Posts Tagged ‘Spirits’

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.

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

Out of the Fire

The Rebirth of the Montgomery Mill

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

There were once many successful mills across all of New England. Dozens thrived in Connecticut alone. But as the world turns, times change. Over the years, countless of these once thriving industrial titans succumbed to darkness. But out of this darkness, light rises to meet it. For new life is now being breathed into these old mills. All across the region, abandoned mills are being redeveloped into apartment complexes. From the nearby Talcottville Mill, to several others across Massachusetts, this has become recent trend for construction firms. And each has found insurmountable success. But a new member is about to join their ranks – the once infamous Montgomery Mill.

First built in the early 1800’s, the Montgomery Mill was once the jewel in the crown of the thriving town of Windsor Locks. It gave the people of the town jobs, and became the heart of downtown. Businesses and shops opened up all around the mill. In the mid 1900’s though, things began to change. The Montgomery Company struggled on for several more years, before finally closing its doors in 1989. Since that day, the factory has been a constant topic of debate amongst the townspeople and a playground for destruction. The property has changed hands several times between land developers and entrepreneurs over the years, but nothing has come of it…until now.

With an expected date of completion being the summer of 2019, construction will soon commence on the formerly abandoned mill shortly. With its nesting bald eagles having moved out, the Montgomery Mill is now once again open for business. Naturally, we had to pay her one last visit before her dramatic reconstruction. Since the eagles moved on, the Connecticut River Canal trail was once again open, and it passes right alongside the old mill. One thing we found very interesting was the new program inviting passerby’s to hang hubcaps on the walls of the mill, to cover nasty graffiti on the walls. But the old mill is definitely ready to move on, and we couldn’t be happier to hear of her redevelopment.

It wasn’t so much saying goodbye. It was more like… see you later.

For more information, please see the Hartford Courant:

http://www.courant.com/real-estate/property-line/hc-biz-windsor-locks-montgomery-mills-redevelopment-20180103-story.html

None Shall Pass

The Abandoned Boardman Bridge

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

We take a two night vacation every October to celebrate our anniversary. Sometimes we coordinate our trips to visit abandoned places. For example, one year we stayed two nights in Newport, RI, and explored Fort Wetherill and Fort Mansfield. Other times, we just randomly stumble upon abandoned places. Like last year, we just happened to pass by the abandoned Hogback Mountain Ski Area while vacationing in Vermont. This was our seventh year anniversary trip, and we didn’t have any specific locations we planned to visit. We were just planning on spending a nice few days up in the mountains of Western Connecticut. But much like last year, fate had other plans.

This is the abandoned Boardman Bridge in New Milford, CT. We’ve explored many abandoned bridges in our time, but this one was different. First opening in the late 1800’s, the Boardman Bridge ferried all kinds of traffic across the roaring currents of the Housatonic River. But almost exactly one hundred years since she first started service, a newer, larger, and more modern bridge was built directly beside her. Ironically, this new bridge was also named the Boardman Bridge. And so this old workhorse became dubbed the “Old Boardman Bridge.” She carried on for a short while longer, serving only as a pedestrian bridge, before finally being closed for good in 1984.

Whilst driving through the countryside of New Milford, CT, we came across the abandoned Boardman Bridge. With the grey skies and the gloomy October weather, we just had to stop and take pictures. For being closed since long before either of us were even born, the old bridge is in remarkably good condition. It came as no surprise to us that the town of New Milford is in fact seeking to repair and reopen the old bridge as a pedestrian/cyclist path to connect two neighboring hiking trails. The Old Boardman Bridge may be old, but she still definitely has some fight left in her. Hopefully, someday soon, she will once again find a way to serve her community.

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.

My Sweet Summer

The Abandoned Case Cabin

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

What is it about summer time that makes it so magical? To me, it always seems like the shortest season. When I was a kid, August was my least favorite month of the year. And it was because the shadow of September and the dread of going back to school made it so hard to enjoy anything. But July, that was always the best. Vacations. Ice cream. The beach. Hiking. All the best summer memories come from July. And yet it always feels like the shortest month of the year. You had no worries about school, or homework. All that mattered was having fun. But I guess that’s just the brevity of human existence. Enjoy what you can while you can, because time stands still for no man. And few places we have ever visited have experienced such an extreme fall from grace as the once adored now abandoned Case Cabin.

In 1862, two brothers of the well-known Case family purchased two acres around the beautiful Case Reservoir in Manchester, Connecticut, and this is where they built their summer home. The Case family were successful industrialists from the area who owned and operated multiple factories and processing plants. The exquisite log cabin was first built in 1917 using sturdy chestnut wood from the neighboring forests. Throughout the early twentieth century, this place was the vacation paradise of the wealthy Case family. But much like the summer beauty, the prestige of this wondrous place eventually waned. The prestige of the family slowly came to end, and the summer home was eventually left behind.

We have visited Case Cabin many times over the years. And with each passing visit, the magic of the grounds disappears ever so slightly. And this was the visit for us where the most changes had been made to the grounds. There was a time where there were no fences, security systems, and renovations. The back and side decks were once accessible, now removed from existence. The entire back house has even been demolished at this point, leaving only a bare foundation of stone walls and broken memories. While a family of chubby bunnies now happily resides within the perimeter, the entire Case Cabin has been sealed off by a chain link fence. A few yards away, the boat house still stands. An old swimming ladder still pokes out of the nearby pond.

Much like the passing days of summer, the time for Case Cabin seems to be sadly drawing to a close. Though she was once enjoyed by the local high society, today she is nothing more than a withering spirit. She is lost to the slow decay of time, at the mercy of the unstoppable sands of the hourglass. But that’s what makes places like this, and summer itself, enjoyable. We know that our time is short, which is what drives us to make the best and most out of each moment. She once had a flourishing history and pedigree. But those days are gone. The sun is slowly setting on this once wondrous and wealthy place. Case Cabin will inevitably be gone someday. But the memories will always be with us.

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” -Troy (2004)