Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

I’m Not Okay

The Garden of Sweet Remembrance

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I want to talk about something important today. Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a blog about abandoned places and urban exploring. That’s what you all come here to read about. But this is also a personal blog. I try to share my experiences and life lessons with anyone who cares to listen. If reading my words was enough to help just one person, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. We’ve had a lot of readers reach out over the last year telling us how much our work means to them. And there is no greater compliment to us than that. Especially considering how rough last year was. And so today’s piece is going to be a little different. I get one of these a year, so please bare with me. If this isn’t for you, I won’t be offended if you stop reading or unsubscribe. You have that right. I want to talk today about mental health. It’s something that I personally have struggled with for a long time. And I know that a lot of us here feel the same way. I advocate for mental health awareness whenever I can. We’ve all either had our issues with mental health or know someone who does. It’s never easy to talk about. Sometimes it can be down right terrifying. No matter how hard we try, there will always be this stigma around mental health. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years, but some still have a hard time accepting that it’s okay to not be okay.

And so allow me to introduce our July investigation: The Garden of Sweet Remembrance. Located in the town of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, this place was once the lavish home of one of the area’s most prominent businessmen. Matthew J. Whittall was the owner of the property, and christened it Juniper Hall. There was a vast estate to behold, but the garden was the true jewel in the crown. Mr. Whittall and his wife were so very proud of their garden that they invited all manners of the public to tour it whenever they pleased. But like the blooming flowers, nothing lasts forever. The proprietor and founder passed away in 1929. The garden’s pergola was dedicated to him by his widow and christened the name “The Garden of Sweet Remembrance.” Following Mr. Whittall’s passing, the mansion changed hands several times before finally being demolished after years of abandonment. All that remains of this once lavish wonderland are the old pergola and the once flourishing garden. The property remained this way for many years. The weeds and vines grew wild, overtaking this once sacred place. But it was never truly forgotten. A small movement grew and grew to eventually restore the property and garden to their former glory. Now, what remains of the property has been revived and resides in Shrewsbury’s Prospect Park.

This, once again, was my birthday investigation. I always try to explore something on my birthday. It’s just a great way to spend the day away from the world with my partner Lassie. Doing what we love. I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to find at The Garden of Sweet Remembrance. I had received a tip about it a few months ago, but found conflicting information on the web. The land had been lost for a long time. And though the movement dedicated to it’s upkeep has grown over the years, vandalism has still continued to scar the face of the iconic pergola. So we decided to go take a look. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. We usually NEVER go exploring on Saturdays (too many people out and about) but, it was my birthday after all. So, what the Hell, right? We arrived at Prospect Park as the only visitors. There is still a grand stone archway at the entrance with a brand new sign. There are trail maps and well marked paths throughout the grounds. The garden itself is a relatively short walk down one of these paths. All throughout the woods, there are old relics marking what this park once was. Old fire hydrants rust into oblivion. Ghostly power poles blend in amongst the fading trees. And there is a certain mystique in the air here. But once you arrive at the garden, this slightly mystical place truly comes back to life.

I haven’t used the word “abandoned” in the title or tags of this article for a reason. Because it’s clearly not. The garden itself is truly alive and well. Flowers and all kinds of plant life burst through the fertile soil. It has also become a collection point for painted rocks from people all across New England. The pergola, on the other hand, stands at the far back of the garden. It’s presence looms like a great shadow of both remembrance and sorrow. The wooden roof has collapsed all together. The blue sky floods in like a ship taking on water. The foundation crumbles slightly, yet never wavers. Graffiti adorns the outer shell, but the words “GARDEN OF SWEET REMEMBRANCE” still stand strong. But what makes this place so special are the names. On certain pillars of the pergola, and some of the painted rocks, the names of people have been painted. Out of respect for the families, I will not name these names here. But what I can tell you is that each of these names are victims of suicide. Most were just teenagers. We even found a bundle of old roses left beside one of the names. This garden has clearly once again found it’s home as a place of remembrance. It brought about a mix of both sadness and spirituality seeing them. It shows that no matter what, it is the job of those of us left behind to carry on the memory of those we’ve lost.

Like I said in my introduction, this place is not going to be for everyone. It isn’t one that we usually cover and was not what we were expecting at all. But honestly, I am happy to be proven wrong. And while this post goes against most of what we post here, I would highly recommend the Garden of Sweet Remembrance to all of our readers. Not for adventure or thrill-seeking. But for reflection. It really is a beautiful place. Seeing the names on the walls of the pergola and on the painted rocks was a very moving experience. I lost one close friend to suicide five years ago this summer. His name was Troy. He was an actor like me. And I think about him everyday. It’s always hard to process losing someone like that. Much like these beautiful flowers, we are all slowly fading away. That’s why we always have to remember to keep ourselves well and to keep those we’ve lost in our memories. The Garden of Sweet Remembrance’s history reminded me a lot of the struggles we all go through everyday. There were good times. There were bad times. There were times where all hope seemed to be lost. But with a little bit of help, this place came back to life. And always remember, it’s okay to not be okay. Never be afraid to ask for a little help. If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, please check out the list below.

