Posts Tagged ‘home sweet home’

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

 

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

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

Fallen Attraction

The Abandoned Gillette Castle Railroad

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

In the absence of light, darkness prevails. When there is no heat, there is only cold. And without love, there is nothing left but despair. It’s funny because Gillette Castle, along with Hublien Tower, was one of my favorite places to visit when I was a kid. A short half-hour drive away, it was one of those magical places to visit and get ice cream at during the heydays of summertime. With its winding trails and classical feel, it truly is a sight to see. I honestly believed I had hiked every inch of this park. But I was wrong. Lost deep in the woods and along the rocky banks of the Connecticut River is the fallen attraction of this fabled place – The Gillette Castle Railroad.

Located in picturesque East Haddam, Connecticut, Gillette Castle was the luxurious and mystical castle of prolific actor William Gillette. With no children to leave his estate to, Gillette left the grounds to the state of Connecticut after his passing. Today it is enjoyed by many for its hiking and wonderful view of the Connecticut River. But unbeknownst to most, myself included for a time, is that there once stood a railroad around the estate. Though it was a small train, which can now be viewed at the Visitor’s Center, tracks once covered the entire grounds to carry visitors from place to place. When it was originally sold off, most of the tracks were ripped up and the old railroad disappeared…but not completely.

We made our trip to Gillette Castle on one of the final weekends of summertime 2017. The park was just as lively as I had remembered it. But far down one of the quieter sides of the grounds lie the remains of the railroad. An old bridge has been closed down for being unstable. Another has collapsed into the underbrush. Far down the cliffs by the roaring Connecticut River stand several old pieces of track and framework. Old rusty barrels rot into the fertile forest floor. But the star of the show is by far the old tunnel. Though it may not run as long as we had hoped, inside is pure unadulterated darkness. With its entrance nearly lost to the woods around it, its certainly a fun little walk through.

A special shout-out of this piece goes to our reader who called himself “Mike.” A few weeks ago, he contacted us with several suggestions of places to visit in his area including the Gillette Castle Railroad. And this place really didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, we really don’t get as much fan interaction as we would like. And we love it when people tell us their stories or suggest places for us to explore. It makes this hobby just a little bit more fun and meaningful. I wish that I had been able to see this railroad during its heyday, but alas, it is no more. Though this is more of a hiking piece, the old train tunnel really is pretty cool. And just as this place was highly recommended for us to visit, I encourage you to do the same.

Welcome Home

The Abandoned Marlborough Commons

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Marlborough, Connecticut, is and always will be my home at heart. I grew up here. I spent my entire childhood and young adult life here. I know this town like no other, especially growing up in the time where kids used their bikes to get everywhere. But as much as I love this little town, so many things have changed about it. Many of the smaller local businesses are no more. Construction is underway on a large supermarket. And many of the people I once knew have moved on. It is simply the way of life. We have covered the abandoned Marlborough Commons shopping center in the past. But several years later, it has taken a grim turn for the worse.

 A mere stone’s throw from the now hustling and bustling center of town lies the now abandoned Marlborough Commons. I can’t tell you exactly what year it officially went under, but I do know that this place never quite picked up traction as a local business. Maybe it was their location, sitting pretty right off the entrance/exit ramp from Route 2. From what I remember, it was always a two-floor business complex with the restaurant a bit further down the lot. Many different establishments came and went from here, none sticking around for too long. The complex limped on as long as it could, and has now sat empty and deserted for almost ten long years.

On a beautiful summer day in 2017, we decided to pay the Marlborough Commons a visit. Though it is still listed as FOR SALE, we did not encounter a single NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT, or PRIVATE PROPERTY sign anywhere on the property. Since the almost three years since our last visit, the Commons has certainly entered a downward spiral. The once minimal vandalism has run rampant at this former shopping center. Windows have been smashed. Doors have been boarded up. Graffiti stains the old brick walls. Farther down the lot, the old cafe is slowly being engulfed by the wild and hungry vegetation.  Nature, much like the vandals, has struck back in a big way.

They say the older we get, the more things we have to leave behind. That’s life. And as my old hometown grows and grows, places like the Marlborough Commons seemingly get left behind. Most of the old businesses I grew up with are now gone. It is sad to see what was once a cornerstone of our local community now sitting in a state of such disrepair. But like I said, a big FOR SALE sign sits out front. The Marlborough Commons is not beyond salvageable yet. I hope to see her rise again someday, stranger things have happened. And if I’ve learned anything growing up in this lovable little community, it’s that you can never count the town of Marlborough out.