Archive for October, 2016

Finish Your Popcorn – The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Posted: October 27, 2016 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cinema, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Drive-In, abandoned new england, Abandoned Theaters, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Cinema, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Mansfield, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Showcase Cinema, Stories, Theater, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Finish Your Popcorn

The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Cinema should make you forget that you are sitting in a theater.” -Roman Polanski

We have known the bustling town of Willimantic for many years now. When we were both in college, the town was like a second home to us. We did four years of university here; going to classes by day and enjoying the festivities of the town by night. Willimantic has always been a place full of life and light. It features an old school main street, many thriving businesses, and a rich local culture. Notable landmarks such as the Frog Bridge, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the Willimantic Brewing Company make it a surefire place to visit. But there is one place here that sticks out from the vibrant town around it. And that is the now defunct Willimantic Movieplex. Though it was once a staple of the local community, it is now an eyesore and a shadow of its former self. Today, it is simply used as a municipal parking lot for the local businesses. Sitting on a prime piece of real estate, the abandoned Willimantic Movieplex has had quite a history. But regrettably, its past is much more rich than its future.

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The Willimantic Movieplex was first opened during the heyday of the local community. Located right at the cross roads of both the historic Main Street and the nearby Route 66, the theater was in a prime position in downtown Willimantic. With no other movie theaters in the general area, it was very successful during its initial run. But as we all know, times change. And the movie industry is about as predictable as the weather. During the late 90’s/early 2000’s, attendance began to wane. Competition also sprouted up a few miles away with the new Mansfield Movieplex. Over the next few years, the ownership of the theater bounced back and forth like a game of hot potato. It closed and re-opened several times during this period, as multiple different owners tried to save the failing theater. Its final owners made a few minor renovations during 2004 in an attempt to recapture business. But it was never enough. The Willimantic Movieplex closed its doors for good in 2006. It has remained abandoned ever since.

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I honestly wish I could tell you there was more to see here. But sadly, there isn’t. Due to increasingly bad vandal activity and a large local homeless population, the doors to this place were completely sealed off. A large barrier blocks the front, which once featured two doorways and a small ticket window. Around the sides of the theater, all six of the emergency exit doors have been bolted shut. The paint on the walls is pealing off in droves. Vicious and nasty graffiti coats the exteriors. Discarded clothing, shopping carts, and other various pieces of trash are strewn about the ground. The once well groomed weeds and grass now grow wild and restless. But the theater itself sits quietly, waiting for the next entrepreneur to open her doors again and try to bring it back it life. But sadly, as each days passes, that seems to be less and less likely of ever happening. For the Willimantic Movieplex, it seems that the show is over. The tickets were purchased. The crowds filed in. The previews have played. And the movie has now ended. Roll credits. Finish your popcorn.

Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Destroy or Decay – The Abandoned Mansfield Training School

Posted: October 13, 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, Birds, Broken, Children, Children's Hospital, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, House, Information, left behind, lost, Mansfield, Mansfield Training School, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Seaside Sanatorium, Stories, Storrs, Sunrise Resort, UCONN, Uncategorized, Undercliff Sanatorium, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing, WWII
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Destroy or Decay

The Abandoned Mansfield Training School

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Decay, it’s a bit of a fickle word. Just the mention of it conjures up unsettling images of rot and decomposition. Destroy, do I really have to define this one? It’s a word we all know and maybe even use too much. But which is worse, to destroy or to decay? It is a question that many of our great abandoned wonders have faced over the years. Many local legends such as Sunrise Resort and Undercliff Sanatorium have been demolished. But others, such as the abandoned Mansfield Training School, have faced decay. Rather than being demolished it has merely been left to rot. Sure, certain precautions have been taken to shore up the property. But let’s be honest, we’re simply delaying the inevitable. Though many tall fences have gone up since our last visit, Mansfield Training School is continuing its slow decent into destruction.

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The facility was created following the merger of the institutions in both Lakeville and Mansfield, Connecticut during 1917. It was christened the Mansfield Training School and Hospital, a facility for the care of the intellectually disabled. They started off with a relatively small number of patients. Major events in history such as the Great Depression and World War II caused the population of patients to grow and become overcrowded. But during the sixties and seventies, regulations began to change, resulting in more staff and caregivers being provided. Some years later, patients began to be moved from the hospital to on-site cottages and group homes. Regrettably, while there were many stories of good and fair treatment of the patients, there were also several tragic ones. Under a pile of lawsuits, the facility was forced to close its doors in 1993. The property was then split amongst the University of Connecticut and the neighboring Bergin Correctional Institute.

In the waning days of Summer 2016 began to slowly fall off the calendar, like leaves from a tree, we made our return to the abandoned Mansfield Training School. Some places are just worth a second or even a third visit. And this is certainly one of them. Sitting on the far side of the Depot Campus of the University of Connecticut, the abandoned Mansfield Training School was as quiet as I remembered it. Just a short stroll from the hustle and bustle of the main campus, it is shocking how desolate this corner of the school feels. We did not come across a single soul on our walk through the former hospital quad. Just like our previous visit. The whole place felt like something out of a nightmare. Even though it lies in such close proximity to one of the largest and well known schools in the country, this place was as quiet as a tomb. The only signs of life were the scurrying families of squirrels darting for cover as we strolled through this abandoned wasteland.

While the atmosphere of the abandoned Mansfield Training School may not have changed at all since our last visit, the grounds themselves have taken a rather serious toll. Chain link fences have been installed around the infamous Knight Hospital and a few of the farther south buildings. The tunnels systems have all been dug up or filled in. But even worse, vandalism has taken a massive rise in the past year. Doors have been kicked open. Windows have been smashed. Access to these dark and dangerous places is as easy as it has ever been. And inside these former hospital buildings is like the edge of Hell. Around each corner lies more chaos and destruction. Though it is as quiet as death in here, the pain and the anguish that this place feels cannot be ignored. We’ve seen a few spooky things happen here, such as the fabled “Angel of the Asylum,” but today this place felt more haunted than ever. The Saint Mary Statue had been moved. Shadows crept in the corners of every room. And there was a strong presence to be felt.

And so I ask again, is it better to destroy or to decay? Over the years, there allegedly have been many different proposals to demolish these infamous grounds. But none have come to fruition. With the recent additions of the chain link fences, clearly someone wants to preserve this place. It is, in fact, listed as a Historical Landmark. But one would not likely be able to guess that after one look at the state of the Mansfield Training School. It has fallen quite a long way in just twenty odd years since its closure, mostly at the hands of vandals. To destroy it would cost the state millions of dollars, and be the end of a once beloved landmark. But to leave it to decay would be the same result, except for the number of years it would take to get there. Neither of them seem like good options, and seems that some have chosen to forget about the abandoned Mansfield Training School. But its still there. Everyday. Wondering. Waiting. Destroy or Decay? Destroy or Decay? Destroy or Decay?

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