Posts Tagged ‘closed’

Finish Your Popcorn – The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

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

The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the Magic

Journey into the Enchanted Forest

Written by: Sean L.
Photographs by: Amanda H.

Do you feel that? The wind through the trees? The current through the mountain streams? The rays of sunshine peeping through the dark clouds? It’s something that we don’t appreciate enough anymore. They are, dare I say, magic. Our ancestors lived and died with these elemental beings. But magic is something that disappears a little more each day. We’ve forgotten about it. It can be argued that we don’t need it anymore, that it has outlived its purpose. People walk around lost in the screens of their cell phones as opposed to appreciating the natural beauty of our own world. Even as it slowly shrinks from the corners of our universe. But what happens when there’s no more magic? What happens when all that makes the world wondrous and green is gone? What would the world be like without magic? We found out: in the Enchanted Forest.

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It is one of the darker and more ominous places we have ever visited. The Enchanted Forest was a fantasy styled amusement park that opened in 1971. Based out of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, The Enchanted Forest was always more oriented towards children and families with its fairy tale style theme. The main attractions of the park included a live petting zoo, go-cart tracks, a mini-golf course, and a few rides geared more towards its younger audience. For years the park was a mainstay attraction of the local area, with people coming far and wide to visit this fairy tale place. But as time wore on, the magic began to fade. In her final years, attendance and interest in the park began to wane. Finally, in the year 2005, The Enchanted Forest closed forever under financial strain. Though technically still for sale, the park has been left abandoned ever since.

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We made the long journey to The Enchanted Forest on a sunny day during the tail end of winter 2016. She’s not too difficult to find, the only problem is that what’s left of the park sits along a heavily trafficked road. There old parking lot has also been blocked off by large bricks of cement. And to top it all off, the neighbors of this old park do not take kindly to strangers and have no hesitation when it comes to reporting trespassers to the local police. We had heard many stories in our travels of explorers being caught and arrested for trying to sneak into this place. Getting inside is not the difficult part. Slipping inside the park without being noticed and where to park your car are the difficult parts. But, through some strange form of luck, we managed to get inside this former wonderland.

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Regrettably, there isn’t too much to see here. The old rides that once were the star attractions of The Enchanted Forest were sold off to neighboring theme parks long ago. But the large sign still sits out front, bearing a few scars from the elements and the local vandals. Buried in the brush behind the parking lot are the remains of the old petting zoo and mini golf course. Even deeper into the woods is all that is left of the old go-cart track. A couple of old buildings are still standing, though they are clearly very heavily used by the local teenagers. Mountains of trash and liter coat the ground, and the walls have all been defaced by cruel and unusual graffiti. There may have been more left behind here, but it has long since been lost to the think brush and unflinching grasp of the woods.

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If you ever plan on visiting The Enchanted Forest, do not take this journey lightly. It is a dangerous and risky mission, unless of course you know someone in the area. It is a remarkable sight, indeed. Besides the fact it is a local legend, there is just something about this place. Dare I say, enchanting? Or perhaps the better word is magical. You see, whether we acknowledge it or not, there is still magic in this world. And it can be felt strongly here in The Enchanted Forest. You can almost still hear the laughter of the children and families who once frolicked down these old paths. You can almost still see the colorful rides and attractions swirling through the trees. You can almost still feel all of the love and joy that this place must have felt all of those years ago. Though all of that is gone, the magic is still here. You just have to look for it.

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Down Memory Lane

Exploring the Abandoned Marlborough Commons

By Sean and Amanda

I grew up in the town of Marlborough, living there for over twenty years. As a child, it felt like there was no better place in the world to grow up. The typical Saturday would start off by getting our coffee and donuts at Cavalieri’s Bakery. Then we would do our grocery shopping at Pat’s Market. A short drive down the road, we would have lunch at Carilli’s Café. We would do some gift shopping and beanie baby hunting at the fabled Marlborough Barn. We would have dinner at the Marlborough Tavern. Then we’d close out the day with some live music at Pine Needle’s. That was life as a kid in Marlborough, Connecticut. Today? All of that is gone. All of the aforementioned establishments have gone out of business over the last fifteen years. The town that I once knew and loved is no more.

