Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

Flight of Dragons

The Ruins of Bannerman Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

We have been doing this urban exploration thing for over five years now. We have explored places all over New England. We’ve seen the abandoned hospitals of Connecticut, the derelict fortresses of Rhode Island, the lost ski resorts of Vermont, and the forgotten landmarks of Massachusetts. New England has always been our base of operation. But this past autumn, we finally headed west to the Empire State. New York is a place that we have visited a few times lately on movie business, but had never done any exploring there. Technically, it’s almost closer to us than a lot of the places we’ve already visited. And so, for our eight year anniversary we finally decided that it was time. Our first destination? Bannerman Castle.

Bannerman Castle is kind of a local legend in these parts. Oddly enough, the local inn we stayed at on our trip had dozens of paintings of the castle all throughout their foyer. Located on Pollepel Island, smack dab in the middle of the roaring Hudson River, the castle was first built in 1901 by industrialist Francis Bannerman IV. Making his fortune in the scrap business, Bannerman is unofficially known as “The Father of Gun Collecting.” Though the main castle was built as a housing facility for his vast arms and munitions arsenal, the island was also the vacation home of the Bannerman family. Following Francis’s death in 1918, the castle went through a series of unfortunate events including fires, accidents, and architectural collapses. The island was named off-limits in 1969.

Since its closure, Bannerman Castle has slowly deteriorated. It’s once grand presence now haunts the Hudson River Valley. But in recent years, the local community has come together to bring it back to life. Through the Bannerman Castle Trust, certain buildings have been restored and the castle itself stands in a state of arrested decay. Much like Chester-Hudson Quarry in Massachusetts, the castle is maintained just enough to keep it from collapsing. The trust offers tours of island in the summer and fall via ferry. We were lucky enough to catch one of the final tours of the season. Taking a small boat through the roaring Hudson River, the castle looms like a mythical giant in the distance. It beckons all weary travels towards its once rich gateways.

Honestly, the castle is damn near awe-inspiring. Against the gorgeous backdrop of the Hudson River Valley around it, the faded red palace looks like something out of a fairy tale.  While the front of the castle still looks amazing, the back is in much worse shape. It looks like it could collapse at any moment. Unfortunately, seeing this place is much more tourism that it is exploration. We were on the island for a grand total of about an hour, and did not get to see the castle as up close as I would have liked. Guides ferry visitors to and fro across the island like sheep. Nothing against them or the Bannerman Castle Trust, I just would’ve preferred seeing the place on our own as opposed to in a group. This was definitely a very different experience than we are used to.

I almost didn’t write about this place for our site. Like I said before, this place is much more in line with Dark Tourism than urban exploration. But Bannerman Castle truly is amazing to see. Even if you don’t take the island tour, seeing it from the banks of the river or the top of nearby Mount Beacon is bloody breathtaking. Much like Hearthstone Castle, it feels like something from a dream. Yet as awesome as Bannerman Castle is, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must’ve been like during its heyday. Walking across the island was just as cool as it was somber. The dragons that once ruled this magical place have long since flown off. And yet, somehow, the castle has captured the hearts and minds of the local community. She may never again rise to her former glory. Yet with a little help, she still stands tall.

If you are interested in visiting the castle, please check out the Bannerman Castle Trust’s website here – https://www.bannermancastle.org

Hail to the King

The Abandoned Hearthstone Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Happy Fall, everyone. It’s finally here. The leaves are changing colors. The nights are getting colder. And the scary movies are starting to pop up on television. Though it always feels like such a passing season, each moment of Fall comes with its own personal flair. This one in particular is special for us. We finally made it to a place that has haunted us for years. We have made many plans to go see it at many points during our six years of urban exploring. Yet somehow, especially with its looming potential demolition, we never quite made it to this hot-spot. This is Hearthstone Castle, a true legend in these parts. If you are reading this, you have most likely heard of or visited this place. And now, after all these years, she finally makes an appearance here on our site.

The history of Hearthstone Castle is brief, but checkered. Located in Danbury, Connecticut, the castle was built in 1895 to a wealthy local family. For years, she served as a residence and a summer home. Materials to create and furnish the castle were flown in from around the globe. She changed ownership and name many times over the years, before finally being sold to the town of Danbury in 1987. It was here that things began to take a dark turn for the castle. Though it was declared a National Historic Place, the property rapidly began to fall into disrepair. Many proposals have come and gone with what to do with the old castle even as nature slowly begins to strike back. Today she sits completely abandoned, and has become a favorite place amongst the local urban explorer community.

