Archive for September, 2016

Mountain Sound – The Ruins of the Aspinwall Hotel

Posted: September 29, 2016 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cabin, abandoned home, abandoned new england, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Berkshires, Birds, Broken, Closed, commercial, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Graveyard, Great Barrington, Haunting, Hiking, History, Information, left behind, lost, Massachusetts, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Mountain Sound

The Ruins of the Aspinwall Hotel

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

“It’s kind of strange, isn’t it? How the mountains pay us no attention at all. You laugh or you cry…the wind just keeps on blowing.” – Red Dawn (1984)

We’ve covered the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains on here before. It is one of our favorite places to visit in New England. And in fact, our piece on the abandoned Great Barrington Fairgrounds and the efforts tor revive it has been one of our most popular articles this year. It is place of wonder and beauty. It is home to the true spirit of New England. The sleepy little communities can be so peaceful, yet so alive at the same time. There has been quite a history up here in these mountains. Bridging between Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, this mountain range is one of New England’s best kept secrets. And frankly, its’ better that way. But amongst it lie a few places that many have forgotten. Lost amongst the woods and the memories of the community, one such place is the Aspinwall Hotel.

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The luxurious Aspinwall Hotel was built in the early nineteen hundreds by a wealthy businessman. Located in Lenox, Massachusetts, the hotel attracted guests from all over the world. It hit great prosperity over the years while being located in the heart of the picturesque Berkshire Mountains. Not even the Great Depression could slow down the popularity of the hotel, as it expanded to over 400 acres. But all of this wondrous success was to be short lived. Much like many great hotels of the era, the Aspinwall was struck down. But not by financial hard times, it was tragedy. In 1931, before the season had even begun, a great fire was started. Before help could even reach her, the once great hotel succumbed to the flames. She never rose again. The land was then sold off to the town of Lenox in 1956, and proclaimed a national park.

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To the untrained eye, this appears to be nothing more than a scenic recreational area. But if you look closely throughout the woods, the signs of the hotel are still here. It starts with rogue rock walls that look like they used to be apart of something larger. But as you continue down the trail, things get even more interesting. Old wells and fireplaces stand at random parts of the forest. Lamp posts can still be seen on a few trees. Large pieces of scrap metal lie amongst the brush. And in a few sections, massive stone foundations and pillars still stand. Old water piping can still be seen protruding from the earth. These are the last pieces of infrastructure from the former 400 room hotel. Though they are now covered with moss, they are some of the soul survivors from the vicious fire that claimed the Aspinwall Hotel so many years ago.

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This is more a piece for the hikers. Much like our previous installment, you will find no abandoned asylums or haunting structures here. It is a nice hike indeed, but hidden all over the woods are the ruins of this former New England hotspot. Take a walk off the beaten path in Kennedy Park, and you can find a place that few remember and even fewer still appreciate. Pale beams of sunlight peak through the gnarled trees. The earth is soft and fertile. The grass grows thick and green. And as the wind whispers through the undergrowth, the ghostly aura of the Aspinwall Hotel still haunts the woods. It is hard to believe at times that some one hundred years ago, this now wild woodland was one of the most popular and prestigious hotels in all of the region. But, as we all know, time is unforgiving beast. All of the pomp, circumstance, and grandeur is now gone. All that remains are the ruins.

Into the Cages

The Abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I have always hated seeing animals in cages, for as long as I can remember. Few things in life make me sadder than that. As a kid, I never liked going to the zoo or even the aquarium. Whereas most children found seeing the animals to be quite a fun and exciting experience, I felt only despair. Seeing what was once a wild animal trapped inside a cage always brought about feelings of sadness and anger. I can’t really explain it. I mean, not all cages are bad. Zoos aren’t the only ones to keep animals in cages. Animal shelters and rescue facilities keep their residents in cages, but for better reasons. Healing of injured animals or protecting endangered ones are a noble task indeed. But still, the thought of freedom being taken away is a dark one. And the image of cage can be a frightening one, especially when its been abandoned for many years.

