Archive for the ‘fire’ Category

Feeding the Birds

The Abandoned Batterson Park

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Last September, we finally moved out of the city. It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Not just because of Covid, or the ever increasing crime rate. I just really missed the woods. I missed looking out my front door and seeing trees. I missed waking up to the sounds of birds singing. I missed looking up at the stars on dark nights. You get none of that in the city. One thing we started doing again was feeding the birds. In the city, you basically get the same batch of shrewd little birds day in and day out. But we thought, now that we’re out in the country, we might finally get some interesting avian visitors. But we were wrong. For the first few weeks, that is. We bought our bird seed. We set up our feeder. And we waited. But nobody came. The feeder stayed quiet for days on end. No birds would even come near it. Until one day a large redheaded woodpecker, whom I have come to call The Harbinger, showed up. He came from the woods in our backyard, as if driven by some otherworldly force. He ate from the feeder until he nearly burst. When he was finished, he perched himself up on the railing of our deck, and began to sing. His calls pierced through the trees and echoed through the forest. And before long, birds of all shapes and sizes began flocking to the feeder. All at once. They had heard the call, and they had come to feed.

Allow me to introduce the subject of our June article: the abandoned Batterson Park. This is another one that I have had my eye on for a long time and one that no other major explorers have covered. I have always been a sucker for abandoned parks. There’s just something really special about them and the stories of how they got this way. It’s just fascinating how a place like this eventually fades away from thought and time. Even after being enjoyed by so many for so long. First established in the early twentieth century, Batterson Park was created from land once designated as a reservoir. It is unique in that it covers three different towns. Though the park is officially under the Hartford system, it actually exists outside of the city limits. The landmass of the park stretches across parts of Farmington and New Britain. It is all centered around the large and aptly named Batterson Park Pond. But this uniqueness would eventually lead to the park’s downfall. For many years, the towns that Batterson Park belonged to were never able to reach a deal on who would be paying to maintain the park and its amenities. In the fall of 2015, the park was forced to close its doors for good due to budget cuts. It has remained shuttered and forgotten ever since. Many deals and sales have been proposed over the years, but nothing has yet to come to fruition.

As I mentioned to you earlier, this place had been on my radar for awhile. We just never quite had the time to check it out. But, since it’s just about summertime, we were in the market for some new shoes. And let me tell you, there is no better place for explorer shoes than REI in West Hartford. No, we aren’t getting paid to say that. They’re just that good. Check them out if your outdoorsy. Since it was a nice day, after shoe shopping, we decided to take a stop at the nearby abandoned Batterson Park. It is a quiet section of town. And arriving at the deserted park is a little perplexing. The gate is down. But there are several heavily trafficked paths around it. There are signs up saying that the park has been closed. But then there are other signs welcoming you to the park and listing its hours. Mixed messages. No matter. Sitting right alongside the beautiful Batterson Pond, the park is easily accessible. We weren’t too sure about being there at first, but after running into a few other young adults with their dogs, our worries were laid to rest. The abandoned park may be on the small side, but there is also quite a lot to see. Walking through the old gates, you are immediately greeted by a rotting sign. It lists the admission prices to the park from days long since past. My how times have changed. And as we continued down the road, things just got more interesting.

Things are quiet. Very quiet. There has clearly been some fire damage here, as one building near the entrance has been completely burned out. Most of the other buildings have been boarded up, but a few can still be accessed. Inside you will find nothing but old equipment and lots of chairs. The beach’s dock is still floating in the waters of the pond. Several old lifeguard chairs rot off to the side. A maintenance shed sits wide open, and it is full of old disused equipment. A basketball court and pavilion are slowly being overgrown. Forgotten grills and fire pits still stand amongst the brush. The main boathouse curiously still has a few boats under its roof, but they appear to be in good condition. Let’s keep it that way. Perhaps they are just being stored there. But the main star attraction, and the whole reason I am writing this article, is the sea of picnic tables. A little way’s down the main path, there are dozens of derelict picnic tables standing in formation. Their green paint is slowly peeling. Bushes and vegetation is engulfing them. And combined with the dead silence of the old park, they provide a very eerie spectacle to behold. They truly encapsulated the sad story of the abandoned park. A place that was once designed for recreation and fun, now lies empty and cold. The memories stacked up and locked away like these ghostly old picnic tables.

