Archive for the ‘ Abandoned Resort ’ Category

Come Fly With Me—Abandoned & Infamous: Birchwood Resort

Cheri Sundra

“Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue

Once I get you up there

Where the air is rarefied

We’ll just glide

Starry-eyed

Once I get you up there

I’ll be holding you so near

You may hear

Angels cheer, ’cause we’re together”

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Arguably, Birchwood is the most notorious of the abandoned resorts located in the Poconos. It’s most recent use as a hideout by an alleged cop killer added yet another chapter to the resort’s colorful history.

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For decades, private pilots have used the term “$100 Hamburger” in reference to the expense of flying one’s own plane to small airports and airstrips in rural areas for a diner hamburger, which, when factoring in the cost of the airplane, was an expensive but adventurous lunch.  Forget the burger—imagine the glamour of dropping down out of the clouds to stay at a resort! 

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

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Built on the site of an old farm during the 1950s, Birchwood quickly became one of the Poconos’ most recognizable honeymoon spots. In 1969, the Birchwood-Pocono Air Park was added to cater to resort-goers who wanted to add a little extra enchantment to their visit.

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Brochures from the 70s offered “fly in” services for honeymooners who would fly, or drive, to the airport in Allentown to connect with the Birchwood Resort Plane waiting to drop them off at the resort’s private air strip.  Because of the private airport, it’s been said the resort was a popular destination among mobsters and other nefarious individuals visiting from New York and New Jersey.  

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Birchwood was quite a destination!  The resort offered all-inclusive, couples-only packages with amenities like private cabins, swimming, a night club, bowling, miniature golf, a shooting range, paddle boats, and badminton. Couples could also take off from the 2,500-foot runway using a glider to soar over the Poconos and soak in thrilling views of the Delaware Water Gap.

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers 

Like the rest of the big Pocono Honeymoon Resorts, Birchwood was struggling to stay open by the late 90s, especially during the slow season of early spring and late fall.  Since the promise of casino gambling fell through in the 80s, some resorts started to cater to fetishists who would book the entire resort for themselves. 

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According to the Pocono Record, Birchwood hosted its fourth annual spanking party on April 20, 1999.  Spankers from around the world paid $500 dollars each for a weekend of erotic play at the resort.  The weekend after that was devoted to bondage. These events weren’t exactly a secret.  The staff, who had the unpleasant task of cleaning up, knew about them. Neighbors of the resort heard rumors about naked hide-and-seek events in the woods, and gossip about a game called “spank the naked bowler”. The police knew because the spankers had a website where the curious could download pictures from their events.

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The local newspaper exposed the fetish events at Birchwood, and the story was picked up by the national news.  Even comedians on late night TV were cracking jokes about the Poconos.  After the Pocono Record exposed Birchwood, the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau put pressure on the resort to cancel these events.  A few years later, the resort closed.  And wasn’t heard about again until 2014. 

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia 

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

On September 12, 2014, accused cop killer Eric Matthew Frein allegedly gunned down Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, of Dunmore, and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 34, of Olyphant, in a sniper-style attack outside of the Blooming Grove state police barracks.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

A lengthy manhunt ensued, with many residents living in fear, while hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed the region.  Schools were shut down. Troopers set up checkpoints on local highways. Eric Matthew Frein became a household name with his photo plastered on billboards and area storefronts. Residents were ordered to remain inside in areas where the suspect was seen. The entire community was under siege with helicopters constantly flying overhead and heavily armed officers everywhere.

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Following the 48-day manhunt that spanned two counties, he was finally captured outside the dilapidated Birchwood airport hangar in Monroe County. Frein was detained by U.S. Marshals at the resort while state police drove slain Cpl. Bryon Dickson’s car to the resort, then used Dickson’s handcuffs to place Frein under arrest.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Investigators found incriminating evidence, including the .308-caliber rifle used in the attack, inside the airport hangar. It’s not clear how long Frein was hiding out there, but a variety of items belonging to him were found including additional firearms, a bayonet, and more than 200 rounds of ammunition. He also had a computer, water jugs, toilet paper, binoculars and religious items, including New Testament writings from Psalms and Proverbs, a religious plaque, as well as seven DVDS and handwritten notes.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Birchwood resort first appeared in local phone books in 1953. Its last listing was in 2007. Some reports say the resort closed in 2001. Today the property looks like a ghost town of decaying cabins and recreational facilities, with nothing but broken windows, crumbling cabins and broken down doors looming over the lake and wetlands.

