Project Imagin8ion Hometown Screenings

The whirlwind of excitement that is “Project Imagin8ion” continued over the last month as we worked with Canon to roll out the red carpet in both my hometown of Elmira, NY as well as my current home of Asheville, NC. We held special one night screenings of the final film “When You Find Me” at our local Regal Cinemas and invited friends, family, followers, and everyone else who was eagerly awaiting the chance to see the final film as it was meant to be seen: on the BIG screen!

 

Asheville, NC Event: (Thanks to Jared Kay of Amplified Media for taking these pictures!)

 

Both events were tremendous successes and we had an awesome time greeting everyone in the lobby of the theaters that had displayed huge twelve foot banners depicting the astounding 96,000+ images submitted as well as the final 8 selected by Ron Howard himself.
The excitement grew as everyone waited in line for a chance to get a ticket to the film. Local media was on site doing live broadcasts, interviews, and even joining us to screen the film.
At the Elmira, NY event we had sold out of seats 40 minutes before the show even started and everyone packed into the theater for a standing room only showing!
Movie goers viewed the making of the film, followed by the film itself, and then we held a Q+A session and gave away a large assortment of prints and donations from local businesses.
A wonderful evening was had by all. Tears were shed, as well as laughter and roaring applause!

Elmira, NY Event: (click arrows to advance slideshow) – Thanks to Andy of A.D. Wheeler Photography for taking these images!

I must say from a personal standpoint it was a both an exhilarating and humbling experience for me. To see so many faces (old and new) show up in support of my accomplishment was such an honor. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people rooting for me and cheering me on. Never in a million years would I have ever dreamed that by simply doing what I love to do would lead to such an achievement. Even today I am still lost for words to describe how thankful and how fortunate I am to be a part of this ground breaking Endeavour.
Thank you Ron Howard, Canon, friends, family, fans, and most of all my loving wife Amanda, step daughter Brianna, and my parents. NONE of this would have been possible without your love and support.
Now… the big question: What happens next??? – I for one, am eager to find out! Stay tuned!

The Mason’s Castle – Ghost of the American Renaissance


“The thing that fascinated me about the castle is that everybody thinks that it’s haunted, that people were locked up in the courtyards…None of its true. What did strike me as very unusual is from the time that I’m able to record; no one has ever been able to live on that land. That struck me as bizarre.”
– Dr. Joyce Conroy – Historian

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

When I first heard about an abandoned castle in upstate NY I all but booked my plane ticket before even researching it! The prospect of exploring a castle deep in the overgrown woods of NY was irresistible.  I started researching and making phone calls, and in doing so made contact with a local historian who had done extensive research on the castle and its history. Her name was Dr. Joyce Conroy and she not only provided us with useful information, she also gave us a 35 minute interview in person, and also gave us copies of historical images of the castle for us to you in our write up and video. Here is some of what  we learned from her:

 

Before the castle was constructed, a small hunting lodge called the “Beaverkill Lodge” was built on the almost 1000 acre plot of land. This was built by Bradford Lee Gilbert in the late 1880’s. Gilbert frequented the lodge only once or twice a year and only for a few days at a time. When Ralph Werts Dundas bought the land in 1915, he constructed the castle on  and around the original lodge and then expanded it out from that.

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

Gothic windows, turrets, towers, and steep parapeted roofs are just a few of the beautiful architectural features that make the castle an amazing oddity to find hiding in  the woods.  R. W. Dundas was a bit of a recluse but he had money, and dreams of being a Scottish laird. He was married and had a child. His wife was very emotionally disabled, and his daughter was taken care of by a number of nannies.  They visited the site  while construction of the castle was going on but they never  lived there for any length of time. A great deal of money was spent on the inside of the castle. Electricity and steam radiators  were installed in almost every room, an  incredible luxury at the  time. In addition to marble floors and countertops, and porcelain tiles,  there were also reports of a gold leafed  fireplace in one of the rooms.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

 

However in 1921, before the castle could be completed Dundas died, leaving a reported fortune to his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, after his death, his wife was then taken  to a sanitarium due to  her existing mental illness. The daughter was suddenly  extremely wealthy and in need of a guardian. The castle caretakers who were watching over the daughter,  basically robbed her blind. She went  on to get married and eventually headed  over to England with her husband on an expedition to find “St. John’s Gold”. The expedition fell apart when eventually they fired the historians and scientists helping in the search, and hired a dowser/mystic with a willow wand. At this point the daughter’s mental health was called into question and she was subsequently placed in a  sanatorium in England.   The castle changed hands a few times over the years and is now owned by the Prince Hall Mason’s.

