Posts Tagged ‘Arrested Decay’

Rise and Shine

The Abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I’m going to start this piece off with a bang. Full disclosure right out of the gate: this place is NOT technically abandoned. This is a tourist attraction. It’s more or less a museum. You have to pay admission to get in. There are guided tours. There’s a bloody gift shop. BUT…I still think this place is pretty cool. Bear with me, even just for a second. It fits right in with the rising trend of “Arrested Decay,” or a “Preserved Ruin.” Abandoned places such as Eastern State Penitentiary find new life and provide sustenance to their communities through this new endeavor. Former abandoned places are provided with just enough support to keep from falling into complete disrepair. Think about what it would cost to demolish a place like this. But instead, with minimal investment, it becomes a place that entertains and educates anyone wishing to come see it. If this doesn’t interest you, I can completely respect any readers wishing to discontinue here. This obviously isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those of you still with me, let’s get on with the tour.

As aforementioned, this is Philadelphia’s colossal Eastern State Penitentiary. Once one of the largest and most ambitious correctional facilities in American history, this place has truly become a legend. First built in 1829, the prison housed some of America’s most feared criminals: including legendary Chicago Kingpin Al Capone. The prison caught attention for it’s massive size and unique architectural design, which featured seven cell blocks intersecting at a central hub. Men, women, and even a few children were held here. With large cells designed for “self reflection” during incarceration, the facility was eventually plagued by overcrowding during the early 20th century. Being forced to house more than expected, along with it’s archaic design, eventually forced the prison to close it’s doors for good in 1971. And there it sat for many years, even after being registered as a National Historic Landmark. Empty. Abandoned. Rotting. But during the 1980’s, a movement began to restore the prison to it’s former glory. Not as prison. But much like Alcatraz before it: as a tourist attraction.

During the waning days of Spring 2019, we found ourselves down in Philadelphia for the weekend. This year alone, we’ve covered places in New York, Boston, and now the City of Brotherly Love. Cool for us, I guess. Anyway, I had heard of Eastern State Penitentiary many times before on the Discovery Channel series Mysteries of the Abandoned (which I highly recommend to anyone on here.) Given the fact that the facility is right smack in the middle of the city, we decided to plan a visit. Luckily, we had absolutely beautiful weather for our trip. After a short Uber ride, we arrived at the gates of the prison. It really does stand out A LOT from the rest of the city. It’s like you’re rolling down a typical city street, and then bam. There it is. A giant stone fortress nestled amongst the casual restaurants and bodegas. The windows of the guard towers have been smashed. The old grey ramparts give this place an almost medieval feel. And the prison itself casts a giant shadow over her host city. Passing through the great stone gates is like walking into another world.

The prison is open to both guided and self-guided tours, with little headsets. We, of course, chose the self-guided tour. I, of course, did not grab a headset. It just feels too touristy to me. There were only a few people here during our visit. Straight off the bat, you can tell which areas of the prison are “staged” and which areas aren’t. For example, many of the cells contain a few props and set pieces to give off the creepy vibe to visitors. It’s all in good fun, but some are really blatant about it. Some, however, are actually very creepy. But these are the areas that are more cut off from the rest of the prison. If you follow the right paths, you can see the much darker and quieter corners of the monstrous facility. You honestly have to work a little harder to get away from the crowds in order to really enjoy this place. If you’re like us, that is. Places like Death Row, the Hospital Wing, and the basement had no visitors to them. And these were the areas that clearly haven’t gotten any support or upkeep. But that’s what makes them the best parts. They feel like an actual abandoned place, as opposed to part of a “preserved ruin.”

All in all, I almost kind of feel like a cheat writing about this place for our site. But at the same time, I kind of don’t. It’s our first real exploration outside of the New England/New York area. Plus, if the Discovery Channel can cover it for their show, I don’t see why we can’t as well. It may come off at times as a real tourist attraction, but is that such a bad thing? As opposed to being left to rot, this place now educates and entertains all who pass through her doors. Plus parts of Eastern State Penitentiary are absolutely chilling. Old cell blocks. Broken down barber chairs. That classic abandoned place smell (you know what I’m talking about). This place had it all. You just had to look a little harder for it. When you peel back some of the artsy and touristy stuff plastered all over this old facility, you realize just how terrifying it once was to the men and women who were housed here years ago. The lights may be back on in this place. But the shadows and the ghosts of days long since passed still haunt this hollowed ground.

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If you are at all interested in visiting Eastern State Peniteniary, please check out their official website herehttp://www.easternstate.org

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. To be fair, it was just another one of our “Top 10 Movies” lists. But still. It made me realize that the quality of our posts has gone down in recent months. Articles were getting shorter and fewer in between. The places we visited weren’t as exciting as they used to be. It’s just that the older we get, the busier we get. That’s just the why life is. Sometimes being an adult sucks. 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. It’s becoming increasingly harder to find good spots to explore. 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 landmark that 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. Those of you who follow this site should know by now how much I love the Berkshires. 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. The need for such commodities eventually began to wane, especially with rising costs and an ever changing economy. 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. I don’t know they did this. Maybe they were hoping to return to work someday. But someday never came. Fear not, though. 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. Full honesty: we visited this place on my 27th birthday. I usually hate my birthday, because everything just seems to go wrong. Luckily for me, today was not one of those days. The rain had luckily missed us during our trip, covering the grounds in a ghostly mist. We were the only visitors there that day, which is the way I like it. From the first steps into the preserve, this place looks like any other New England walking trail. But 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. You turn the corner from the old wreckage, and boom. There it is.  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. I will truly never forget the first time I saw it.

Atop the hill overlooking the quarry are the remains of the rope system. These were once used to lift large rocks from the quarry for processing. It is a bit of a walk to get to, mostly through the mud and tall grass. But it provides an excellent view of the entire grounds. 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. It seems to be an ever growing trend across the country. People are looking to preserve what they can while they can. The old lifting machines are quite rusted, but 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. Clearly, this place is very loved and well cared for by its owners.

The Chester-Hudson Quarry is completely legal to visit, and I highly suggest this place to all of our readers who are hikers. It may not be pure-blood urban exploration, but it’s still pretty amazing. Personally, it was especially nice to see during the very early days of summer. There is just so much here to see and experience. Sometimes it’s hidden amongst the underbrush. Sometimes it’s right on the trail. A word of caution though to all potential visitors: 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. They didn’t show up until half way through our visit. But once we started seeing them, they just wound up being everywhere. 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/