Posts Tagged ‘Scott Tower’

Illumination

The Abandoned Columbia University Instrument House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Wilk

“In Lumine Tuo Videbimis Lumen.” This is the official motto of New York’s Columbia University, one of the most prestigious educational institutes in all of the United States. And in true educational institute fashion, this phrase is Latin. The translation is “In thy light shall we see light.” Believe it or not, this comes from straight from the Bible. What this official university motto is supposed to inspire has often been debated. Most scholars agree that this is a calling to find God’s light and move forward in faith. Others have said that this pertains more to always seek knowledge and truth in whatever you pursue. As a non-religious person, I agree with the latter. Knowledge truly is power. Especially in 2022. In a world full of clickbait and misinformation, it is so important to always be smart and learn what you can when you can. There is so much out there to know and to learn. And sadly, most people just aren’t interested in it. They are content just believing what they are told to believe, think what they are told to think, and buy what they are told to buy. That’s probably why our world has become as tribal as it is. Think for yourself and always seek knowledge. I am no student of Columbia University. In fact, I attended a much lower tier Connecticut state university for my degree. But that is how I interpret the motto of this prestigious institute. Oh, and by the way, did you know that Columbia University once had a satellite campus here in Connecticut? Talk about a segue.

That’s right. A long time ago, in a town most people have never heard of, Columbia University once had a presence here in the Nutmeg State. Our story begins in the late 1800’s, in the town of Morris, Connecticut. Located in the beautiful hills of Litchfield, the town attracted the attention of Columbia University’s Engineering School. Slowly but surely, the school began to migrate it’s summer classes over to the small and affluent community. And in 1903, they finally purchased a plot of farmland with the intention of establishing a rural summer campus. Thus it was christened as Camp Columbia. Over the years, the small campus grew in size and shape. Every summer engineering and surveying students studied their chosen crafts amongst the quiet community. During the First World War, students intent on joining the Officer’s Corp got first hand military training. The now famous observation tower was constructed several years later as a gift from the Class of 1906. According to local legends, Dwight D. Eisenhower once used the campus as a hunting ground and the New York Giants held several practice sessions on the campus sporting fields. But prominence during the 1950’s eventually led to a massive decline during the next two decades. With a changing culture, interest in the campus’s structure and program decreased drastically. And in 1983, Columbia University was finally forced to close up shop and sell the land. What remains now resides in Camp Columbia State Park.

We weren’t entirely sure we were going to have an article ready for this quarter. I have been more busy with movies in the last few months than I ever have been in my entire life. And Lassie has been equally busy working as the best damn educator in the state. While we greatly enjoy our success, it hasn’t left much time for exploring. Plus, our host site (WordPress) keeps becoming increasingly uncooperative and difficult to use. It may be time to migrate to Squarespace…but that’s neither here nor there. Speaking of movies, I had a series of night shoots out in Fairfield County recently. Night shoots are just as much fun as they are grueling. But the funny thing about night shoots is the call times are always very late in the day. So I had some time to kill. That’s right. This was another solo piece, where I went exploring without my partner. I don’t like it any more than you may, but sometimes it’s good to go on an adventure by yourself. That’s how you learn who you really are. And guess what? The old Camp Columbia just happened to be right around the corner from where I was working. With good weather and high spirits, I decided to go take a look. I arrived at Camp Columbia State Park as one of only two other visitors. It is a very quiet and quaint park, that is maintained just enough to keep it walkable. And honestly, these are my favorite kinds of parks. It’s the kind of place that nobody knows about, except for the people that are really going to enjoy it.

When the state of Connecticut bought the former Camp Columbia, they demolished most of the campus buildings. But not all. The main attraction is known as The Instrument House. This beautiful stone building once housed all of the campus’s surveying instruments and equipment. And while she was clearly left standing for a reason, the years have not been kind to her. The stone exterior is very elegant, but the interior of the house is completely devoid. The wooden roof is slowly collapsing in on itself. Spray painted graffiti is everywhere. Old pieces of lab equipment and such have been scattered across the dusty floor. With that said, it’s still an absolutely captivating structure with a strong foundation. It provides a very nice look back on the bygone era of the former campus, casting a strong sense of prestige and academia. Just like the nearby observation tower. Though not abandoned, the Camp Columbia tower stands very close by to the Instrument House. I was expecting something more along the lines of Scott Tower, but was pleasantly surprised to find the tower in moderately good condition. It definitely has a vandal problem, much like the nearby Instrument House, but it is a nice site to see and provides a wonderful view of Litchfield County. Other relics of the past are scattered amongst the underbrush. An old basketball hoop rusts into oblivion. A team of derelict picnic tables rot into the fertile forest floor. Trails of lead piping pop up across the fallen leaves.