Find a Therapist, Psychologist, Counselor – http://www.psychologytoday.com/therapists

Suicide Prevention Hotline – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The Trevor Project – http://www.thetrevorproject.org

Mental Health America – http://www.mhanational.org

Spider Weeds – The Abandoned Helen Lohman House

Posted: October 21, 2020 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Farm, abandoned home, Abandoned House, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Road, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Automobiles, Birds, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, dreams, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fantasy, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, House, Information, left behind, lost, Love, Magic, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, New York, photography, Preserved Ruin, Public Parks, research, Ruins, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Spider Weeds

The Abandoned Helen Lohman House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Show of hands here, please. Anyone reading this a gardener? I usually don’t like to reveal too much about our personal lives, given the nature of what we do here. But we at Abandoned Wonders absolutely love to garden. It’s a really special thing. Every year from Spring through Fall, we grow all of our own vegetables. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Peppers. Green beans. Some things we can’t get to grow, but we try anyway. Just for the fun of it. Every year here in New England is a little bit different from the last. And each one teaches you a different lesson on how to be a good gardener. Being able to grow something yourself and then enjoy your harvest is quite rewarding. But every year, eventually the season ends. The frost and the cold slowly kill off the plants. And one by one, you have to say goodbye to the little lifeforms that you yourself created. You water them. You feed them. You make sure they get enough sun. They depend on you for just about everything. But when the season changes, there is no stopping the suns from setting. There is always a time when we have to say goodbye to what we created.

Might I introduce October 2020’s subject: The Abandoned Helen Lohman House. The owner and proprietor of this house, Ms. Lohman, was a New Yorker who spent her summers here in the seclusion of the Connecticut woodlands. She was a successful artist, simply seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of the great city from time to time. Though the house was first built in the 1700’s, she was the last official owner. Her property served as both her summer vacation home and farmstead. It was a simple property, with a small country house, running water, and a cozy fireplace to curl up next to on those cold nights. But in the late 1960’s, she decided to move on from the property. The house was forgotten about, and Ms. Lohman donated the land to the town of Middletown with the idea of making it a wildlife preserve. She named the preserve after the way she found her garden after every winter. The spider weeds would take over the garden, and leave it in a ghastly state of decay. Over the years, the house fell into complete disrepair. She now sits all alone and abandoned.

All of the credit for this one goes to my partner Lassie. A few weeks ago, we were looking into doing our first virtual 5K. For charity, of course. While looking into good three-mile walks in our area, we just happened to come upon a little place that we had never heard of: Spiderweed Preserve. While reading about this place, we soon discovered the rich history of the Helen Lohman House. Nobody around here had ever covered it before. So naturally, we had to go take a look. We didn’t end up doing our 5K here, simply because that would’ve been timed. And so, on a clear Fall day, we made the trek into Middletown. Looking for Spiderweed Preserve. The weather had called for grey skies and clouds. Which is what I thought would’ve been the perfect backdrop for this hallowed ground. But, naturally, we got blue skies and sunshine. No matter. It was a beautiful ride through the Haddam area. But eventually the road turned East, and deep into the woods. There is no parking lot. Just a long, dead end, dirt road that was once a driveway. It was here that we hiked to the abandoned property.

It is a short uphill hike to the old house. It looms up on the hill as you approach, making it unmistakable. But sadly, it is mostly gutted. The roof is no more, and one side of wall has totally collapsed. But in its heyday, the house was clearly one story. It has a surprisingly rustic design, as if it was just crudely put together by any large stones they could find in the area. That is one of the most unique parts about this place: the rocks. Shining mica and rose quartz can be found all over the walls and floor. You can still walk up the front steps. The fireplace still stands. And seated on its hearth is the star of the show around here: the old tea kettle. Though it is slowly being rusted to death, this old dispenser still stubbornly sits here. Waiting for her master to return. It is quite a haunting site. Watch your step, as there is broken glass bloody everywhere. One window still holds onto its frame. Another still has its distinct green shudders to protect it. But sadly, this place is more of a skeleton of what it was once was. Like an autumn leaf, haven fallen from her tree and slowly eroding into nothingness.

Fall was, in fact, the perfect time to visit the abandoned Helen Lohman House. I don’t know if I’d recommend visiting it during any other season. The chilly air, colorful leaves, and fading sunlight just make this old structure feel a bit more special. There is just a certain amount of mystique to it that makes you wonder what these old ruins once looked like way back when. And even though the house is slowly collapsing, this place can still hold a feel secrets. It absolutely boggles my mind that the old tea kettle is still there and nobody has taken it. Let’s keep it that way. And if you by chance come upon the secret Orange rock, congratulations. Now please put it back so someone else can have the joy of finding it. If you are interested, please do go check this place out before it’s too late. Just as the time of 2020 is drawing to a close, as does the time of this rustic homestead. But then again, let’s always remember why Helen Lohman named this place after those pesky spider weeds that took over her garden every year. Because no matter how tough winter can get, some plants always grow back.