The abandoned Batterson Park was certainly a unique visit. Though there was not too much to see here, the silent army of forgotten picnic tables really provided a haunting window into this place’s long lost past. Plus the park appears to be relatively untouched by the outside world. For now, that is. Who knows what the future holds. It reminded me very much of our bird feeder when we first moved in. You see, we urban explorers are like the wild birds. When one of us finds something good, they usually let out a song of their own to beckon others to come get a taste. And though I do not consider myself The Harbinger, I know that by posting this article, many other explorers will soon be coming to take a look at Batterson Park. And one of the most interesting things I have noticed from feeding the birds is that there are two types of visitors. First, there is the Chickadee. They are beautiful yet simple birds. They come to the feeder, eat their share of food, and then sing a small song before flying off. But then, there is the Grackle. They are obnoxious and disruptive. They scare away the other birds, eat more than their share, and usually knock over our whole feeder. Ruining things for everyone. Most of you reading this, I know, will be quiet and respectful. Like the Chickadees. Some, however, will be loud and destructive. Like the Grackles. Which will you be?

Before the Fall – The Abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill

Posted: September 30, 2020 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned mill, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Railway, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned train station, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, paper mill, photography, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Stories, Trains, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Before the Fall

The Abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It has begun. The leaves are starting to turn orange and yellow. The skies grow grey. The days are turning darker. The hour is growing very late, indeed. Summer has come and passed. Fall is here. Scary movies are popping up on television. Pumpkins are appearing on everyone’s front porch. The morning dew is now a ghostly frost. It is the changing of the seasons. This article is a little later than we usually post. And for that I apologize. This has been one of the busiest months we’ve had in a very long time. But that is a story for another time. And due to a recent job change for Lassie, we won’t be leaving our home state for the rest of the season. So upstage, Connecticut. It is your time shine once again. We’ve been playing it safe for the last few months due to global pandemic. We’ve mostly covered old relics of the past that have been lost in the woods. But with the turning of the tide, we decided that now was the time to do some real urban exploring. This was no ordinary hike. This was us putting ourselves right back into the thick of it. Into some real danger. And little did we know, but we were in for a bit of an adventure.

This is another one of those places that I have yet to find an actual name for. I’ve done a lot of research, but it has been inconclusive. If anyone reading this has any information, please do share it with us. So, for now, we shall be calling this place the Willimantic Thread Mill. You see, the town of Willimantic used to be known as “Thread City.” It was one of the mill capitals of New England. There were over half a dozen prosperous mills operating in the town at the turn of the century, all working on textiles. They provided jobs and sustenance for the entire local community. But this time of great success was not meant to last. It never is. As time marched on, the American economy began to shift from a manufacturing one to a service one. One by one, the great mills of Thread City shuttered their doors. Many rose again as apartment buildings or municipal offices. One was tragically lost to a great fire long ago. But another was lost to the woods. Cut off from the rest of the community by trees and train tracks, this old industrial titan has now become a black hole. This is our story of visiting the lost thread mill of Willimantic.

If you are a follower of our blog, you should know that we have covered many places here in Willimantic before. From the railway, to the theater, to the Bridge of Death, we have come to know this town quite well. You see, this place has been on our radar for a while now. It was first described to me by an old friend as a train station for the old railway. Considering its proximity to the train tracks, this always made sense to me. But a little more digging showed this to not be the case. Since we were now confined to finishing off our year here in the Nutmeg State, we decided it was finally the time to search out this old monster. Though we were now in the first official week of Fall, it was still bloody humid out. The sweetness of summer hadn’t quite given up yet. It was a Sunday, after a long typical week here in the Hellscape of 2020. We mapped out our location. We found a place to park. We trekked alone down the train tracks, like wandering vagabonds. Not really knowing what we were going to find out here in the woods. Until we took a heavily used trail, and wound up somewhere we clearly weren’t supposed to be.

It was a tent city for the local homeless population. They are living in the ruins of an old mill that burned to the ground long ago. We should’ve known, seeing there were several old mountain bikes and bags of trash strung up in the trees. Like warning signs. We quickly took what pictures we could and got the Hell out of there. These communities usually don’t like visitors. We continued on none the less. And it was here that things really fell silent. Continuing along the train tracks, we eventually crossed through the old gates and onto the grounds of the old mill. It’s hard to tell how big this place was, given how overgrown the underbrush is. It is held together by an amalgamation of brick, wood, and metal. We slipped inside via the old loading dock. Graffiti is everywhere. Trash coats the ground. Archaic machinery rots into oblivion. There are several large gaping rooms, but they are filled only with debris. The once ornate roof has even caved in in a few spots. But the main attraction of the old mill is the elevator shaft, which really didn’t disappoint. You can look straight up through the old machinery and into the grim grey sky. We then began to hear a dog barking very close by, followed by some footsteps. It was time to leave once again.

