Archive for March, 2016

Losing My Religion: Abandoned National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus near Hazleton

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According to several online sources, The Rev. Girard Angelo once told a friend that he promised God if he was ever assigned to a parish with enough land, he would build a Shrine. He did exactly that when he was sent to St. Raphael’s Church in Harleigh, near Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Construction began in 1974, with the outdoor Shrine ceremoniously dedicated on June 22, 1975, the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  The name of the church was changed to Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it was designated as a National Shrine in 1997.

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What Rev. Angelo accomplished was nothing short of miraculous, the largest shrine to the Sacred Heart in North America was built by one of the smallest parishes in the Scranton Dioceses.

SH2 vintageVintage SHJS Picture courtesy Mary Josephson

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Rev. Angelo personally led tours for the busloads of Shrine visitors who made their way to show their devotion.  Sources say the Shrine had more than 100,000 visitors each year, usually via those organized bus tours.  The Shrine provided breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the dining hall of the Sacred Heart Center. Pilgrims who wanted to stay overnight found accommodations at nearby motels — one of which offered a discount through the Shrine organizers.  Those promoting the Shrine also spoke of the coal mining heritage of the area by encouraging visitors to stop by the “living history” museum of 19th-century mining, known as Eckley Miners’ Village.

SH 7 aThe Shrine’s five circular fountains symbolized the five wounds of Christ

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SH 14 aThe former Shrine to Our Lady of Fatima,

where Sacred Heart visitors could light candles

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Reverend Angelo, who was well-loved by many for building the Shrine, died in 2009 at the age of 82.

On August 10th, 2011, The Diocese of Scranton issued the following press release:

“The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located in Harleigh, Pennsylvania has been closed effective August 8, 2011.  Visits to the Shrine decreased significantly over the past several years; and with no direct funding source in place to maintain the Shrine, the property fell into disrepair and potential safety concerns were raised.  In consideration of the future of the Shrine, a facilities study was conducted and concluded that the cost to renovate the Shrine would be prohibitive.

Although a few pilgrims visited the site intermittently, without the finances available to upkeep and maintain the grounds, in concurrence with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it was determined that the site be officially closed.”

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SH VintageVintage SHJS Picture courtesy Mary Josephson

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It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

Photo by Jennifer O’Malia

Jenn Wedding

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Abandoned Summit Resort: Saxy Sal, Dirty Dancing, & the Heart Shaped Bar

Jenn Summit 1

The Summit Resort

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia 

In 1995, the New York Daily News ran an article celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Honeymoon Industry in the Poconos. The Honeymoon Capital of the World began when Rudolph Von Hoevenberg opened the first resort, The Farm on the Hill, in 1945. The Farm was a very rustic operation consisting of some simple cabins and a main lodge.  Honeymooning brides were required to make beds and clean cabins, while grooms had to wait tables, which management said was their way to prepare their guests for married life.  The resort was so popular they had to institute a waiting list.

During the 1940s and 1950s more plush resorts began emerging in the area, which started a period of massive growth for the Honeymoon Business in the region.   In 1963, the first heart-shaped tub was introduced to Pocono honeymooners, and 1971 ushered in the racing era, when the Pocono International Raceway opened its 2 ½ mile superspeedway.  During the 1980s, whitewater rafting, outlet shopping, and golfing served to broaden the four-season appeal of the regional resort industry.  The 1990s were a bitter-sweet era, with several well-regarded resorts closing, while others made significant capital improvements to their facilities.

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The Summit Resort

Photo Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

According to that Daily News article, newlyweds planning a basic Poconos getaway in 1995 expected accommodations that included “a heart-shaped tub, heart-shaped bed, heart-shaped swimming pool or a 7-foot-tall champagne-glass whirlpool bath for two”.  The article states:

“The Summit Resort (Tannersville) prides itself in matching the splendor of the natural surroundings to its indoor space luxurious suites, sports facilities, dining rooms and exotic nightclub. Just steps from your bedside is a private pool with mirrored walls, romantic woodland mural and swirling jets of water.”