 

I flew up to NY and met up with fellow photographer A. D.  Wheeler, and his colleague Jon. We set out on our first day of exploration with the castle set in our sights. We made the trip from Elmira to the site of the castle without knowing much about how to get in or even its exact location. We neared the castle and after a few miles of  unmarked back roads we spotted one of the towers of the castle up on a hill buried deep in the woods and overgrowth. After parking our car and gathering our gear, we trudged up a steep ravine and into a clearing which revealed the outer bulwarks of the castle. It’s gothic windows and ‘witch’s hat’ spires that adorned its towers loomed through the trees and immediately hinted at the mystery and fantastical stories that this location might hold.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

We quickly ducked in under a beautiful stone archway and into the sprawling courtyard. We all stood in awe of what we were seeing. It was like being transported back to medieval times, as if somewhere in the woods we stepped into Narnia without knowing it. I quickly checked my back to see if any talking beavers or goat-men named Mr. Tumnus were sneaking up on me!  :-)

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

After taking in the awe-inspiring architecture of the inner courtyard we ducked into the first open doorway we saw, and found ourselves in the kitchen of the castle. Tiled floors and marble window sills surrounded  us. Every window and door we encountered was beautifully peaked, and every corner we rounded and room we entered spoke of mystery  and an untold history.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

It was a strange juxtaposition to be exploring the hallways and rooms of what one would imagine to be a castle out of the dark ages and then notice an old push button switch on the walls which was once used to turn on the electric lights. It was like a modern day fairytale gone wrong. I felt like Alice going through the rabbit hole discovering crazy distorted visions of reality that immediately clashed with my senses and perception of what should and should not be.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The majority of rooms were completely cleared out of anything that would have resembled human habitation . The only vestiges that remained were bathroom fixtures, and electric heaters, which only furthered the surrealistic perception that what appeared to be something from the dark ages was still indeed a modern ruin.

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

We explored all three main levels of the castle, poking our heads into every room, and even ventured down into the depths of the blackened basement. We spent hours peering into abandoned rooms and speculating on the stories and history that the castle held.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

A few days later we had the  honor of speaking with  local historian Dr. Conroy who donated her time to give us a full interview and history lesson regarding the castle. There are very few websites dedicated to this location and many of them contain historical information that is not entirely accurate. We were able to talk with Dr. Conroy to uncover what was myth and what was factual. She was very generous and donated a number of digital scans of old historic photos of the castle.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

The Mason’s Castle was an incredible location and a true gem of American history. Please note that due to the fact that the land is actively owned I am unable to disclose the exact location of the castle or provide any information regarding gaining entry. Please do not attempt to visit this location, as it would be considered trespassing. I hope you enjoy the photography and the history!

 


The Adandoned Hotel Adler – Sharon Springs NY

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)
“The Adler Hotel was a 150-room, five-story hotel in Sharon Springs, New York that was operated from 1929 until 2004. Known for its therapeutic sulfur baths, it catered primarily to a Jewish clientele who travelled to Sharon Springs in the summers. Ed Koch (congressman and former mayor of NY) worked as a busboy at the hotel in 1946.” Over the last few years a company has purchased the location with plans to renovate it, but lack of recent news/plans may indicate that the renovation has been put on hold for reasons unknown. -From Wikipedia

The Adler Hotel was the fourth and final location that we traveled to on our week long Urban Exploration trip in July 2010. Some last minute research by my brother yielded this gem of a location. We drove almost three hours from Elmira to Sharon Springs and had no problem finding the Old hotel on Adler Drive. We parked and walked up to the hotel and made our way in.