We both got really bad vibes from this place. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the tent city. Maybe we were just having an off day. Maybe we were feeling a tad rusty. But the abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill is certainly creepy. Funny enough, it’s always the mills that give us the creeps. Perhaps that’s because it’s always the mills that have squatters. Union Pond. Talcotville. Montgomery. We are no strangers to this sort of thing. We’ve been doing this a long time. But like I said earlier, this was our first taste of real urban exploration in awhile. Most of the places we’ve been covering lacked the old school danger feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good hike and a little history. But few things get your heart pumping as much as slipping into a place like this one. Just in time for Fall, too. It was chilling at first, then it reminded me of how much fun this urban exploring stuff can be. It was pulse-pounding, but also felt good to be back at it. Much like the fall season can feel chilling, yet exhilarating. There may be some scares here and there. Things will start to get colder. But if you keep your wits about you, it’s all in good fun.

Frozen Hearts

The Abandoned Eyrie House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs: Lassie

Damn, these times are hard. We can’t go to places we want to go. We can’t get the things that we need. We can’t do the things that we want to do. I am stuck inside day in and day out doing voice-overs. Lassie does what she can around the house. But our dog sure does love the company. Some birds just aren’t meant to be caged. See, we have a system when we go exploring. Since it’s usually a long drive, we always go out for a drink and a hot meal afterwards. If there’s a used bookstore or a vintage toy store in the vicinity, we’ll check that out as well. But we can’t do any of that right now. And that sucks. I made a list at the beginning of the year of places I wanted to explore all over New England. We’ve sadly had to postpone most of that. Stress the word most. It’s hard to stay positive in this situation, but we’re going to do our best. There’s always a couple of local places I keep on the back burner just in case. And while today’s subject may not be much to look at, but she is a legend in these parts.

This is the abandoned Eyrie House. We have covered a lot of places in the Mount Tom area of Western Massachusetts in the past, but this one has always evaded us. First opening in 1861, this place has seen a lot of history. She started life as a hotel overlooking the absolutely picturesque valleys of the Holyoke area. But the hotel faced a lot of competition, and business began to decline over the years. Much like the nearby ruins of the Apsinwall Hotel in Lenox, the Eyrie House met an unfortunate end due to vicious fires. Legend has it that the owner of the Eyrie House was alone at the hotel, and attempted to cremate one of his fallen horses in 1901. The fire got out of control, and with help so very far away, the Eyrie House never had a chance. The hotel burned to the ground in a fiery inferno, leaving behind only her sturdy stone frame. The grounds were eventually sold off to the local government and added onto the Mount Tom State Park area.

I first went looking for the Eyrie House way back in the summer of 2017. I had a rehearsal/table read up in Amherst early one Saturday morning, and decided to stop for a hike on my way back. But when confronted with the in-season $10 parking fee, I decided to save it for another time. Flash forward to 2020. Given its proximity, long/lonely hike in, and the current situation of social distancing, we decided that the Eyrie House would be a perfect trip for our March article. An unexpected snow had fallen the day before, and we were both getting a serious case of Cabin Fever. So we hopped in the car and went for a drive. The Mount Tom park can be tricky. Like I said earlier, we had covered other abandoned attractions in the area before. And each one had it’s own way in. Today was no exception. Our directions took us down a quiet country road to a road-side dirt parking lot. From there, it was a two mile hike in to the abandoned Eyrie House.

It was a long and icy climb to the ruins. But we were mostly alone. We slipped and slid all the way up. But we made it. There may not be too much to see here, but the ruins of this place certainly are special. The great stone frame looms over the Connecticut River valley. The old archways still project a strong sense of grandeur. And the area has clearly been protected and cherished for a long time. But the one thing I took away and will always remember about the abandoned Eyrie House was the frozen heart. While walking along the outer frame of the house, I found a patch of ice. It was frozen into the almost perfect shape of a heart. Though the sun was setting, and the breeze was chilling, I couldn’t help but take it as a sign of hope. Most may not believe such things, but I do. Hopefully, someday soon, this time of great sorrow shall lift. But until that day comes, let’s all stay strong. Be thankful for what you have. And watch out for each other.