We really weren’t planning on stopping at Hearthstone. Coming home from New York, we saw that we would be going straight through Danbury. And thus, we decided to stop and see the fabled castle. As a hiker and a hunter, finding Hearthstone was disappointing. You park your car. You walk into the woods. And there it is. There is no long hike. There is no hunt through the woods. Its just sitting right there, waiting for you. And yet, the castle is simply breathtaking. The old stone architecture is unmatched. It is very reminiscent of the nearby Gillette Castle. Birds chirp from the ramparts. A fox scurries amongst the underbrush. And remarkably, not a single NO TRESPASSING or KEEP OUT sign was in sight. A couple random fences still stand, but other than that, the castle is just there for the taking.

I can honestly say that the years have not been kind to Hearthstone Castle. Though her tough stone facade remains unflinching, her interiors have been truly disemboweled. The floors are all gone. And those that still stand are shaky as all Hell. Broken glass and splinters of wood are all over the ground. Graffiti and vandalism runs rampant across the grounds, except for in the higher to reach places. Wild vines and vegetation grow in canopies across the walls and porches. The once great walls that were once occupied by the highest of society are now home to the wrath of nature and vandalism. If your tall, like myself, this place can be a little tricky to navigate. I can honestly see why this place has been scheduled for demolition. And yet, through it all, she still remains steadfastly beautiful.

 It was honestly hard to tear myself away from Hearthstone Castle. I spent a long time just staring at it long after we had finished exploring, trying to take in every tiny detail. It just has a certain magic to it. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting more. When we finally did leave, I had to tell myself not to look back. It was sad to think that this was the first, and will probably be the last time that I see the castle. With every year that passes, somebody of importance almost always says that it will be Hearthstone’s final year. But I guess that is just the brevity of existence. We’ve got to enjoy life one day at a time. And one day Hearthstone Castle will fall, whether it be by the teeth of a bulldozer or the slow decay of time. But no matter what the future may hold for this magical place, it will always be a legend.

Exodus: Chapter 1

Our First Abandoned Church

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

This is one of those rare pieces where I am not going to reveal the location of this place. If you know this place (and I’m sure a lot of you do), please don’t make a comment or anything. It will be deleted. We really want to provide some respect for this fallen place of worship. Ever since we got into this, and ever since our time in Alabama (where churches are EVERYWHERE), we have wanted to find and explore an abandoned church. There’s just something mystical about them. A few years ago, a reader tipped us off about one in the New Britain woods. But we were never able to find it. This one was sitting right in front us. We just needed a closer look.

It was an early Saturday morning, in the waning days of Summer 2018. We had just had breakfast down the street at a nice little diner. I had heard stories about this place, but we finally had a chance to go check it out. It is a place I had driven by for many years during my childhood. I was always captivated by its sheer size and elegance. And even today, in her derelict state, this once mighty church is still quite captivating. Moss and water damage eat away at her outer hull. Graffiti coats the outer walls, though someone is clearly trying to combat it. The once lively parking lot and front entrance are now empty and desolately silent.

We did not go inside this church out of respect. All the photos you see here are taken from a sadly gaping hole that vandals have caused on the back doors. Someone has literally busted through the plywood to get inside. And these are the people that give us all a bad name. This was once a place of light, community, and hope. But now, it has become a playground of destruction and despair. And regrettably, abandoned churches are becoming more and more common across the region. With higher repair costs and declining attendance, many churches are closing their doors. Will there be hope for this place someday? The world will decide. The world always decides.

“Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here, and here, and what you decide to do everyday to be a good man – or not.” – Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Arrested Decay

The Abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

On our last piece written for this site, we got a comment reading:

“Not your best effort :-(“

It really pissed me off. But it pissed me off because it was true. The quality of our posts has gone down in recent months. The older we get, the busier we get. Unfortunately, this means we have less and less time to go exploring. Especially as the blank spaces across the map are steadily being filled in. But you guys deserve better. And so, we’re going to be better. And so this is a place that I personally chose as our comeback piece. It is a place I’ve had my eye on for a long time, and it has truly become one of my favorite places I have ever visited.

This, ladies and gents, is the abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry.

Located in the breath-taking town of Becket, Massachusetts, this location is nestled deep in the Berkshire Mountains community. The Chester-Hudson Quarry was a thriving granite business in the community starting in the mid-1800’s. Stone mined from the rich quarry was shipped off to be used all over the country. But, as is a recurring theme of these places, times always change. With a steadily declining prosperity, the quarry was eventually shut down in the 1960’s. While the workers went home, they left behind many of their tools and equipment to weep in solitude. But fear not. The grounds were saved from commercial development by the local Becket Land Trust.