 (Walter Arnold)

The lobby had three beautiful sets of double doors with a windowed arch above each. The drapes softened the afternoon light that streamed through boarded up front doors.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The front desk held many interesting relics from years past. An old switchboard that once routed calls for the hotel still had patch cords running everywhere and listings for local businesses that had long since closed their doors.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

An old phone switchboard in the Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. This image was the grand prize winner in Ron Howard and Canon's Project Imaginat10n and inspired the short film "Out of the Blue" starring (and directed by) Eva Longoria. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The main lobby divided the ground floor in half and separated the entertainment and the dining side of the hotel. The entertainment wing had a small game room with a few old puzzles and board games scattered around the floor.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The main room on this side of the building was a small theater complete with an old curtained stage which was home to the bulk of the hotel’s old chairs.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

On the opposite side of the building was a very large dining room and kitchen area.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

We started to make our way up to the second floor and the guest rooms. The rooms were an unbelievable sight to behold. Every room had wallpaper and decorations from the 60’s and 70’s. The various designs of wallpaper in each room always were unique and quite humorous. Some had brightly colored garish designs, others had a silver reflective surface that was almost mirror like.  Whoever was the wall paper supplier for Sharon Springs must have had a hay day installing all these wacky designs.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

Another thing that none of the rooms lacked was a vintage telephone. Most were jet black and only dialed the front desk’s switchboard; a few in the larger rooms had options when dialing out.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)

 

Quite a few factors came together to make the Alder a fantastic place to shoot. The color coordination of the room’s carpet, sheets and bedding, and wall

paper, and the obviously recent use of many of the rooms by squatters and homeless. People who had used these rooms recently had taken the blankets and hung them up over the windows (presumably for privacy and also to keep out drafts in the winter). So in an already green themed room, the sun streaming diffusely through a heavy green blanket, made for magical color tones and light in the scene.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

We continued through each room in the hotel, some rooms appeared more inhabited than others. We worked our way up floor by floor. It was in the upper 90’s, one of the hottest days of the year so when we arrived at the top floor the temperature became unbearable and we back tracked down the stairs.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

 (Walter Arnold)

 

 

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

 

Grossinger’s Abandoned Resort – Revisit

To see the images from our FIRST trip to Grossinger’s CLICK HERE

 

Day three of the 2010 Urban Exploration trip: Return to Grossinger’s Abandoned Resort in Liberty NY.

In October of 2009 my fellow ArtByDecay.com photog Andy and I had visited the abandoned Grossinger’s Resort (you can read the original photo-blog here). The haunting beauty of a bygone age echoed from every crumbling room and we were dying to go back and revisit the location armed with flashlights and walkie talkies. This time around my brother Will and friend Dave joined us for the abandoned goodness.

Last year the golf course was fairly desolate because of cold October temperatures, and sneaking in was not a problem. This time in July the golf course was in full swing (pun intended). We opted to simply park on the back road and enter from the side. Slipping in undetected always gets a sigh of relief.

We headed for the outdoor pool first and presented to Will and Dave their first taste of the massive abandoned glory that Grossinger’s has to offer. It was a balmy 97 degrees and exhaustion from the previous two days of exploring was catching up with me so I didn’t take any serious pictures of the pool while we cooked under the summer sun.

We walked around the complex then entered through a side entrance that we had not used last time. We found what might have been a large lobby at one point. The room now held only a scattering of random detritus. On the far side a grand staircase made its way up to a second floor balcony.

We photographed this room and a few side rooms before continuing deeper into the building.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

We passed a bank of elevators filled with debris. We walked up a small set of stairs and came out to the infamous (in my mind) “Bar Stool Room”. I took a few shots but didn’t think I could outdo my work from October:

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY. Catskills New York (Walter Arnold)

Armed with a flashlight I felt braver than before and pushed further into the building in the direction of the indoor pool. I had only gone about 50 feet when my flashlight beam revealed a fog of humidity and particulates in the air. It was so dense that I was concerned about even removing my camera from the bag. Andy cautioned us to put our masks on as a precaution. As we walked around we realized we were actually below the massive indoor swimming pool. This area at one point was a spa. Directly below the deep end of the pool was a cracked and grimy glass window that looked into the swimming pool. In the adjacent rooms were a shower and changing area for the guests, and a locker room. The giant white shower curtains with the signature Grossinger’s “G” just begged to be taken for souvenirs, but our credo of leaving things untouched and unharmed resonated in my mind, and I opted for a silly portrait to remember instead!

