Posts Tagged ‘Remember’

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

Sunset on Sunrise

Remembering Sunrise Resort – Part III

“Once more into the fray. Into the last great fight I shall ever know.

Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.”

The Grey (2011)

This will be our final installment on the now fabled Sunrise Resort. We have covered our discovery of the resort in the first issue, followed by our investigation of the resort in our second. This final issue will cover our final visit to the grounds, after they had been demolished by the State of Connecticut. We hope that you have learned a thing or two about this place, and why it is important to us. It may be long gone, but it will live forever in the photos that we have taken and the stories that we tell about it. Sunrise Resort was loved by the people of Connecticut for many years. Following her demise, she was left abandoned for over half a decade. Finally, she was demolished by her owners leaving nothing but the memories and the tattered remains of what once was.

Spanning over 140 acres, Sunrise Resort was sold to the State of Connecticut for 2 million dollars after going out of business in 2008. When the state failed to act on reusing/redeveloping the resort, the grounds’ 82 buildings slowly fell into disrepair and became derelict. Though they sat empty and decaying for many years, one state lawmaker was determined to do something about it. Connecticut State Representative Melissa Ziobron, a former employee of Sunrise Resort, was the driving force behind the demolition. For many months, her proposition toiled in the state’s offices. Finally, in the summer of 2013, the demolition was approved. Over the next few months, every last deteriorating building was destroyed. The site has since been rechristened as Sunrise State Park. It was not until over a year afterwards that we decided to return to the site, to see what was left to see.

Since we had first discovered the resort in 2012, we watched it closely. We followed Representative Ziobron’s campaign to have the resort demolished. We had even written a script for an apocalyptic short film to be filmed there in the spring of 2013. Plans for this however fell through following the devastation of several nasty snow storms during the winter, which made the grounds completely impassable. Shortly after that, the grounds were designated off limits to visitors as the state prepared for the demolition of the resort, which would last throughout the summer of 2013. It was later reopened during the fall of that year. In the summer of 2014, we finally decided to make our return to the grounds. Almost exactly two years after we first discovered this abandoned wasteland on a hot summer day, we returned to see what had become of Sunrise Resort.

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At the time we visited the grounds, there was still no visible sign designating the space as Sunrise State Park. We parked our car in the same place that we had parked the last time we had visited the resort, though there is no longer a guard shack to stop cars from pulling up closer. The few buildings at the front of the resort are actually still standing. These buildings are still used by the State of Connecticut for storage. They are heavily padlocked and protected against any intruders, and they still remained as remarkably untouched as we had last seen them two years prior. A few of the buildings have their windows boarded up, some with plywood and others with just cardboard. Though they are looking quite old, they are clearly not abandoned and are the only structures still standing on the grounds.

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We continued down the road further into the resort, though there was no dog following us this time. The large parking lot where school buses used to load and unload visitors is still there, though now it is all dirt and chipped asphalt. From the parking lot, you can see the spot where the old office building and pool used to be. The pool has been completely filled in, and a deep layer of wood chips has been placed on top of it. The office building has been demolished, leaving only a checkered cement foundation that looks like a human chessboard. Farther down the path, we came to where the rows of cabins once stood. Much like the pool, there are just layers of wood chips covering the spots where the structures once stood. Though it had been a long time since we had been here, you can always tell where an old building once stood by the wood chips.

There really wasn’t much to see. Down by the river, everything had been cleared out. Even the old pine tree that stood in front of the dining hall had been removed. The only thing left to distinguish what once was, was the old chimney, still partially standing at the back of the lot. The only other real thing of note here were the sports fields. A few chain link fences had been left up around the baseball diamond, though it is long since overgrown. The tennis courts are still here too, just in very poor shape. We even found the old bocce ball and basketball courts, lost in the weeds where the old children’s center once stood. If you had never seen this place the way it used to be, it would be hard to imagine that is was once a fun filled resort. But with our daylight dying, we decided it was time to call it a day. We bid farewell to Sunrise State Park, as the sun began to set.

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We all have different feelings when we see the sunset. Some of us see the end of the day. Others see the dawning of a new tomorrow. But in a strange way, we can all agree on one thing about them: they can be indescribably beautiful. Not just to the eye, but to the heart. Because a sunset always gives way to sunrise, the dawning of a new day and the chance for a new beginning. That is what we hope that this place has. The sun may have set on Sunrise Resort, but there is glimmer of hope here. Though the resort is long gone, the grounds are still enjoyed. Hikers, fishermen, and dog walkers now heavily frequent the area. The large abandoned buildings have given way to recreational space. The painful sorrow of seeing this doomed summer dream world has passed. And in a place where darkness once ruled, there is finally sunlight for Sunrise.

