Posts Tagged ‘ Urban Exploration ’

Welcome to Cellblock 3: The Ghosts Here Are Probably Coughing

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Frequent visitors to Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) in Philadelphia are familiar with the red cross on the gate— it’s the cellblock that visitors have been trying to sneak into for 20 years!   Cellblock 3, known as the hospital wing, has long held the public’s curiosity.  Abandoned for many years after the prison closed in 1971, it’s now open to the public for guided tours.   Visitors have long wished to explore this space, but its severe deterioration has made touring the hospital block almost impossible – until now.

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Opportunities to step past that head gate with the iconic cross have been few and far between. In the past, ESP has offered rare glimpses of the space with sporadic hard-hat tours, but the area was never stable enough to allow the normal foot-traffic of daily visitors.  To allow the public to view Cellblock 3, staff and volunteers had to stabilize the crumbling cellblock, remove debris, and create an informational experience for tourists.  The effort cost nearly $200,000 to complete.  The bulk of the money was raised through private funds and their Halloween fundraiser, Terror Behind the Walls.

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Now visitors can enter the former surgical suite that served thousands of prisoners, including Al Capone who had his tonsils removed there.  During his imprisonment at ESP, Capone had two surgeries. The second was most likely a circumcision–a procedure that was utilized at the time for treating syphilis.

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The rest of the hospital wing’s rooms are visible only from their doorways.  Described as a “monument to misery”, the rooms reflect the myriad of maladies suffered by the prison population and the treatments available to them. The hospital wing treated typhoid, influenza and common colds, among many other ailments. It also treated injuries from accidents and violence that occurred within the prison. Visitors can view the laboratory, X-ray lab, hydrotherapy room and the psychiatric department, along with specially designed cells that were meant to aid in the treatment of certain conditions.

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Known as one of the most haunted places in Pennsylvania, ESP was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. Today it stands in ruin–a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Some 47 years after it was shuttered and abandoned for its intended use, noise–now from tourists and not from shouting inmates–reverberates. If there truly are ghosts there – a concept promoted each fall in the historic site’s Halloween fundraiser — chances are they are coughing.

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While in operation, tuberculosis was its most prevalent health issue inside the thick prison walls.  Before antibiotics, there was no cure for tuberculosis. The prison was dark, damp, and crowded with coughs and sneezes filling the air. Inmates eventually diagnosed with the contagious disease were moved and quarantined in special cells called “solarium cells” that provided more access to light, ventilation, and fresh air. TB patients also had their own hydrotherapy room, gymnasium, and recreation yard.

Most of the deaths that occurred at Eastern State Penitentiary happened in Cellblock 3.

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Angela Park: An American Eulogy (Update-Ferris Wheel)

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Angela Park, a once popular roadside attraction that reads like a sadly typical American eulogy to lost community, prosperity, and small town life, closed in 1988 after being a regional landmark for three decades.

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During an auction of the park’s assets back in 1990, Gary Grant purchased the Ferris Wheel, which is roughly the height of a two-story home.  According to newspaper reports, the Grant family enjoyed their own private piece of Angela Park for about five years, especially during birthday parties. Sadly, Gary Grant passed away in 2011.  The Ferris Wheel still stands idly by on the property of the family home.

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To Learn more about Angela Park, check out:

Angela Park: An American Eulogy

 

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Come Fly With Me—Abandoned & Infamous: Birchwood Resort

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“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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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

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

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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 Jenn O’Malia

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia 

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

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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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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

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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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Photo Courtsey of Jenn O’Malia

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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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An Anniversary of Decline: The Significance of the Demolition of the Hotel Sterling

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This is every community’s story in 2016 America. Crazy as it sounds, as you hear residents debate about the possibility of “saving” an abandoned or endangered  building, especially one of historical significance, have you ever considered the issue from the building’s point of view? Now you can, for free (at least from July 27th thru July 29th, 2016) at Amazon.com.

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I had the opportunity to photograph what remained of the historical Hotel Sterling, prior to demolition, and I swear, it “spoke” to me–about the price of preservation, and the cost to communities when non-action occurs, while waiting for some unknown entity to step up with a solution and much needed funding.

First published in July of 2013 and currently ranked on Amazon’s Historical Preservation world-wide category at #121**, Welcome To The Zombie Hotel Sterling, will be available for free, in honor of its demolition anniversary, until Friday, July 29th, 2016.

**(Update: Currently #1 in Pop Culture on 7/27/16 & 7/28/16.  Sorry Taylor Swift!  Just kidding, I love Taylor….)

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“History meets Pop Culture in a tale about time, consequence, and unrealized visions for the future, as an entire community attempts to outrun diminished expectations for a way of life they can no longer hope to maintain. Abandoned and rotting away along the banks of the mighty Susquehanna River, the zombified Hotel Sterling tells its tale of fading grandeur and woe to a photographer visiting the deteriorating structure, seeking to document the reality of the condition of the building, as the hotel waits for its beloved community to decide its fate, once and for all.”

So grab a digital copy for yourself, while you can, for free.  If you don’t have a Kindle App, you can get one, for you smartphone, computer, or tablet at:  Amazon Free Kindle App  .

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 What does local Abandoned Pennsylvania History

have to do with the 2016 Presidential Race?

Visit:

Abandoned Scranton Lace:

A Visual Autopsy of The American Dream

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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.”

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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.

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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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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.

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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 

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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

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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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Ghost Estates: The Sanctuary

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If you try really hard, you can almost feel the positiveness of the developers when they named this sacred future hamlet, located in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.  The land was purchased for development from Bishop James C. Timlin and named The Sanctuary. But the hulking abandoned shell of what was going to become a townhouse, which is the predominant view in your line of sight when entering this wanna-be housing development, tells a completely different story.  This place is like a blank page at the end of the last chapter of a book.  The street signs and hydrants may have been erected, but this mostly abandoned development is nothing but an attempted mirage of suburbia.  It’s the American Dream gone wrong.

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While cruising the desolate and primarily house-free streets, admiring the asphalt roads and empty lots, you realize that this Ghost Development is not entirely dead.  One house in the back is obviously occupied, and from another in the front, a dog could be heard yipping away from inside one of the cookie-cutter townhouses.

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Yet there are also partially landscaped yards in the process if reverting into scrappy, weed infested spaces, in front of dwellings left half-finished, abandoned and deteriorating.

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According to past newspaper reports, The Sanctuary has transformed into one couple’s suburban hell.  In an interview from 2009 with the only homeowners living in The Sanctuary at that time, they disclosed that water tainted by a dangerous industry solvent flows beneath their dream house with the cozy fireplace, expensive hardwood floors and spacious kitchen.   The homeowners voiced concern about being left with a $400,000 mortgage on a home that was worth considerably less in a stalled housing development.  To contribute to their problem, the housing development is linked to figures in one of the biggest scandals ever to rock Luzerne County.

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Sanctuary was conceived and developed by W-Cat Inc.   Federal prosecutors are very familiar with some of the names associated with that development company.  Three of them, former Luzerne County judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and attorney Robert J. Powell, were key figures in what has become known as Kids for Cash, a judicial corruption scandal.

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