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

The remnants of a salon complete with vintage hair drying chairs stood haphazardly in a dark corner of the particulate clouded sub-level. This area was completely devoid of outside windows was almost pitch black. We set up and shot long exposures of 15+ seconds and ‘light painted’ the chairs with LED flashlights to get the desired effect. It was an interesting photographic experience shooting a subject that we could barely see, while wearing masks, in potentially hazardous environment. We shot for about 10 minutes until we got the right combination of shutter speed and light from the flashlights. Will and I took the opportunity to get some atypical portraits of ourselves sitting in the antique chairs.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Walt Above, Will Below

After 30 minutes in the Grossinger’s underground we headed up the stairs to the indoor pool.  Grossinger’s pool is truly a sight to see. Even after our first visit, the indoor pool took our breath away.  There is something about the massive space of the area that makes everything feel vast yet confined at the same time. Strangely, I felt a sense of intimacy when in such a large enclosed and derelict space that is hard to describe. We spent a good 45 minutes shooting, composing, and yelling, asking if we were in each other’s frames as we shot. It was a feast of a scene and we devoured it!

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

We headed back out and around the building the way we came in then continued around to the far side. We passed an entrance to a portion of the complex where I remembered a nasty prank that Andy had played on me during our last visit. Now that my younger brother was with us, I figured it would be a perfect time to play a mean ‘older brother’ prank on him! As we neared the entrance I stopped and acted excited saying “Oh! Will, you HAVE to step inside that entrance and look into the room to your left, you won’t believe what you see in there!” Given that it had been more than 10 years since I had played prank on him, he naively obliged and walked about 5 steps into the darkened entrance. As soon as he was fully inside the building, I picked up a medium sized rock, and hurled it through a broken window a few feet to his left! The rock nicked a shard of broken glass still hanging loosely in the window and made a beautifully loud and scary bang followed by the shattered glass clanking to the ground. Will bolted from the hotel, eyes wide and saying words that I can’t mention here! Dave, Andy, and I were cracking up and he soon realized that the joke was on him. I laughed even harder since Andy had done the exact same thing to me during our first visit!

Since the golf course was open we didn’t want to risk being seen by walking out near the road. We were headed to the one location that we had not visited the first time around; the ice skating rink. We crossed through the gigantic dining room. (We had thought this room was the ballroom but a reader of my first blog who had worked at Grossinger’s for many years corrected our assumptions.)

We left the dining room and walked up the steep embankment towards the old wooden building next to the ice rink. As we approached it, we could easily see just how bad of shape it was in. A back door hung from its hinges but we pushed our way through and into the building. The wooden floor boards had rotted away over the years. The floor was very soft and we stepped gingerly. At one point my foot actually broke through the floor. The room was lined with old benches that were shedding beautiful flaking paint in bright red and yellow colors. A large old sign read “North American Invitational Barrel Jumping”. Mosquitoes and high temperatures drove us back out into the hot summer air after 15 minutes.

 (Walter Arnold)

We left the ice rink and went back through the old dining room. As we reentered the dining room, we noticed a gap in the ceiling that permitted a very thin beam of late afternoon light to enter the darkened space. The beam shone brightly through the dust and debris hanging in the air and made for a beautiful shot.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

One of the members of our team (I will withhold names) happened to have a pack of cigarettes on them and we took advantage of the opportunity to make an interesting artistic shot with the wafts of smoke flowing through the light beam.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

We walked back to the car and bid a fond farewell to the “Titanic” of Urban Exploration. The return to Grossinger’s did not disappoint and we captured some new scenes as well as re-shot some of our favorites parts of the resort in a different season. Even in the killing heat of summer, Grossinger’s was alive in spirit. Countless ghosts, memories, and stories lurked around every decaying corner of the complex. Hopefully the images captured here will spark your own memories or conjure up stories even if you have never been to Grossinger’s.

 

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

The Old St. Nicholas Coal Breaker – Mahanoy, PA

 

 

 (Walter Arnold)

Mahanoy was settled in 1859 and was a major center of anthracite coal production. From Wikipedia: “The Old St. Nicholas Breaker, located just outside of Mahanoy City, was constructed in 1930 and began operating in 1932. Half of the village of Suffolk was relocated in order to create room for Reading Anthracite’s Old St. Nicholas Breaker, the largest coal breaker in the world. 20 miles of railroad track were laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit, 26,241 square feet of rubber belting, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed. When the breaker was constructed it was divided into two sides. Each side could be operated independently, producing 12,500 tons of coal a day. Once the raw coal enters the production process within the breaker it took just 12 minutes to pass through the entire breaker. For 31 years, the Old St. Nicholas Breaker prepared all sizes of famous Reading Anthracite for the markets of the world.”