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Our subject of this piece is a peculiar one: the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter in Farmington, Connecticut. It is a far cry from most of the pieces we have done on here. First established in the early 1930’s, the purpose of the shelter has varied over the years. The rustic log shelter that has since become its signature was originally designed and built by the historic Civilian Conservation Corps. It has ranged from being a roadside attraction to being a wildlife sanctuary. One of its nobler pursuits was being home for wildlife rehabilitation. The sanctuary was based in the Shade Swamp, and featured a variety of enclosures for injured wildlife. It sadly went under during the 1960’s, and has been more or less abandoned ever since. A stroke of luck, however, came in 1986 when the shelter was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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We made the trek to the abandoned shelter in the waning days of summer 2016. The heat was beginning to die down, and the first glimpses of the fall season were just sprouting up. Sitting alongside the heavily trafficked US 6 North, the Shade Swamp Shelter is not difficult to find. It is almost hard to believe what is hidden back there when you first see it. The area surrounding it is teaming with traffic, busy intersections, and office buildings. But here in the swamp, everything is quiet. Upon arrival, there is a small pull-up spot where a few cars can be parked. Luckily, we were the only visitors there that day. You are then greeted with the old structure of the shelter itself. Though it has clearly been taken care of, there is also sadly evidence of vandalism and a recent fire inside of it. Given its age though, I’d say she looks pretty good. But it is further down the trail that the true hidden gems of this place lie.

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A short walk down the winding and nearly overgrown nature trail, we found the cages. Rusted to all Hell and in varying ranges of decay, there are nearly two dozen large pen cages lining either side of the trail. The ones on the right side are smaller, and feature stone dens at the back. The ones on the left side are much larger and have blue painted exteriors. Off the beaten path there is one bigger enclosure that is far different from the others, and was in the worst shape. The rusty fence is still up in a few places, and a few gagged pieces of metal are still nailed to a few of the trees. Be careful where you step. The trail will lead you further into the swamp, but circles back in one big loop. After the cages, you will find a few old relic from the sanctuary’s heyday, but nothing truly of note. The strange aura and mystique of these large abandoned enclosures are enough of a sight to see. You can even set foot inside a few of them, if you are brave enough.

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What is it about cages that make them so unsettling? Is it the thought of being trapped with nowhere to hide? Or is it something more? Perhaps the very notion of that precious freedom that we all seem to take for granted being taken away is what makes them so unsettling. Anyhow, the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter is a great visit for anyone looking for a good hike and adventure seekers. There are no abandoned buildings or asylums here: just the remnants of a place long forgotten. It literally sits a few meager yards from a hustling and bustling community. But everything is silenced by the aura of the swamp. Chipmunks and birds roam freely here, making their homes into these old enclosures. Their world is seemingly untouched by ours out here. And though these cages now sit empty, they stand as a grim reminder of what was and what could have been.

Angel of the Asylum – The Mystery of Saint Mary

Posted: September 1, 2016 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, abandoned home, Abandoned Hospital, Abandoned House, abandoned new england, Abandoned Sanatorium, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Children's Hospital, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Information, left behind, lost, Mansfield, Mansfield Training School, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Seaside Sanatorium, Stories, Storrs, time, UCONN, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex
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Angel of the Asylum

The Mystery of Saint Mary

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

I honestly never thought I would be quoting the Bible on this blog. I am not a religious person, and frankly this is not a religious piece. It is just a story about something weird we encountered in our travels. Over the years, we have seen and experienced many strange things exploring abandoned places. Things like whispers in the dark, unsettling feelings, and random waves of energy have all come to pass. But this was one of the more special cases. It happened on a late summer afternoon. It was your typical lazy Sunday, and a day that we had decided to visit our old friend Mansfield Training School. Since we visit Seaside Sanatorium every summer, we thought it might be nice to document this abandoned hospital annually as well. But what we found that day was a bit strange. It could all just be harmless fun, but it was just a little too weird for my taste.

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Now, we have already done one piece on the abandoned Mansfield Training School. You can find it here on our site if you want to know more. We will also be putting out an entirely separate piece on our return visit in the coming weeks. This piece stands on it’s own. Rather than talking about the history of the abandoned hospital once again, we shall be covering something different; Saint Mary. As the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary is one of the most prominent and well known saints of the entire Christian faith. It is believed that the Virgin Mary bore the son of God, who would go on to die for our sins on the cross. Statues, paintings, and stained glass windows bearing her image can be seen today all over the world. She has also claimed to have been seen and involved in many “miraculous” incidents throughout history, many of which still go unexplained today. And this case is no exception.

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On our first visit to the abandoned Mansfield Training School one year prior, we had discovered a ghostly statue of Saint Mary in the basement of one of the buildings on the far east side of the complex. On this day, we found the exact same statue standing at the gates to a different building on the far west side. She had been moved. Whereas once she stood guard below ground, she was now warding off any intruders from entering this new building. And we did double check old photos and the building we first found her in: it is indeed the same statue. Odds are, some college kids from the neighboring UCONN moved her as a prank. But still, maybe something else was at work here. The grounds are known as paranormal hot spots, and hauntings are said to be a regular occurrence here. Is this just some silly prank? Or is there something more supernatural at work here?

Perhaps it’s all just a coincidence. But then again, perhaps it isn’t.