EY5

“Don’t allow our doubts of today limit our tomorrow.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Salmon River Specter

The Abandoned Brown’s Mill

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

There have always been ghosts in the forest. Things appear and disappear. Specters dart from tree to tree. Sometimes you can’t shake the feeling of being watched. And nothing is ever what it seems out here. I spent many hours of my youth roaming the woods of New England, looking for adventure. A good chunk of those hours were spent in the nearby Salmon River Forest. It is a fascinating place indeed. Marlborough, Colchester, and East Hampton all share it at certain points. And while these three towns are the epitome of middle class life, the Salmon River Forest is something else entirely. Just a few short miles away from the hustle and bustle of their respective town centers, you can find true natural beauty. It almost feels more like Vermont out there. The aroma of roaring fires and the sounds of running water float through the air. Fly fishermen stubbornly cast off from the river banks at all times of the year. And the woods beckon with a soft green serenity. But there is one place here that disrupts this tranquility…

That place is the abandoned Brown’s Mill. It has truly been a ghost for us. As I previously mentioned, I have been trekking through these woods for years. And I had never even heard of this place until a few months ago. While searching for information on another abandoned mill we had recently covered in Manchester, I came across an article on this place. I wrote the name down, so I could come back to it at some point. But then, the article mysteriously disappeared. So I went looking on Google Maps, only knowing that this place resided along the Salmon River. I eventually found it on the street view. But then this also mysteriously disappeared. I thought that was it. Whatever was left behind must have been demolished. As this is usually how it goes. We find a place right after it’s been destroyed, like the Foam Dome. Case closed. Until a few weeks ago. I just happened to be searching for new places to explore this year, and bam. There it was again. It was almost as if this place was taunting me with it’s presence. We had to go check it out.

I usually talk about the history of a place early in my articles. But I still haven’t found anything on this place. The abandoned Brown’s Mill is a blank space on the map. It was also not an easy trek to explore. On our journey, I expected it to be a long hike in to find something very much lost in the woods. But that is not the case. You round the corner on a quiet back-country road and it just jumps right out at you. The skeletal grey remains blend in quite well with the surrounding woods. A cozy house sits right next to the grounds. The ruins sit along the banks of the river, so there is no real way to hike in. So we had to park farther down the road at one of the fishing spots by the Salmon River and walk in. It was cold and grey, but the mill was worth it. There are plenty of NO TRESPASSING and KEEP OUT signs along the buildings. But none of them seem very official. Some are even just spray painted onto the crumbling foundation. None the less, we had to use some creative techniques to obtain our photos.

The abandoned Brown’s Mill has clearly seen much better days. It looked and felt like it could collapse in on itself at any minute. There’s clearly been some fire damage around the central hub. Rickety chain-link fences attempt to shield off the more dangerous sections. Plenty of mill machinery has been left behind, but they are now nothing more than ghastly hunks of rusting metal. The ornately carved roof is still there in a few parts of the old mill, but just barely. The skylight pours into the old mill like a ship taking on water. Chunks of wood, plaster, and brick coat the ground in droves. But believe it or not, though, vandalism does not seem to be much of an issue. There was a bit of tagging here and there. But the abandoned Brown’s Mill seems to be relatively untouched by any unkind visitors. Which is nice to see. The whole place honestly feels like the skeletal remains of what once was. It’s like this place died a long time ago, and time has slowly been picking it apart piece by piece ever since.

We didn’t stay too long. I can honestly say that there really isn’t too much to see here. I wish I could’ve seen it five, or even ten years ago. The old machinery is really cool, and makes me wonder how/why it was all left to rot. But the remains of the mill sit very exposed to the outside world. A cozy house sits within a stone’s throw. A country road runs straight passed it. And the Salmon River forest is always so very teeming with life. Plus there’s plenty of NO TRESPASSING markers painted all over this old beauty. Whether they’re legitimate or not is irrelevant. Visitors are clearly not very welcome here. And that’s honestly okay. The abandoned Brown’s Mill will continue its slow and steady decline into total destruction. Her heyday’s of usefulness have been outlived. This is not the first abandoned mill that we have covered in the area to meet a similar fate. In the days of future past, this structure will be long gone. But her spirit, much like her former vessel, will continue to haunt these majestic woodlands.

