Posts Tagged ‘Route 66’

A Peaceful Feeling

Abandoned in the Center of Town

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

In a small town in Connecticut, an empty house is slowly devoured by the forests that surround it. Windows and doors have been busted open. An old barn slowly decays in the front yard. The once firm driveway is now nothing more than a gravel path. Wild vines and briars steadily grow like gnarling teeth across the outer walls. All of this stands in plain sight of the town of Hebron, Connecticut. A house slowly dies in plain sight here. The rest of the town just goes on about their business. They pay no attention to it. Cars go by. People get their groceries. Businesses rise and fall. But not a second glance is given to this place that someone, not too long ago, called home. We’ve explored many abandoned houses in the past, but none of them have been literally smack dab in the center of town. They’ve often been in some desolate country road or lost in the woods. But this place stands alone, crying out for help. But nobody answers.

 The town of Hebron, Connecticut, was founded in the year 1704. It is one of the older towns in the area. It was officially incorporated into Hartford County in 1708. About a century later, parts of Hebron officially became a part of the newly established township of Marlborough, my home town. Throughout its history, Hebron was well known for being a strong farming community. Much of its rolling countryside was home to countless family farms and homesteads. Though the town has changed significantly over the years, many farms can still be found in the town. Along Route 66, several large chicken and dairy farms can be seen alongside the busy road just over the Columbia border. Unfortunately, just a few miles down the road, one former home lies empty and abandoned. Much like the other abandoned homes we have visited over the years, we were not able to find much of any information about this old house. From what we have gathered, it has been abandoned for at no more than eight years.

Though this abandoned house lays smack dab in the center of town, someone clearly doesn’t want anyone visiting it. NO TRESPASSING and KEEP OUT signs are posted along the property. Oddly enough, the closest neighbor to the old abandoned house is actually the resident CVS Pharmacy. Dozens of patrons visit the pharmacy every day, with little knowledge of what lies amongst the underbrush. The house is rather hard to get to. Nasty briars and thick vegetation surround the house, making it very difficult to reach or even see for that matter. With no one left to stand in her way, Mother Nature is slowly reclaiming this former home. The upper attic of the house is now home to plenty of birds and probably some bats too. We could see plenty of nests from the outside. The exteriors of the house are in very poor shape. A television antenna has fallen off the roof, but never made it to the ground as it has become entangled in the vines growing along the gutters.

The front door of the house was wide open. Inside, it was quiet as a tomb. The front door entered right into the kitchen, which had been completely gutted. A few items of liter lay strew about. The old stove was curiously still there and in good shape. We actually found very little evidence of vandalism in the house. There was a couple graffiti designs tagged in one of the rooms, but that was about it. The rest of the house was empty. There were several large dark rooms, but pretty much everything had been cleared out. We were unable to find any entrance to the upstairs, and the house did not appear to have a basement. We did find a haunting clue as to who might have been the final occupant of the house: an old cane still stood in what appeared to be the family room. A yellowing copy of the Lord’s Prayer was still tacked to the wall. And judging from the modifications to the house’s bathroom, an elderly person once dwelled here. Perhaps their spirit still haunted these dark hallways.

They say that there is a peaceful feeling in letting go. It is that moment, when you just can’t hold on anymore, that you find a relative peace. Perhaps it is the fact that the pain is gone. Perhaps it is in the realization that you don’t have to fight anymore. Personally, I believe it is the moment when you are finally ready to move on. And sadly enough, the town of Hebron, much like the family of whoever once lived here, seems to have moved on. This old house has been lost, leaving it to be slowly engulfed by the surrounding forest. But there is a peaceful feeling amongst all of this. While the old house slowly disappears, the town continues grow and flourish. What was once a home to man, now have become the home to nature. And we can only hope that over time this old house, much like its former residents, can finally rest in peace.