The End of the Road – Remembering Sunrise Resort: Part I

Posted: January 27, 2015 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Baseball Field, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Fairgrounds, abandoned home, abandoned new england, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Stores, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Beaches, Birds, Broken, Cabin, Children, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, East Haddam Connecticut, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, House, Information, left behind, lost, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, Sunrise Resort, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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The End of the Road

Remembering Sunrise Resort – Part I

Written by: Sean

Photographs by: Amanda

You always remember your first. Whether it be love, sex, friendship, you always remember the first. Because the first will always be special, whether you like it or not. We’ve been doing this for about three years now, and I still remember our first. It was kind of an accident; we just happened to stumble upon one of the greatest abandoned sites in Connecticut while hiking in the woods. It was more than just an abandoned building; it was a small community that had been completely deserted overnight. This is the place that started our journey as urban explorers. What follows is part one of a three part series that will fully cover our three visits to the legendary Sunrise Resort in East Haddam, Connecticut. Part one will cover the discovery of the resort. Part two will cover our investigation. And part three will cover our return to the site after its demolition.

The only way to really tell this story is to start at the beginning. I mean the real beginning. Sunrise Resort was established in the 1930’s by Ted Hilton, a Hartford Taxi Driver. Over its 92 years the resort became Frank Davis Resort then what we know it as now, Sunrise Resort. In its heyday, the resort was known for theme weeks, meals, parties, music, and its excellent family atmosphere. It provided services such as maid service, childcare for those parents who wanted a break, boating/sailing, horseback riding, and children’s programs. They even allowed you to bring along the family pet! The resort provided many forms of housing may it be rustic cottages, motel rooms, apartments, or resort lodging. Sunrise had it all. Just as a fun fact, both Amanda and myself visited the resort while we children. Both of our schools scheduled our end of the year summer picnics here. Unfortunately, we did not take any photos while there.

Over the years Sunrise’s old fashion look and feel began to lose customer’s interest and it slowly began to wither. Near its end customers were found to complain of it being “out-of-date,” musty, and unclean. Sadly, in 2008 Sunrise was closed and sold to the CT Government. At first the government had plans of making it into a newer, updated Campgroup or into a camp for the disabled. This never happened. The Connecticut Government put things off and forgot about Sunrise until it became too late; nothing was left to save. Since then it fell into ruins. It had been vandalized (windows smashed, copper piping ripped out of the walls, items stolen, memories shattered) and nature has moved in to reclaim it. This once beautiful resort was now a ghost town resembling Chernobyl. Everything is left the same as it was as if its happy, smiling patrons simply vanished.

It was a hot summer day in 2012. We were just hanging out. The days of summertime were slowly drawing to close, and we would soon be returning to college. The beach was no fun anymore. We had hiked all of our local parks. And we didn’t have the money to go to the movies. We decided to do something different. It was actually the website damnedct.com that got us into this. We had occasionally surfed that site, looking at all of their cool articles. But most of them were out of date. First, we looked into checking out the Little People’s Village. But further research revealed that this site has been so horribly vandalized, there is nothing left to see. We then thought of checking out Holy Land USA, hearing that it was quite easy to get in. Further research into this revealed that a young girl had tragically been murdered there very recently, and the place was near impenetrable.

With our day slowly ending, we ended up deciding to check out Machimoodus State Park in East Haddam. There were rumors of strange, unearthly noises here so we decided to check it out. We even brought along our Japanese Chin named Tojo. The state park was nice, though we didn’t hear any weird noises. There was an old barn still standing towards the center of the park, but nothing too interesting. That is until we took a dark trail leading into the woods. The farther we got down this trail, the weirder things got. First we found a shoe sitting on an old stump. This shoe had been there so long, moss had completely coated it. We also found a crushed up loud speaker in the dirt. Further down the trail, we found a rusty storage trailer, completely full of old cots. It was completely silent. Then, we saw it.

 At the end of the trail, seated comfortably alongside the banks of the Moodus River, we found an abandoned summer camp. The old dining hall stood before us. It was three floors, with a porch out front. The windows were all shattered, and its outer paint was rapidly fading. The old kitchen equipment had been left out back to rot in the sun. A rickety gazeebo stood out in front of it. Beside that was a tall withered pine tree, slowly dying in the summer heat. Several empty pavilions guarded the river bank. Two yellow chairs were seated in the water, still standing. The long grass all around grew wild and free. A couple of small storage sheds stood closer to the edge of the forest, though the steps leading into them were slowly collapsing. A very old and unsafe looking staircase stood leading up the hill, though we dare not follow it. What was this place?

Unknown to us at the time, this was the abandoned Sunrise Resort. Since we had our dog in tow and had no idea where we were, we decided to leave…after snapping a few pictures of course. This place wasn’t safe for Tojo to be walking around, and we were completely in the dark on what this strange place was or if we were allowed to be there. As we made the trek through the forest and back to the car, we decided to do some research on what we had just found: what is was, who lived there, why it was abandoned. But more importantly, we vowed to return. Stay tuned for Part II next week.