Dancing in the Moonlight – The Abandoned Lincoln Lake Lodge

Posted: September 20, 2018 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, abandoned home, Abandoned Hotel, Abandoned House, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Restaurant, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Summer Camp, Abandoned Theaters, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Beaches, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, East Haddam Connecticut, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, left behind, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, photography, Ruins, Safety First, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Dancing in the Moonlight

The Abandoned Lincoln Lake Lodge

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Imagine your life without music. Just try to picture it for a second or two. Imagine not having anything to tap your feet to while on a long car ride. Imagine your favorite movies or television shows without their iconic scores. Imagine not having your favorite tunes to pick you up when you’re feeling down. Music is what makes things feel larger than life. It’s truly the universal language of the world. It can bring out any emotions that it dares to conjure. Whether you just need some background noise to liven a situation, or something to really reflect to, a little bit of music can go a long way. When you take it away, all that is left is the sound of silence. It is the raw emptiness that haunts the air, and can sometimes make life feel a little too real. We have felt it many times before in our travels. It can be really scary at times, like in an abandoned hospital corridor. But it can also be really sad, like in an empty bedroom of a derelict house. There are few places we have ever been to over the years that have exemplified this haunting feeling more than this one. Most abandoned places we have visited have their own surreal sense of silence. But when a place was once home to the lively chorus of music, the silence seems to be even grimmer.

May I introduce you to the Lincoln Lake Lodge, the unofficial cousin of Sunrise Resort. Unfortunately, we are going to have to bring up the latter’s name quite a bit in this piece. They both experienced very similar beginnings and ends. And they coincidentally happen to be in very close proximity to each other. Unfortunately, information on Lincoln Lake Lodge has proven to be far scarcer than for her much more famous contemporary. First founded in 1958 by the Davis Family, not the same founders of the nearby Sunrise, the lodge was established as a musical venue and recreational area. Many iconic acts of the past had performed at this local venue, allegedly even Frank Sinatra. Picnicking at this outdoor venue while listening to some live music was this place’s calling card. Much like her contemporary, the lodge was a roaring success for many years. People from all over the country came to see the live music and stay at the lodge. Tragically, around the same time as Sunrise, the lodge went out of business and up for sale. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to have not been any takers. Recent hurricanes, arson damage, and the slow decay of time has started to tear this old relic apart. And the property is still owned by the Davis Family.

Though they share a very similar aesthetic, Sunrise Resort and Lincoln Lake Lodge are very different. To compare sizes, Sunrise Resort is the Sun as Lincoln Lake Lodge is the Moon. Sunrise had its own on-site pool and riverfront property. Dozens of families and couples could stay at the resort for their holidays at a time. There were over eighty buildings that were demolished when the former resort was converted into a state park. Lincoln Lake Lodge has a pond swimming area, and had a much more intimate setting for its guests. You can count the number of buildings here on one hand. Only a handful of people would actually stay in the cabins. The lodge was much more of a music venue than a vacation destination. Yet both have a near identical architectural structure,  and the same white/green color scheme. They both look and feel like something right out of the Dirty Dancing era. In a sense, the lodge was simply a more rustic version of nearby Sunrise. But conversely from her now demolished cousin, the lodge seems to have flown under the radar. It took many weeks for me to find out anything about it. The place has been under my vary nose for all these years, and I had never even heard of it. It also took us several tries to go see it.

The remains of Lincoln Lake Lodge lie off an old country road that many locals use as a shortcut to bypass Main Street. The first time we went to visit this place in the late summer of 2018, we arrived to find a young couple having sex in the parking area. I’m not kidding. It was a first for us. We pulled into the old vacant lot, next to the only car there and bam. There they were in going at it in the backseat. I think we startled them as much as they startled us. To save everyone the awkwardness, we decided to just come back another day. And not park at the lodge’s old lot. So a week later, after some exploring of the local area, we found an old pathway around the pond and through the woods into the abandoned grounds. To me, it truly felt like Sunrise Resort incarnate. The old buoys were still in the pond, marking the swimming area. The white walls of the buildings were now stained with graffiti. Trash and liter is just bloody everywhere. The grass grows wild and free, overtaking the old gazebo and basketball courts. An old satellite dish has fallen from her perch. And to top it all off, there is a lot of fire damage. The silence around the grounds was deafening. From the music hall to the residence buildings, everything was utterly quiet.

Though each building on the property had its own unique feel and it’s own share of challenges, the main hall of Lincoln Lake Lodge was by far the most haunting. The once lively dance floor is now a blank and barren wasteland. There is an eerie stillness to a place that was once all about movement. We also found all kinds of old artifacts scattered across the ground. Televisions. Skateboards. Makeshift beds. Couches. Clearly, somebody has been either squatting here or using it as some sort of hangout. The darkest, and most haunting, thing to me that we found was the old piano. This grand instrument, which was once used to inspire all kinds of emotions through her beautiful songs, is now a broken and abused relic of the past. Turned over on her side, with many keys missing, it was truly moving to see such a once treasured item in such a state of decay. Her tunes once filled these now empty halls with the sounds of music and life. Now, there is only the sound of silence left here at the Lincoln Lake Lodge. And the only dancers for this dark tune are the shadows and spirits old. I don’t know what the future holds for this place. It was truly a haunting spectacle to behold. But hopefully, someday, music will once again fill these darkened halls.