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Things We Lost in the Fire

The Ruins of the Norton Paper Mill

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

   Fire has changed the course of mankind more than most forces of nature. It has given life. During the early days of our evolution, it was fire that kept people warm. Fire cooked food, and provided a strong sense of comfort to early man. But it has also taken life. Over the years, roaring and out of control fires have caused untold amounts of damage and suffering. As quoted in Gareth Edward’s Godzilla; “The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is within our control, and not the other way around.” Forests have fallen. Lives have been destroyed. Empires have crumbled, all at the mercy of the fire. When the fire strikes, some rise from the ashes. Others lie in ruin. We discovered one such place on a shining spring day. Sitting alongside part of what is considered the most dammed watershed in all of North America, this once mighty paper mill was decimated by a raging fire decades ago. She has yet to recover from her wounds, and still lies severely scarred and burned. Welcome to the Norton Paper Mill.

   Originally owned by the locally prominent Norton family, the mill is believed to have been established in the late 1800’s. Its founder, C.H. Norton, inherited the property from his family and built the mill along the Jeremy River in what is now the Westchester section of Colchester, Connecticut. It was originally commissioned as a saw and grist mill. For many years, the mill had a very successful run producing all kinds of paper products for customers all over the region. Paper produced at the mill went into everything from books, binders, and even shoes. Throughout its existence, the Norton Paper Mill survived one large fire. However, it could not survive a second one. During the 1960’s, a purging fire caused massive amounts of damage and destruction to the mill, forcing it to close down for good. Since that fateful day, the Mill has become an absolute wasteland. While the river still roars past it, the dam built for the mill slowly crumbles along with the structure. Over the years, chain link fences have been installed and windows have been boarded up to keep trespassers out.

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   But that never stops us. We visited the ruins of the Norton Paper Mill on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late April. It is a short drive past the on and off ramps of Route 2 on Old Hartford Road in Colchester, Connecticut. The local Airline trail is also in close proximity. The ruins sit directly alongside the rather busy Route 149 in the rural part of town. When driving by, you really cannot miss the ruins. They are massive, and frankly quite noticeable. The roof is completely caved in, and a chain link fence spans the entire perimeter of the property. Though there are a few neighboring houses, we simply drove up to and parked beside the abandoned ruins. There was nobody around, and things were very quiet. “NO TRESPASSING” and “KEEP OUT” signs are posted all over the abandoned mill. Unfortunately, there was no real way inside without climbing over and hopping the chain link fence, which is against our policy. The interiors of the mill are in absolutely deplorable conditions, but they are very clearly visible from the outside though.

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There are two crumbling buildings that comprise the mill. Both are in a very derelict state of decay. Old and rusted equipment of all kinds is still inside, simply left to rot from many years ago. Large metal radiators and gauges have turned to a sullen brown with years upon years of rust damage. Several shelves of old tools and materials still sit inside collecting dust and decay. An old and rusted water tower stands in the distance, casting a shadow over the old mill. The damage from the fire is extensive, and still very noticeable. Charred and blackened pieces of wood are scattered amongst the wreckage. All of the ground floor windows are boarded up with heavy plywood. The higher windows all have metal bars on them, or have chain link fences positioned strategically behind them. The town of Colchester clearly does not want any visitors at the old mill, and they have good reason. The place is a wasteland, and clearly still very dangerous. The waters of the roaring river pore out of the slowly crumbling basement of the mill. It is only a matter of time before it all collapses.

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    There is currently a strong movement amongst the townspeople of Colchester and certain environmental groups to have the mill demolished and re-commissioned as a state park. Apparently, the local Salmon population is unable to migrate using the James River due to the dam installed by the mill many years ago. Since the mill has long been out of business, there is not much purpose any more. The future will tell whether or not this movement will ever be successful. Though it is pretty much impossible to get inside the ruins of the mill without breaking in, it is still very much worth a visit. Since the great fire that caused its untimely demise, the old mill sits pretty much untouched by the hands of man. It is grim reminder of the true fury of the flame, and just how uncontrollable the forces of nature can be. The very thing that gave us life ages ago, was the thing that put an end to this once prominent business. The Norton Paper Mill still sits in smoldering defeat, just one of many things we lost in the fire.

