest of vines and vegetation growing around its sides. Though the one of the side doors was completely missing, most of the windows were still intact. Inside, the warehouse was in remarkably good shape. It was four floors and a basement, each floor has a solid metal staircase leading up to the next. A fire escape was also on the fourth floor. We also found what appeared to be evidence of people still living inside. Even though Hebron is not known for its homeless population, we found a few makeshift beds and a still functioning sink. This was not surprising due to the good condition of the inside, but it was only the second time we have ever found people to still be living in an abandoned place. For this reason, we did not stay very long

Our third and final stop for our investigation was Route 85 Lumber. One of the longest running and most memorable small businesses in the town of Hebron, Route 85 Lumber were known to employ a lot of students from the nearby high school and donate materials for local Eagle Scout projects. It sadly went out of business in 2009. Though it is heavily protected, it now sits empty along Route 85. The office is guarded by security cameras and the doors are all heavily locked up. The lumber yard itself is surrounded by a very tall chain link fence with barbed wire around the top, keeping out any unwanted visitors. Though there was not much to see here, we did see a “For Sale” sign out front with a “Sold” sign placed below it. This was potentially good news for this former small business, as it may become the first abandoned place we have visited to come back.

It is good to see that there is hope for one of these sites. We would like to see it make a comeback. The other two, however, may simply be too far gone. They now serve a different purpose; homes to strays and squatters. Though they were once flourishing businesses, many see them now as nothing more than big eyesores. These three sites now sit alone, silently watching the busy traffic of Route 85 pass them by.

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