“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” – Jean Paul

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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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.

Fly Away Home

The Abandoned Montgomery Mill

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

The state of Connecticut was once a place of industry. Factories and mills thrived for years in our little state. They provided income and jobs for small towns everywhere. But times change. We are now known as the “Insurance Capital of the World.” One by one, these former staples of the community slowly closed their doors as society continued to evolve. Today, these old factories now lie broken and forgotten all across the state. At one time, there were over seventy five abandoned mills in the state of Connecticut. Some, like the Montgomery Mill, stand looming over their small towns. They cast a shadow of the past across a growing community that tries to move on. We have explored several of these former factories over the years, but none have been as ominous, or as troubled, as the Montgomery Mill. From its haunting image, to its checkered history, the former factory stands in a class all its own.

 

First built in the early 1800’s, the Montgomery Mill was once the jewel in the crown of the thriving town of Windsor Locks. It gave the people of the town jobs, and became the heart of downtown. Businesses and shops opened up all around the mill. In the mid 1900’s though, things began to change. During the 1960’s, the small town of Windsor Locks began to steadily decline. The Montgomery Company struggled on for several more years, before finally closing its doors in 1989. Since that day, the factory has been a constant topic of debate amongst the townspeople and a playground for destruction. The property has changed hands several times between land developers and entrepreneurs over the years, but nothing has come of it. There have also been three notable fires in the mill complex; all were found to be caused by arson. The property has since become a seedy refuge for the local homeless, vandals, and scrap metal scavengers.

Standing right alongside the banks of the mighty Connecticut River, the Montgomery Mill is truly a sight to see. Driving down Main Street, you really can’t miss it. The factory is huge, standing ominously over the small town beneath it. It casts a shadow over the entire area. Eerily reminiscent to some of the buildings of Prypiat, Ukraine, the place is hauntingly captivating. There are multiple buildings in the complex, each one lies in a state of utter decay. The main factory stands six floors. Windows have been smashed. Fences have been put up. Doors have been boarded up. Even a few letters from the buildings sign that once read “The Montgomery Co. Est. 1871 Decorative and Electric Tinsels” have been lost. Wild vines and vegetation grow along the base of the factory, and even inside the basement. An old rusty fence protected by some jagged barbed wire and a faded stop sign block the entrance to the main complex.

 

 

What makes the Montgomery Mill so unique are its new residents. Though the workers of the factory are long gone, the local bird population has taken up residence in the now empty halls. Squads of pigeons and doves line the rooftops and window sills of the mill, spying on all those that enter their domain. But they are not the ones that rule this roost. A family of Bald Eagles has taken up residence inside of the factory. Conservationists believe that they are currently raising several young hatchlings somewhere inside the main building. For this reason, it is forbidden to enter the factory. If nesting Bald Eagles are disturbed, they will abandon their young and instinctively never return to their nest. We did not enter the factory, and we urge all our fellow explorers to do the same. The Bald Eagle is an endangered species, and their space must be respected. Unfortunately, we were unable to catch a glimpse of them.

Sitting in a state of beautiful decay, the Montgomery Mill stands as one of the more unique places we have ever visited. Even though we weren’t able to get inside of the abandoned factory, it is still worth a visit just to see this place. While the roaring river beside it continues to flow, the grounds still sit in defeat. Though many see it as an eye soar and sad reminder of downtown’s downfall, there is still a glimmer of hope for the property. The animal that captivates the American spirit and pride has chosen this former mill as its nesting grounds. When they move on, there are still plans for the town to finally foreclose on the property and begin the rebuilding process. Until that day, the Montgomery Mill stands waiting, casting its ominous shadow across the community. But much like the American Bald Eagle, the town continues to persevere, flying onward in hopes of a better tomorrow.