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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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Out of Business

The Abandoned Buildings of Route 85

 By: Sean and Amanda

Growing up in the Hebron area, I had driven down and along Route 85 for as long as I can remember. It is a stretch of road that we would always take to get from Hebron to Colchester or vice versa. It could be busy, at times. But other times it felt like any other road, running between a few sleepy little Connecticut towns a lot of people have never heard of. But this road is more than meets the eye. Much like most towns in the world, the communities along Route 85 have not gone unscathed from economic downturn. Over the years, we have seen several well-known and beloved businesses fall under hard times. Owners of these establishments closed up shop, and the buildings themselves were left at the mercy of the elements. On a cold November day, we decided to pay a visit to a few of these forgotten places.

Commonly used as a route for commuters and travelers between the cities of Hartford and New London, Route 85 is a state highway. Though we have often traveled it on our adventures to get to and from Hebron or Colchester, it actually runs from the northern town of Bolton all the way south to the city of New London. Originally established during the nineteenth century, Route 85 has been a commonly used highway in the state of Connecticut. It has had an assortment of different names over the last hundred or so years, but was officially christened Route 85 during 1932. Though it is kind of a small town road, Route 85 has junctions to major highways including I-95, I-384, and US-44. We were on our way to visit three abandoned buildings located along the more rural part of the route between Hebron and Colchester.

On our trip to Route 85, we parked at the local lot for the Airline Trail State Park. Arguably the biggest and most popular walking site in Connecticut, the trail runs all over the state. We have used it several times during our investigations. Ironically, it was a formerly abandoned railway track that was acquired by the state and turned into hiking trails. The three buildings that we were investigating that day were all within a short walk from each other. They included a former mechanic’s garage, an abandoned antique warehouse, and the beloved Route 85 Lumber yard. Believe it or not, the fabled and familiar site of Camp Connecticut was merely a few miles from us. See our write up on the legendary site here. Since it was a weekend, there was heavy traffic both on the trail and Route 85 itself.

The first place that we visited was the abandoned garage. Directly across from the Airline Trail State Park parking lot, this building was the oldest of the three and in the greatest state of disrepair. The roof had completely caved in over half of the building, and the entire back wall had been demolished on the other half. Most of the windows had been smashed and there was quite a bit of liter. It was only one floor. There was a section that appeared to be the office and then three garage bays. Though there was no recognizable sign left to distinguish the name of this former business, we did find a few old racing team signs on the ground. Lots of old tires, broken glass, and even an old sink were strewn about outside of the garage. Inside, we found quite a bit of evidence that some sort of large animal, more than likely a pack of stray dogs, has been living inside.

The second place that we visited was a quick walk down the road. It was formerly used as a warehouse antique business. A place that my parents used to shop at, it had only been abandoned for the last fifteen years or so. Since the building was made of brick, it was in relatively good shape aside from the forest of vines and vegetation growing around its sides. Though the one of the side doors was completely missing, most of the windows were still intact. Inside, the warehouse was in remarkably good shape. It was four floors and a basement, each floor has a solid metal staircase leading up to the next. A fire escape was also on the fourth floor. We also found what appeared to be evidence of people still living inside. Even though Hebron is not known for its homeless population, we found a few makeshift beds and a still functioning sink. This was not surprising due to the good condition of the inside, but it was only the second time we have ever found people to still be living in an abandoned place. For this reason, we did not stay very long

Our third and final stop for our investigation was Route 85 Lumber. One of the longest running and most memorable small businesses in the town of Hebron, Route 85 Lumber were known to employ a lot of students from the nearby high school and donate materials for local Eagle Scout projects. It sadly went out of business in 2009. Though it is heavily protected, it now sits empty along Route 85. The office is guarded by security cameras and the doors are all heavily locked up. The lumber yard itself is surrounded by a very tall chain link fence with barbed wire around the top, keeping out any unwanted visitors. Though there was not much to see here, we did see a “For Sale” sign out front with a “Sold” sign placed below it. This was potentially good news for this former small business, as it may become the first abandoned place we have visited to come back.

It is good to see that there is hope for one of these sites. We would like to see it make a comeback. The other two, however, may simply be too far gone. They now serve a different purpose; homes to strays and squatters. Though they were once flourishing businesses, many see them now as nothing more than big eyesores. These three sites now sit alone, silently watching the busy traffic of Route 85 pass them by.