Fellow photographers, Will, Andy, Dave, and I set out to capture this massive structure on the 4th of July, 2010. From our base camp located in Elmira NY we drove 3 hours into the coal mining town of Mahanoy PA. The town was little more than one long main street lined with row houses. Each house had a ‘coal door’ located on the front where, at one time, coal was dumped down a chute into a basement bin then shoveled into the furnace to burn off the cold of the long winters.

We passed through town and easily located the monstrosity just outside the city limits. We parked and lugged our equipment and an ample supply of water out into the coal fields and down towards the ominous ten story structure. It was 96 degrees, and the coal blacked earth below our feet radiated the heat of the sun back towards us at an unbearable temperature.

 (Walter Arnold)

The path we were on narrowed and suddenly came to an end. A small abandoned structure sat on the edge of a steep cliff. We were less than 50 yards from the coal breaker but due to the cliff in front of us and the heaping walls of coal and rocks on either side of the path, we were unable to go any further. We begrudgingly turned around and walked the half mile back to the car mumbling under our breath. We chose to walk back down the road we drove in on and just enter the building through the front. We would be wide open for anyone to see us, but we had no other choice.  We were all drenched in sweat as we approached the building.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

As we entered the first floor the temperature dropped and cool breeze breathed new life into us.  The ground floor we entered on was just that… Bare earth, cracked, parched mud. Old machines and rows of windows lined either side of the massive ground floor we were on.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We manned our walkie talkies and flashlights and split up to explore the leviathan that awaited us. Will and I headed up a rusty staircase comprised of metal grating surrounded by decaying chunks of concrete. We carefully poked our heads into a few rooms on the lower levels before deciding to head straight up to the top and start from there.

We wound our way up six or seven floors on the stairwell, cut across a few rooms and made our way up more stairs to the tenth floor, all the while wondering how stable the staircases were. We gazed in awe at the remnants of the old machines on each floor. Massive gear wheels lay prone in the dust. Thousands of pounds of old dormant metal weighed heavily on each floor. Each ton of steel seemed to bide its time, awaiting the epic moment when its weight would collapse the exhausted floor beneath it, and come crashing down in a cascade of twisted metal and debris.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We finally made our way to the summit. The view from the top was breath-taking. We stared in awe out of the broken and shattered tenth story windows and witnessed a sprawling countryside comprised of mountains of carved, plundered land. Through broken shards of glass and rusted metal we could make out the silhouettes of old cranes, machinery, and abandoned coal buildings that dotted the overgrown landscape. Trees and underbrush had grown up over the mountains of coal and torn lands surrounding the breaker. The lush green landscape hid years of excavation and abuse.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We felt warm wind through the broken windows, and I took in the overwhelming scale of this structure with its thousands of tons of abandoned and derelict machinery.

A labyrinth of grated catwalks presented themselves, their integrity in question. We tested their strength, gingerly putting weight onto them and walking on the seemly more solid I-beams below them. Gaping holes in the grating dotted the passageways at every turn. We tried our best not to look down.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

While exploring the accessible parts of the top floor, we located the primary conveyor belt that at one point carried the raw coal out of the mines far below, and into the top of the coal breaker for initial processing. The dark and broken shaft, seemed to go down into infinity.  We peered out of broken windows to get a better view of the conveyor shaft and the incredible distance it traveled up from the subterranean mines below.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

While on the tenth floor, I explored a very dark room with lockers and old breaker switches that at one time housed the primary electrical systems that ran the coal breakers.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We then began our slow decent back down the stairs stopping off at each floor along the way to explore and discover what decaying treasures it had in store for us.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

In the center of one of the upper floors, we came across one of two central control units. These seven foot rectangular obelisks appeared to control many functions of the breaker. Old valves, dials, and gauges covered the face of the ominous structure which was conspicuously set apart in an open area, away from the other machines.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We continued our decent, level by level, amazed by new sights on each floor. The second floor contained many rooms of interest, and was filled with objects and items that gave a human element to the coal breaker. We found the old changing room where the miners would suit up for the work day. Rows of benches lined the room which still contained many old work boots from years past.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

Another room on the second level was the old offices. Filing cabinets, flat files, books, ledgers dating back to the 60’s, and other remnants of the breaker’s day to day operations littered the rooms. Each faded piece of paper told a bit of the story of the massive undertaking it had to have been running an operation such as this.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

After shooting the second floor we headed down to ground level and met back up with Andy and Dave. As if to satisfy our curiosity about how polluted such a place might be, we discovered a room near the center of the structure where beads of liquid mercury dotted the filthy floor. Some, the size of silver dollars, glimmered brightly in the afternoon sun that drifted in through the shattered windows. We speculated that the breaker had used Mercury Vapor Bulbs which were used for their bright white light.  When the bulbs were broken the vaporized mercury condensed and collected on the floor.