     

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Things We Lost in the Fire

The Ruins of the Norton Paper Mill

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

   Fire has changed the course of mankind more than most forces of nature. It has given life. During the early days of our evolution, it was fire that kept people warm. Fire cooked food, and provided a strong sense of comfort to early man. But it has also taken life. Over the years, roaring and out of control fires have caused untold amounts of damage and suffering. As quoted in Gareth Edward’s Godzilla; “The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is within our control, and not the other way around.” Forests have fallen. Lives have been destroyed. Empires have crumbled, all at the mercy of the fire. When the fire strikes, some rise from the ashes. Others lie in ruin. We discovered one such place on a shining spring day. Sitting alongside part of what is considered the most dammed watershed in all of North America, this once mighty paper mill was decimated by a raging fire decades ago. She has yet to recover from her wounds, and still lies severely scarred and burned. Welcome to the Norton Paper Mill.

   Originally owned by the locally prominent Norton family, the mill is believed to have been established in the late 1800’s. Its founder, C.H. Norton, inherited the property from his family and built the mill along the Jeremy River in what is now the Westchester section of Colchester, Connecticut. It was originally commissioned as a saw and grist mill. For many years, the mill had a very successful run producing all kinds of paper products for customers all over the region. Paper produced at the mill went into everything from books, binders, and even shoes. Throughout its existence, the Norton Paper Mill survived one large fire. However, it could not survive a second one. During the 1960’s, a purging fire caused massive amounts of damage and destruction to the mill, forcing it to close down for good. Since that fateful day, the Mill has become an absolute wasteland. While the river still roars past it, the dam built for the mill slowly crumbles along with the structure. Over the years, chain link fences have been installed and windows have been boarded up to keep trespassers out.

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   But that never stops us. We visited the ruins of the Norton Paper Mill on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late April. It is a short drive past the on and off ramps of Route 2 on Old Hartford Road in Colchester, Connecticut. The local Airline trail is also in close proximity. The ruins sit directly alongside the rather busy Route 149 in the rural part of town. When driving by, you really cannot miss the ruins. They are massive, and frankly quite noticeable. The roof is completely caved in, and a chain link fence spans the entire perimeter of the property. Though there are a few neighboring houses, we simply drove up to and parked beside the abandoned ruins. There was nobody around, and things were very quiet. “NO TRESPASSING” and “KEEP OUT” signs are posted all over the abandoned mill. Unfortunately, there was no real way inside without climbing over and hopping the chain link fence, which is against our policy. The interiors of the mill are in absolutely deplorable conditions, but they are very clearly visible from the outside though.

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There are two crumbling buildings that comprise the mill. Both are in a very derelict state of decay. Old and rusted equipment of all kinds is still inside, simply left to rot from many years ago. Large metal radiators and gauges have turned to a sullen brown with years upon years of rust damage. Several shelves of old tools and materials still sit inside collecting dust and decay. An old and rusted water tower stands in the distance, casting a shadow over the old mill. The damage from the fire is extensive, and still very noticeable. Charred and blackened pieces of wood are scattered amongst the wreckage. All of the ground floor windows are boarded up with heavy plywood. The higher windows all have metal bars on them, or have chain link fences positioned strategically behind them. The town of Colchester clearly does not want any visitors at the old mill, and they have good reason. The place is a wasteland, and clearly still very dangerous. The waters of the roaring river pore out of the slowly crumbling basement of the mill. It is only a matter of time before it all collapses.

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    There is currently a strong movement amongst the townspeople of Colchester and certain environmental groups to have the mill demolished and re-commissioned as a state park. Apparently, the local Salmon population is unable to migrate using the James River due to the dam installed by the mill many years ago. Since the mill has long been out of business, there is not much purpose any more. The future will tell whether or not this movement will ever be successful. Though it is pretty much impossible to get inside the ruins of the mill without breaking in, it is still very much worth a visit. Since the great fire that caused its untimely demise, the old mill sits pretty much untouched by the hands of man. It is grim reminder of the true fury of the flame, and just how uncontrollable the forces of nature can be. The very thing that gave us life ages ago, was the thing that put an end to this once prominent business. The Norton Paper Mill still sits in smoldering defeat, just one of many things we lost in the fire.

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Torn to Pieces – Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium

Posted: April 22, 2015 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Hospital, abandoned new england, Abandoned Sanatorium, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Children, Children's Hospital, Closed, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Merden, Meriden CT, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Seaside Sanatorium, State Parks, Stories, time, Uncategorized, Undercliff Sanatorium, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Torn to Pieces

Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium

By: Sean and Amanda

The state of Connecticut is home to many well-known abandoned mental hospitals. In the shadow of the rolling hills of Southern Connecticut once stood one of our most feared and legendary facilities: Undercliff Sanatorium. Located in Meriden, CT, the grounds stood just a short walk off the beaten path of Hubbard State Park. Though several buildings on the grounds are still active state facilities, the main hospital had been abandoned since the seventies. Since its creation, it served several different purposes including a mental hospital and a storage facility. For many years after its demise, the facility sat empty and decaying. It was not until the spring of 2014 that the old hospital was finally demolished, torn to pieces over a few weeks. We were lucky enough to visit the abandoned Undercliff Sanatorium while it still stood in the early months of 2013.