Jenn Summit 6Photo Courtesy  of Jennifer O’Malia 

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*All Brochure Photos Courtesy  of Flickr’s colleen25g

Many have described the resort as an outlier.    The Summit, which was built in 1968, closed in September 2002, after the owners, Farda Realty LLC, decided they wanted to open an outlet shopping complex on the property, an idea that never became a reality.  Since then, the property structures have been condemned to existence as abandonments, with their glorious past long gone and no hope for their future.

Among those in the know, the plush, vinyl-clad, heart-shaped bar, once used as the glorious centerpiece of the Arabian Nights-themed “Scheherazade Night Club and Kismet Cocktail Lounge”, is considered the jewel of abandoned resort bars by photographers.

Gio the Summit 2Photo Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

Jenn Summit 3Photo Courtesy  of Jennifer O’Malia 

While information about the resort is a little hard to come by, former guests looking to see if the beloved resort is still open are doing their part to keep memories alive by posting about their experiences on various travel sites.

Jenn Summit 5Photo Courtesy  of Jennifer O’Malia 

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At least two former guests posting to those sites have said that The Summit was reminiscent of the resort in Dirty Dancing, the 1987 hit that takes place at the fictitious Kellerman Resort, which is, in the movie, located in the Catskills.  Just like the fictitious resort, The Summit offered activities such as hiking, horseshoes, ping pong, limbo, bowling, badminton, and volleyball, but the Poconos also had the Alpine Slide at Camelback!  And one couple staying at The Summit in 1983 recalled that “It was the only resort at that time that offered the pool and Jacuzzi tub in the room.”

Jenn Summit 6Photo Courtesy  of Jennifer O’Malia 

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The Summit also had “breakfast in bed” which arrived in a wooden box that looked like some sort of animal trap, which was left at your door while the employee knocked and quickly ran away. One person wrote “We stayed in one of the little cabins and loved to light up the fireplace at night and swim in the heart shaped bathtub with lots of bubbles!”

 

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Gio The Summit 3Photo Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

Jennifer 8Photo Courtesy  of Jennifer O’Malia 

Gio The Summit 4Photo Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

Those commenting say that the staff and food were great.  Some mentioned collecting love potion glasses by playing newlywed games.  The lobby was described as “a little piece of paradise”.   It had koi ponds, a footbridge, a lit rock walled waterfall and even a parrot!  Many returning guests said they liked taking a new picture of the waterfall each year they had the opportunity to return.

UntitledPhoto Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

UntitledPhoto Courtesy of Giovanni Adavelli

Jenn Summit 2Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia 

Former guests most often post about “Saxy Sal”, a saxophone player for The Graci Brothers Band who said “bonswa” and always made everyone feel like family at The Summit.  Unfortunately, Salvatore Graci passed away in 2011. Many praised The Graci Brothers Band with comments like “the best band we ever had the pleasure of dancing to”.  A few recalled The Graci Brothers Band’s version of Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” as a personal favorite.

Other Summit employees leaving an impression among the guests were Tex, an activities director from 1987 and/or 1988; a show host reminiscent of Benny Hill;  a woman named Loretta who seated them at breakfast, lunch and dinner; Laxmi, a dining room server;  the “fun to be around photographer” that everyone called “Flash”;  The Astonishing Neal, a hypnotist; “a character” called “Smoky” who was the master of ceremonies in 1977; and “Fred Beven and the Difference in Brass” with their Big Band sound. Also scoring a few mentions were the chocolate crème pie and the Baked Alaska.

Jenn Summit 4Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia 

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Sadly, those staying at The Summit in 2000 and 2001 shared experiences that included negative comments about the tackiness of the décor, primarily mentioning the shag carpeting that permeated every inch of many cabins, a filmy substance covering the pool, a broken miniature golf course, and cabins they described as dirty, outdated and feeling “too much like the 1970s”.

Summit 10Cheri Sundra

Summit 2Cheri Sundra

Yet, many staying at The Summit during the 80s said they hoped to return for their 25th anniversary.

The Summit 1Cheri Sundra

Pocono Palace Easter Weekend 012 sigCheri Sundra

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It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

 Photo by Jennifer O’Malia 

Jenn Wedding

Back to Guerrilla History: 

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