Some places, like Cavalieri’s Bakery and the Marlborough Barn, eventually came under new ownership and re-opened under different names. Pine Needle’s became our town’s resident Dunkin Donuts. The Marlborough Tavern and Pat’s Market still sit empty after several failed re-openings, just waiting for the next entrepreneur to take a chance on the property. But one structure of the town has completely gone under: The Marlborough Commons. Sitting right beside the entrance and exit to Route 2, The Marlborough Commons was a two-floor multi business establishment. Included in their parking lot was Carilli’s Café. This place has been closed for almost a decade. The Marlborough Commons never quite picked up traction economically. Over the years, it limped on with multiple businesses coming and going before finally succumbing to defeat. The gates to the Marlborough Commons are now closed, and a large “FOR SALE” sign now sits out front.

I used to drive by the abandoned Marlborough Commons all the time. I have always wanted to conduct an investigation for the website here. I have never had the opportunity to do any urban exploring within my hometown. After doing some research and asking around town, I was not able to turn up much of any information on the site. There is a posting online listing the property as for sale though. It seems like the place is just a bad memory that this town is trying to forget. There have been a lot of talks over the years about a grocery chain possibly purchasing the grounds and building a new store there. Nothing has ever come of these talks, allegedly due to the poor location and the competition from the neighboring “Stop and Shop” just a few miles down the road in East Hampton.

On a cold December day, we decided to pay The Marlborough Commons a visit. Due to its close proximity to the highway Route 2 and sitting right along the busy Route 66, getting into the Marlborough Commons was a little difficult. There are literally dozens of cars driving by every minute. The local police also have been known to use the lot of the Marlborough Commons to catch speeders. So we had to be careful. The site has always been easy to identify due to the large white sign out front, reading “The Marlborough Commons” in black cursive writing. The sign has sadly begun to fade, and wild vines now grow all over it. The gate to the parking lot is closed and locked, so we were not able to drive directly up the buildings. However there is a small space in front of the gate where a car can easily pull up.

During its heyday, the main building of the Marlborough Commons was home to at least two businesses. There was the law office of Erik S. Young, a local attorney. The signs bearing his name can still be seen. Beside that was the “Memory Lane” scrapbooking store, its white sign and pink wallpaper still beckoning people to come in. There may have been more businesses operating here when the Marlborough Commons closed, but they must’ve taken their signs because these were the only two we could identify. The front of the building is in very good shape. Aside from the cracking pavement and slowly encroaching vines, the Marlborough Commons looks like it could still be in operation. There are no broken windows, graffiti, or liter visible anywhere. This could most likely be attributed to the building’s close proximity to a highly trafficked and policed road.IMG_3103

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The back of the building is a totally different story though. Many of the windows have been smashed. The doors are all boarded up. The paint is rapidly peeling. From the road, the Marlborough Commons looks like it’s still alive. But from the back, it looks ghastly and clearly abandoned. Inside, the buildings have been completely cleared out. All furniture and other items were most likely removed when they went out business, leaving the insides just a barren wasteland. Aside from some liter, it is completely empty from room to room. Farther down the lot was Carilli’s Café. The front of this former restaurant is now completely overgrown with plant life. Every single window and door has been crudely boarded up with cheap plywood. It has clearly suffered from vandalism in the past, as this place was sewn up very tightly with no way in without breaking in.

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While it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane by revisiting the Marlborough Commons, seeing this former corner stone of the town of Marlborough in this state of disrepair was sad indeed. This place was once a busy and bustling part of the community, where people could get some legal counseling, stock up on art supplies, or grab lunch with some friends at Carilli’s Café. Now, it is merely a hollow shell. It has become one of the many great local businesses to have fallen under the crushing weight of the world. Who knows what the future holds for this place. Maybe someday businesses will return, but they most likely won’t. The rest of the town is steadily moving on without it. The Marlborough Commons now waits in disrepair, a grim reminder to the people of Marlborough what our town was once like.

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