Archive for the ‘Ruins’ 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.

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 the world we live in feel larger than life. It can bring out any emotions that it dares to conjure. 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. But sadly, there are few places we have ever been that have exemplified this haunting feeling more than this one.

May I introduce you to the Lincoln Lake Lodge, the cousin of Sunrise Resort. First founded in 1958 by the Davis Family, 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 have not been any takers. 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. Lincoln Lake Lodge has a pond swimming area, and had a much more intimate setting for its guests. Yet both have a near identical architectural structure,  and the same white/green color scheme. In a sense, the lodge was a more rustic version of 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 about it. It also took us several tries to go see it.

The first time we went to visit this place, we arrived to find a young couple having sex in the parking lot. I’m not kidding. It was a first for us. I think we startled them as much as they startled us. We decided to just come back another day after that. So a week later, after some exploring of the local area, we found an old pathway 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 now 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 has clearly been some fire damage.

We also found all kinds of old artifacts scattered across the old dance floor inside the great hall. The darkest, and most haunting, to me 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. Now, there is only the sound of silence left at the Lincoln Lake Lodge. And the only dancers left for this dark tune are the shadows and spirits old. I don’t know what the future holds for this place. But hopefully, someday, music will once again fill these darkened halls.

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

 

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)

Bizarro World

The Abandoned Mount Tom Ski Area

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Every abandoned place is a little bit bizarre. That kind of just comes with the territory. Some are just better at hiding it than others (if you got the reference, pat yourself on the back). Derelict liter coats the ground. Colorful graffiti is plastered all over the walls. Distant echoes of days long since passed still linger in the air. But this one was different. Very different. The only other place that I got a similar vibe from was the infamous Sunrise Resort many years ago. Walking through the grounds was just very, for lack of a better word, bizarre. It gave me a profound feeling of, “Holy shit. This place is real.” It is a rare feeling, but a cool one none the less.

This is the Mount Tom Ski Area in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Her story began 1962. Following a similar trend of many of the now abandoned ski areas we’ve covered in the past, it opened during the boom period of skiing. Amenities included ski school, night skiing, and chair lifts. She thrived here for many years. But, regrettably, that trend of seasonal fun slowly began to wane. Her story ended in 1998 when she finally went out of business. Or was it just the next chapter? Though their have been several attempts at a revival, the Mount Tom Ski Area has sat here abandoned for many years, with an ever increasing vandal and arson problem.

Our trip to the Mount Tom Ski Area was a weird one. We did extensive research on this place before making our visit in mid-summer of 2018. Luckily, it was only a short drive for us. It was a brief, yet sunbathed, hike to the old ski area. It lies deep in the heart of the Mount Tom reservation. Right off the bat, things got weird. As we approached the old facility, we heard music. Loud music. Followed by lots of voices. As we rounded the corner, we realized it was a party. About a dozen people, a long with a baby, were partying in the park’s old wave-pool. Unusual, but okay. We continued on. Usually we’re alone for our investigations. But there was actually a lot of people here.

We seemed to be the only one’s really interested in exploring the buildings, though. Which we did. One was completely gutted by a maliciously started fire a few years ago, and now remains fenced off. The rest of the buildings, including the main lodge, are now treasure troves of graffiti and destruction. Some old equipment was clearly left behind, but has since been destroyed. Everything here is in a serious state of decay. Yet, strangely enough, we weren’t able to get as many pictures as we wanted because of how many people were hanging out at the old facility. Its a problem we never really faced before. Still, the images we did get speak for themselves.

Mount Tom Ski Area is more than worth a look. The urban decay here is striking and raw. There is a lot left to see. But truly, this was a bizarre place indeed. Much like the old Sunrise Resort, I walked through this place with just an odd feeling. There was a group of young adults having a party. Some old guy was giving his family a tour of the grounds. Another couple walked around looking just as confused as us. A lone minstrel perused the abandoned buildings singing songs to himself. Yet none of these groups interacted with each other. It was all quite odd. But then again, much like abandoned places, each of one of us is just a little bit…bizarre.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be it would, you see?” –Alice in Wonderland

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/

Off the Beaten Path

The Abandoned Rutland Prison Camp

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

We’re back at it. Did you miss us? Of course you did. After a very long and very shitty winter (it’s even snowing right now as I write this piece…in April), we finally got to do some exploring last weekend for the first time since the New Year. It was a bit of a hike, but it was quite an adventure. The choice was between this place or Hearthstone Castle for us. Though Hearthstone seems really cool, I feel like everyone covers it. This place does not quite get the attention it deserves. Plus, it is allegedly haunted. So we decided to pay it a visit. Buried deep in the woods, at the edge (hopefully) of winter, this is the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp.

I’m going to be honest. Finding any history on this place was difficult. All people could really give me on the history of this place was that it was a prison camp in the early twentieth century and that’s it’s been abandoned for a long time. Not even the official website helped. Luckily, I was able to find one site with some info. So thank you, atlasobscura.com. They really helped. Apparently the prison camp was built to house minor offenders. As the years went on, the camp slowly grew larger and larger. But it was abruptly abandoned in 1934 due to complications with the local water supply.

The abandoned prison camp is located in the heart of what is now Rutland State Park in Rutland, Massachusetts. It’s a nice little park, with some very picturesque views. During the off-season, the road to the prison camp is closed to traffic. Didn’t matter to us, because we would’ve walked in anyway. Also during the off-season, you don’t have to pay to park. Which was nice. It was roughly two miles through the wondrous New England woods until we came upon the ruins of the abandoned camp. Red squirrels scampered through the trees. Wild ducks quacked through the air. And we strangely didn’t encounter many other hikers.

There are three main structures still standing. There is easy access to all three of them. Much like many older cement building from the past, they show little signs of wear and tear. Besides the colorful plethora of graffiti of course. Each structure has its own unique feel to it. Darkness lurks inside, and the colorful murals of spray paint give this place a strange sense of urban beauty. There are underground tunnels that are easily accessible, but we regrettably were unable to enter them. With the snow storm the week prior, the tunnels were flooded with several feet of water. None the less, this place was very cool to explore.

The abandoned Rutland Prison Camp is completely legal to visit. So if hiking and urban exploring is your thing, I would highly recommend it. Of course there was plenty of liter and vandalism around, but that just comes with the territory. It is kind of a hidden gem, and the hike in is very much worth it. Being able to explore this place after a two mile walk is a nice treat. It just goes to show you that you never know what lies off the beaten path. The woods keep many secrets from us. And it’s good to see that old places like the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp still survive. People may have suffered there a hundred years ago, but we are all able to enjoy it today.