 (Walter Arnold)

Photo by Andy Wheeler

In the same room as the mercury an old work bench with a circular saw caught my eye as the sun bent its rays around the rusted teeth of the ancient saw blade.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

At this point we had been shooting for about three hours, so we agreed to pack up and head back to Mahanoy for a late lunch. We ate at a local pizza joint which appeared to be the only place open on a Sunday that was also a national holiday. After grubbing up and re-hydrating, we headed back to shoot some more of the building in the late afternoon and evening light.

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

We once again ventured through the building, shooting the endless number of scenes that lurked around every tetanus laden corner. After another few hours of sweat drenched exploring we exited back outside and took some exterior shots.

4The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned St. Nicholas Coal Breaker in Mahanoy PA. (Walter Arnold)

It was early evening and we were completely wiped out and exhausted from our shoot. We packed up our coal dust blackened equipment, and bid farewell to the hulking beast that is the St. Nicholas Coal Breaker.

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

David Sargeant

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The Castle on the Hill – Jackson Sanatorium


“Founded on rock. For suffering ones and weary.
A home, secure from worldly care and strife.
Nature, the healing mistress, tends its portals.
Beckoning with gentle hand to paths of life.”
-K. J. J.
After exploring the amazing ‘modern ruins’ of Grossinger’s Resort, Andy and I had Urban Exploration fever! So a few days later we made plans to go explore Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville NY. Here’s a short history of Jackson:
The Jackson Sanatorium was founded in 1854 by Nathaniel Bingham and was established ‘for the scientific treatment of invalid, and for the recuperation and rest in cases of overwork and nervous exhaustion.’ Jackson, ‘The Castle on the Hill’, was conducted as a Health Institution and not as a ‘fashionable resort’. The surrounding wooded area, temperate climate, and sources of natural springs and mineral waters were what drew the founders of Jackson to that area. The natural mineral waters were prescribed for many kinds of chronic ailments. The main building at Jackson was made from brick and iron and was marketed as “Absolutely Fire-Proof. The cost of renting a room in the main building ranged from $17.50 – $35.00 per week for an individual. Jackson could accommodate only 300 guests.



The morning we left, Elmira had its first snow of the year. In town there were light patches of snow on the ground, and flurries floating through the air. As we passed through Corning and Painted Post, the snow picked up and the hills were covered like “Frosted Mini Wheat’s”. We had high hopes of being able to get some snow shots at the sanatorium, but those hopes were dashed as we descended into the Dansville valley where the snow faded, and everything was just wet.

We parked in a parking lot about a quarter mile from the sanatorium, and loaded up our gear. This time we remembered flashlights! We walked up the hill, ignored a no trespassing sign as we walked around a locked gate and followed a grassy path. On the way we passed several abandoned decaying houses that were slowly rotting and crumbling away. As we walked along a grass path the sanatorium came into view: a beautiful 5 story red brick building, perched majestically on the side of the hill looking down at the small town of Dansville NY.





Rain drops trickled out of the sky on to us and our gear as we setup outside the building and shot our exterior shots.


We marveled at the beautiful arched windows and wrought iron balconies that evenly dotted the outside of the building.



The building was 300 feet wide, but its depth was relatively shallow, maybe no more than 40 feet. On the short side of the building we noticed a massive scar; from the fourth floor down to the second, a large gash was cut into the brick. As wide as the windows and two stories tall, the wound opened up to show empty decaying rooms inside and provided an interesting glimpse into what a cross-section view of the building might look like if you sliced it in half.




After making good use of our wide angle lenses, we walked up to the front door. We walked up the wooden stairs and entered into the main reception hall of Jackson Sanatorium. On our right a set of stairs led downwards into the pitch black basement. Above us, an iron railed staircase began its circling upward journey, dizzying us as we followed it up to the fourth floor with our eyes.

In front of us a set of columns and arches presented themselves as remnants of what once was front desk or receiving area of the building.

We immediately noticed that whatever material the floors may have been made out of at one time, now consisted of many inches of packed dust and dirt that revealed old footprints of other fellow urban explorers.