hartford First opening in 1910, Undercliff Sanatorium is still an active state facility. It has recently been renamed by the state as Undercliff State Hospital, since it is no longer used for its original purpose. Covering over forty acres in the town of Meriden, the facility was originally built to treat children with tuberculosis and other diseases. As modern medicine developed and these diseases became less common, the facility slowly evolved into a treatment center for adults. In the 1950’s, all adolescent patients were transferred to Seaside Sanatorium. (see our write-up here) In the 1960’s, Undercliff evolved once again into a state mental health facility. The main hospital officially closed in 1976, and has essentially remained unused. Much like all abandoned hospitals in Connecticut, there were rumors of patient abuse and there have been many alleged hauntings on the property.

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Reaching Undercliff Sanatorium was no easy task. Due to large amounts of vandalism and trespassing, the official road signs for the facility had been removed to discourage visitors. We had read reports about some people being able to simply drive down the road and up to the facility itself. We found these hard to believe, especially considering a Connecticut State Trooper is housed on the grounds. Since it is still an active state facility, Undercliff was said to have a heavy police presence. We decided to park at the nearby Hubbard State Park. We made the climb up the mountain to Castle Craig, which gave us an excellent aerial view of the entire Undercliff campus and the surrounding towns. We then moved down the mountain to find a better way to get to the abandoned facility.

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After climbing down the mountain, we came upon a road leading off into the distance. Across the road from us, we found an old path into the woods and decided to follow it. It led us deep into the forest, and eventually we came upon an open field leading up to Undercliff Sanatorium. It was massive, looming ominously in the distance as we slowly got closer. Despite all the rumors, we did not encounter a single trespassing warning. There were no fences, no signs, and we didn’t see a single police officer or security guard. The entire grounds seemed empty. It was weird. We cautiously moved closer and closer to the facility, unsure if it was illegal or not. But oddly enough, the closer we moved onto the grounds, the quieter things became. There was not a single sign of life. We continued moving up cautiously and quietly until we finally reached the hospital.

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 The abandoned hospital was huge. After successfully crossing the open field, we entered the parking lot of the main hospital. There were two buildings adjacent to each other.  One was a simple rectangular building while the main hospital was blockier with each floor going up a little smaller than the one below it. Both were made entirely of brick. Every single window on the ground floor had been smashed and sub sequentially boarded up. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much graffiti on the hospitals exterior. A rickety chain link fence surrounded the main hospital, but there were so many holes cut into it that it was pretty much useless. The doors were all heavily boarded up, except the main door ironically, which had been busted open at the bottom. People were able to crawl inside easily through this hole, which looked relatively new. But there were asbestos warning signs posted everywhere.

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We encountered several other explorers, who helped us get inside via the opening at the main door. Inside, Undercliff Sanatorium was a maze of darkness. There are almost no pictures of the interior because we foolishly forgot our flashlights. The main hospital was at least seven floors, including a basement which was mysteriously flooded when the facility was abandoned. Rumor has it that the facility’s crematorium and morgue were located down there, and it was flooded to keep people away from them. Each hallway was a little creepier than the last. Each staircase was in ruin. Around each corner lay more shadows and more destruction. Vandalism was rampant everywhere. Oddly a lot of supplies seemed to have been left behind, and summarily destroyed by vandals. The main attraction of the abandoned facility was the theater. On the north side of the main hospital, which could be seen from the outside, was a large and ghostly theater featuring hundreds of empty chairs staring at a rotting stage. There was definitely a dark vibe about this place. It could be felt throughout the entire facility.

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Though it has since been demolished, the darkness of Undercliff Sanatorium can still be felt. When you visit a place like this, it never really leaves you. Just looking at the facility from the outside, we could feel presence that lay within its walls. It is unclear at this time what the state plans to do with the now demolished site. Since the grounds are still an active facility, it will more than likely continue to serve that purpose. One fun rumor we heard about this place is that the Travel Channel show “Ghost Adventures” wanted to do a paranormal investigation here and even offered the State of Connecticut a good sum of money to allow them to do so. But all offers were mysteriously turned down. Unfortunately, whatever dark secrets and evil deeds this facility once held are no more. But the ghost of Undercliff will always be there.