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No Fun In The Sun Moon Lake Park

Moon Lake 1Photo courtesy of Stephanie Howard

In 2011 and 2012, local papers were running stories about coming up with a multi-million dollar plan to save Luzerne County owned Moon Lake Park, because today, all plans have to be “multi-million”. For those who are not familiar with the area, Moon Lake Park, located in Pennsylvania, was a low key, inexpensive  (mostly free) kind of place, where people could go to enjoy the great outdoors, with access to a few amenities.  You could camp and fish.  You could bike and hike. It had a pool and some tennis courts.  Picnic tables, were sprinkled throughout the property.  It was a great place to kick back, enjoy nature, catch some rays, grill burgers, and hang out with friends and family.

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The View Thru A Missing Office Window

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By the time the public discussion began about how to fix the park, many amenities had been closed by Luzerne County for several years due to budgetary concerns. The facilities did show obvious signs of neglect when I started photographing the decline in 2012.  But it could have been greatly improved upon with some simple repairs, like repaving those tennis courts and repairing the picnic tables.

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But instead of coming up with a real world workable plan, government red tape dictated that the financially struggling county had to waste time and precious resources, like money, creating a completely unattainable $37 Million Dollar Master Plan, which was required to apply for grant money to move forward on an improvement project that could never possibly be implemented within the near future.  Input coming from the public suggested the plan include a water park, snow tubing, rock climbing, zip lining, and nature-survival activities so it could be designed to compete with places like The Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos.

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Despite having a yearly budget of only $119,626 to run the park in 2011, the county commissioners approved a $120,000 contract with Sasaki Associates Inc., located in Massachusetts, to be the consultant in charge of creating the master plan that same year. The state agreed to pay for half of the cost while the county planned to spend bond proceeds borrowed in 2008 to fund its $60,000 share according to news reports. How did all of our little community improvement projects turn into these multi-million dollar endeavors, that are never going to be attainable in a county as financially strapped as this one? We couldn’t even afford to write the plan, let alone find the funds to execute it.

Maybe that’s the real issue. Government red tape, and community input with Dom Perignon taste, while trying to scrape together enough change to buy a dollar draft, wastes so much time creating these dream scenarios that our leaders don’t have the opportunity to think about realistic plans which would actually make sense.

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Recently, ownership of Moon Lake Park was transferred to the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry.  According to reports, they plan to allow most of the park area to return to its natural state, with paved roads being replaced with crushed stone as they deteriorate. The pool and other structures will disappear.  The new public bathrooms will be non-flushable sealed concrete vaults, and the designated camping areas will be rustic with no utility hook-up. Future plans include a new well-manicured area for picnics and a boat launch near the lake.

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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

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

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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”.

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

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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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For Lovers Only–Abandoned Penn Hills Pocono Resort

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Photo Courtesy Rich Zoeller aka THAT KID RICH  

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia

Welcome to JizzneyLand!  Celebrated as the “Paradise of Pocono Pleasure” and “a place of unbridled passion”, the honeymoon resort known as Penn Hills catered to Swinging Young Couples.  With tacky, lust inspired décor like round beds, heart-shaped whirlpool bathtubs, gaudy floor-to-ceiling shag carpeting, and mirrors on the ceiling, the Hotel California had nothing on this place!

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Photo Courtesy of Adrienne Shellenberger aka GRAVE EXPECTATIONS 

If these walls could talk they’d tell stories of love, infidelity, lust, corruption and Mob connections! As soon as I started posting pictures from this location on social media, I had several women reach out to tell me tales of visiting here with suave Italian “business men”, who owned fancy cars, printing shops, drop ship businesses, video distribution companies, and other undefinable “business interests”.  Of course, no one wanted to be interviewed in detail “on the record”, but Billy D’Elia is the name that came up, in association with these men, several times as the three different women shared their stories with me.