Our visit to the abandoned Chester-Hudson Quarry came on a beautiful misty day in early summer 2018. The rain had luckily missed us during our trip, covering the grounds in a ghostly mist. We were the only visitors there that day. After a short hike in, you begin to see the remains of the old quarry. A few rusty structures still barely stand. Two mysteriously left behind old trucks slowly rot into the earth. The quarry itself is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The water glistens vibrantly in the sun. The deep croaks of the bullfrogs echo across the rocky walls. And for a moment, or two, there is true tranquility to be found.

Atop the hill overlooking the quarry are the remains of the rope system. Much like the town of Bodie, California, the Chester-Hudson Quarry sits in a state of what is called “Arrested Decay,” also known as a “Preserved Ruin.” The structures are not repaired, but they are kept from falling into complete deterioration. While the old lifting machines are quite rusted, the stiff-arm derrick of the old quarry was, in fact, restored by the local volunteers of the Becket Land Trust. The whole notion gives this place a very unique, almost “abandoned museum” type feel to it. Plaques and info-panels have even been added in some places.

The Chester-Hudson Quarry is completely legal to visit, and I highly suggest this place to all of our readers who are hikers. There is just so much to see. Sometimes hidden amongst the underbrush. Sometimes right on the trail. A word of caution though: Salamanders. Salamanders everywhere. We must’ve counted over a hundred small fiery orange salamanders on our walk through these woods. They were just bloody everywhere. So watch your step. As summer begins to come into full swing, there really is something magical about this place. It has a hauntingly mystical quality about it, and really is one of the most special places we have ever explored.

BQ5

If you would like to learn more about the Becket Land Trust, please visit their official website – https://becketlandtrust.org/

Sit a Spell

The Abandoned House Collection

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

Come sit a spell. I had heard this phrase a lot in books and movies. Occasionally I would see it on some sort of home decor, probably bought from The Christmas Tree Shops (shout-out to all who get the reference). I actually had to Google it just now to find out what that even means. Apparently it an older expression, inviting guests to come on in and “take a load off their feet.” I found it to be a fitting title for this piece.

See, we’re still in kind of winter shut-down mode here at Abandoned Wonders. But ever since we started doing this, we have come across many abandoned houses. We always stop, snap what photos we can, and then move on. When we can’t find any story on these places, they just end up sitting in our archives. Well, that’s about to change. Here are a few of our favorite abandoned houses that we have never been able to find any stories on. So, come on in. And sit a spell.

#1 – The Gas Station House

We found this little gem sitting next to a small gas station on our way to the flea market last spring.

#2 – The Hostess House

Located across the street from an abandoned restaurant, we could barely get close to this place because of all the poison ivy. Yet the door is still mysteriously open…

#3 – The Country House

We passed by this mysterious beauty driving down a back-country road last summer. Though she is really overgrown, she still has a haunting aura about her.

#4 – The Skinner House

We’ve covered the Skinner House before in the past, but she is just so damn breathtaking that’s it’s always worth another look.

#5 – The Underbrush House

Lost in the underbrush in a busy part of town, this old home is slowly disappearing into the woods around it.

“It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.” Unknown

None Shall Pass

The Abandoned Boardman Bridge

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

We take a two night vacation every October to celebrate our anniversary. Sometimes we coordinate our trips to visit abandoned places. For example, one year we stayed two nights in Newport, RI, and explored Fort Wetherill and Fort Mansfield. Other times, we just randomly stumble upon abandoned places. Like last year, we just happened to pass by the abandoned Hogback Mountain Ski Area while vacationing in Vermont. This was our seventh year anniversary trip, and we didn’t have any specific locations we planned to visit. We were just planning on spending a nice few days up in the mountains of Western Connecticut. But much like last year, fate had other plans.

This is the abandoned Boardman Bridge in New Milford, CT. We’ve explored many abandoned bridges in our time, but this one was different. First opening in the late 1800’s, the Boardman Bridge ferried all kinds of traffic across the roaring currents of the Housatonic River. But almost exactly one hundred years since she first started service, a newer, larger, and more modern bridge was built directly beside her. Ironically, this new bridge was also named the Boardman Bridge. And so this old workhorse became dubbed the “Old Boardman Bridge.” She carried on for a short while longer, serving only as a pedestrian bridge, before finally being closed for good in 1984.

Whilst driving through the countryside of New Milford, CT, we came across the abandoned Boardman Bridge. With the grey skies and the gloomy October weather, we just had to stop and take pictures. For being closed since long before either of us were even born, the old bridge is in remarkably good condition. It came as no surprise to us that the town of New Milford is in fact seeking to repair and reopen the old bridge as a pedestrian/cyclist path to connect two neighboring hiking trails. The Old Boardman Bridge may be old, but she still definitely has some fight left in her. Hopefully, someday soon, she will once again find a way to serve her community.

For Roads Untraveled

The Abandoned I-84 West Stack Interchange

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

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.”