On my travels, I encountered a very nice elderly woman taking her chocolate lab named Libby for a walk. She was kind enough to warn me that there was a hunter in the area, at the corner of the red and orange trail. He was perched in a tree stand, like a coward, and had all of the permits to be there. She checked, and she’s a total badass for doing that. I greatly thanked my fellow hiker for her warning, especially since neither of us were wearing orange, and continued on my walk. I was sure to whistle old classic rock songs very loudly to clearly identify myself as a human being. No deer is going to do that…at least I hope. With the light fading and my time just about up, it was finally time to head back to the car and off to movieland. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to find at the abandoned Camp Columbia. But I’m very glad that I got to see it. There’s just a wonderful mix of history and intrigue here. There isn’t much to see in regards to real deal urban exploration, but it’s absolutely worth a look if you’re a history nut like myself. The Instrument House is a haunting relic and climbing the observation tower is a really fun experience. It just goes to show that you never know what’s out there until you go looking for yourself. Sometimes the best journey you can go on is with yourself. And sometimes the most interesting things to learn are in places that you never thought to look. Never stop seeking knowledge. Never stop seeking the truth. Never stop seeking the light.

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The Top 5 Abandoned Places of 2019

Close out the year by checking out our new video on the Top 5 Abandoned Places of 2019! We’ve been all over the East Coast this year, and thank you to all that have been along for the ride.

New Day’s Dawn

The Abandoned Scott Tower

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It’s a new day. It’s a new year. It’s a new time. The dawn of 2019 is upon us. Funny enough, it never really feels any different than the previous year to me. At least, not right away that is. The only thing that really tells you its a new year is having to change the date whenever you sign a check. We make our fancy resolutions. We get drunk at our New Year’s Eve parties. We like to think things will be different this time around. But some things never really change. No matter how much we want them to. That’s why I’ve never been such a big fan of the whole “New Year” concept. Life changes faster than the weather around here. But I never needed a calendar to tell me that. But enough of the negativity. Happy New Year everyone! We usually go inactive during this season, but plans change. With the impending viciousness of the New England winter upon us, we took what might be our one last chance until Spring to have our first investigation of 2019. And this time, things were definitely a little bit different.

It gets me every time when I find a place like this having never heard of it before. I actually found out about it on reddit of all places. This is Scott Memorial Tower in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Standing atop Craft Hill, the tower was first built in 1942. The name Scott Tower was bestowed upon this place in honor of local hero Colonel Walter Scott. As part of a venture to build a new park for the area, picnic tables and other amenities sprouted up alongside the tower over the years. With two lookout points, the tower provided a beautiful view of Western Massachusetts. Thus it became one of the jewels of the local community. But this time of prosperity was not to last. A bypass of local highways ended up costing the park in a big way. Attendance steadily began to wain as her former patrons moved on to newer parks. And by the 1980’s, she had fallen into complete despair. There have been several attempts at a revival, but none have come to fruition. Ever since, the once grand tower now stands lost and lonely before her fallen kingdom.

It was only a few days after the New Year that we decided to visit Scott Tower. Being close by, and what was supposed to be good weather (we’ll get to that in a bit), we thought it would be a good time to check out this mysterious place. It was a bit of a spur of a moment type visit. We have explored a lot of places in the Western Massachusetts area over the last year. But this one was a bit different. Located in the now defunct Anniversary Hills park, the tower lies down a forgotten road in a quiet wood. The only other people we encountered on our journey were two elderly women and their three yappy dogs. Interestingly, the best way to the tower is through the now flourishing Community Field. Follow the old path under the highway, and you’ll find the tower. There is even some graffiti on the pavement to give you exact directions. Which was nice. Skeletons of picnic tables still haunt the forest. A once elegant staircase leads up the hill. The old stone spire looms like a ghostly shadow out of the forest. The grey skies provided an elegant backdrop for this ghostly monolith. But the large cellular tower nearby is a bit of a distraction.

I can honestly tell you that Scott Tower is in rough shape. The structure itself is still quite solid. Everything else, however, has fallen into shadow. It was deathly silent here. There was broken glass, garbage, and all sorts of horribly gross shit all over the ground. I’m talking used condoms, hypodermic needles, and bags full of God knows what. Almost every inch of reachable stone has been coated in graffiti. The staircase to the top of the tower is still open though. 21 year old me would’ve jumped at the chance to climb this thing. 27 year old me, however, had motion sickness by the time he reached the top. Seriously. The path to the pinnacle is narrow as Hell, and just seems to go on forever. Watch your step, too. Some steps are broken, and some are just plain gone. I had to lean on the railing the entire way up. There is one stop on the way up which serves as a nice reprieve. Plus its super dark inside, so bring a flashlight. When we finally did reach the top, it started snowing. Like crazy. So we were stuck up there for awhile just watching it fall. But on the brighter side, the view of the Mount Tom valley is just bloody breathtaking.

As far as we know, Scott Tower is completely legal to visit. There is even a sign on the front wall of the tower reading “Enter at Own Risk.” Heed this warning. Perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to its current state of decay. I highly recommend it to anyone in search of adventure. Just please be safe. The area is allegedly home to some rather unsavory characters. Especially at night. And climbing the tower itself is a bit of a beast, especially if you’re 6’3″ like myself. Always watch your step. One thing I will never forget about this place are the robins. It’s rare to see them during this time of year. And yet a flock of six robins followed us through our entire journey to and from the tower. They never made any noise. They just all sat in the trees and watched us. Curious, isn’t it? Given that robins are the harbingers of Spring around here, maybe this was a good omen. Obviously, winter has just begun. But maybe the presence of Connecticut’s state bird is the sign of some sort of New Day. We’ll see what happens.