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

While this location started as a tavern in 1944, the 500 acre resort grew to include skiing, golf, swimming, archery, ice skating, snowmobiling, tennis, an indoor game room, a massive dining hall, and a night/comedy club.  The property also contained one cool historical feature–modernist streetlights from the 1964 World’s Fair.

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1964 World’s Fair Street Light at Penn Hills

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia 

During its prime in the 1960s and 1970s, Penn Hills was so popular that reservations often had to be made months in advance.  Anyone living in the Tri-State Area during the 1970s will remember the TV commercials with the slogan: “Penn Hills for lovers only.  You’re never lonely at Penn Hills….. Just 90 minutes from New York City!”

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia

Located in Analomink, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, the resort began its decline in the late 1980s, along with many of the resorts and hotels in that same region.  Some blame the rising affordability of air travel at that time, coupled with the inexpensive packages available at all-inclusive resorts at destinations in countries like Mexico.  Others say the resorts in the Poconos were built up in anticipation of legalized casino gambling in the state of Pennsylvania, which didn’t materialize as quickly as developers assumed it would.

Wedding Bell Shaped Pool

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Photo Courtesy of  Adrienne Shellenberger aka GRAVE EXPECTATIONS

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia

For whatever reason, lovers visiting Penn Hills in the new millennium found the accommodations horrifying during the last few years that it was open.   Consumer reviews from online travel sites definitely articulate how much the resort and its services deteriorated since its hey-days as a honeymoon destination spot.  Consumers described a resort that was deserted and scary.   They depict rooms that smelled moldy, contained outdated furniture, chipped paint and non-operational whirlpool tubs.  Accommodations were full of bugs, stains, and littered with graffiti containing slogans such as “We got screwed at Penn Hills”.  They also claimed that the drinks at the bar were watered down, the food was barely edible and the property was literally falling apart.   Reviews say that the wood on the buildings was rotting, the pool was peeling, the tennis courts had potholes, archery targets were no longer standing upright, and most of the buildings looked abandoned.

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Photo Courtesy Rich Zoeller aka THAT KID RICH Kat Penn Hills_DSC5735 copy Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia

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Photo Courtesy of Adrienne Shellenberger aka GRAVE EXPECTATIONS

When Penn Hills co-founder, Frances Paolillo died in 2009 at the age of 102, the resort closed less than two months later. According to multiple internet sources, the workers’ final paychecks were never issued.  The Monroe County Tax Claim Bureau reported that Penn Hills owed about $1.1 million in back taxes and was on a payment plan since 2006 to defray that debt. Portions of the property were sold at tax sale. In June of 2013, the remaining parcel was purchased for $25,000 at a repository sale by Penn Resort Investment, LLC, based in Jim Thorpe.  According to newspaper reports, Stroud Township officials have been trying to get the new owners to secure the property.

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Photo Courtesy of Adrienne Shellenberger aka GRAVE EXPECTATIONS

Since declining into a state of abandonment, the resort, which was already in serious disrepair, has fallen victim to copper thieves, flooding, vandalism, and recent fires.  According to newspaper reports from December 2014, there have been a total of 98 instances requiring a police response at the resort since its closure, because of suspicious circumstances, burglary, and theft.  Stroud Township says if the current owners don’t cooperate, the township could eventually demolish the old resort and put a lien on the property.

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

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Photo Courtesy Rich Zoeller aka THAT KID RICH 

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malia

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Photo Courtsey of Adrienne Shellenberger aka GRAVE EXPECTATIONS

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Some of My Own Photos From That Location:

The Laugh with Abandonment Comedy Club

Laugh With Abandonment Comedy Club
Comedy Club View 2

The Abandoned Gift Shop

Gift ShopPenn Hills Gift Shop

The Abandoned Skating Rink

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Skating

Guest Rooms (some don’t seem totally “abandoned”)

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Guest Room 2

Guest Room 3

Abandoned Indoor Pool (no, that’s not ice)

Indoor Pool

Abandoned Indoor Poolside Bar

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Cheri Sundra © 2015
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