As we slowly walked around the lobby we could already taste the gritty dusty dirt that had become airborne as we paced around. We donned our masks and broke out the flashlights. Slowly we walked down the main downstairs hall, peeking in closets and old debris filled rooms with the narrow beams of our lights. The right hall ended in what must have been a large den or community room. All the first floor windows were boarded up tight, only allowing slivers of dim overcast light from the outside to enter.

We headed up the stairs to the second floor:


 

Andy in action:

We began slowly walking down the main hall, looking in the old rooms. Many rooms were completely bare, some were in great condition, others looked like the floor or ceiling might collapse at any moment, and in others, the floor/ceiling actually HAD collapsed! We spent a good deal of time exploring the first three floors, shooting the beautiful decaying hallways, rooms, and objects that we found.


I had seen some pictures taken from the roof so I really wanted to find a way up there. Andy stayed below and shot some more scenes while I slowly ventured up the next three flights of ever-decaying stairs. The floors of the upper level seemed to progressively get less stable. I could feel soft areas all over the place and was very careful to move slowly and spread out my body weight as much as possible. As I arrived on the roof level I noticed the significant damage of the upper level rooms. Ceilings had collapsed, walls had fallen over, and there were signs of major fire damage all around.

 

I emerged on the wide open roof and took in the breath taking panoramic view of Dansville NY.

I was alone, 6 stories up on the roof of a crumbling building, and my heart was racing with excitement! After hours of shooting and exploring the abandoned hallways and rooms of Jackson, I stood on the roof feeling victorious as if I had conquered a massive giant in battle!

A large tower still stood on top of the roof:

After taking in the view I headed back down to Andy.

We returned to the first floor and explored the left side of the building. We found a very large, long room lined on both sides with pillars. This was the old dining room. Boarded up windows lined either wall allowing the smallest slivers of light to pass through into the room. We set up our cameras at the entrance to the room and just had some fun running around with our flashlights and ‘light painting’.

After exploring Jackson for at over two hours, we were chilled to the bone and wheezing from the dust we had breathed in. We packed our things and headed out of the building. We walked back to our car but not before stopping to turn around, and admire once more the giant, looming ruins, of the Castle on the Hill.


Ariel view of Jackson Sanatorium:




 

To view more of my work and purchase prints, head over to The Digital Mirage.

Modern Ruins – Grossinger’s Resort

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While making plans to visit my family in upstate NY this October, fellow photographer Andy Wheeler and I began concocting ideas for our ideal photo-adventure. Andy did lots of research and by the time I flew in to the Elmira airport he had a nice sized list of places we could go. One location however jumped off the page at both of us: Grossinger’s Resort in the Catskill mountains. The history of Grossinger’s is a long one, so here’s the short version: “Grossinger’s was founded by Asher Selig Grossinger who moved to the Catskills in the 1900’s. The location grew and he turned ownership over to his daughter. The resort thrived for many years as a prime vacation spot for the rich. Grossinger’s daughter died in 1972, but by this time the resort had grown to a “sprawling complex of 35 buildings on 1200 acres that served 150,000 guests a year. It had it’s own airstrip and post office. But in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, resorts like Grossinger’s… could no longer attract younger guests. Grossinger’s closed in 1986, and only the golf course remains.” (Quote courtesy of http://www.catskillarchive.com/grossinger/index.htm) To us, the prospect of exploring the abandoned decaying ruins of a massive location such as this was too good to pass up.

My plane flew in on Saturday night, and first thing Sunday morning Andy and I headed out to Liberty NY to go explore the resort. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from Elmira NY to Liberty, but we spent about 45 minutes driving back and forth across Liberty until we were able to track down the location. Not really sure about the legality of potentially trespassing on the land, we spent a few minutes driving around the surrounding areas trying to figure out the best place to stash our car and make a subtle sneaky entrance onto the property. We parked behind a large utility truck next to a warehouse on the back side of the still functioning golf course.

We unpacked our gear and followed the road to the back edge of the golf course. We headed towards the looming buildings in the distance as the grass and shrubs grew taller and denser. The first building we passed was a club house for the tennis courts. Peering through the shattered windows we could see trash and rubble all around. Old tennis ads from the 70’s/80’s still adorned the walls. We continued on down the hill towards the ever growing complex. Waist high grass, debris, and downed electrical wire covered the ground which was swampy in places.

The first large building we came to, part of the old hotel, was about 4 stories tall.

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An open emergency exit revealed little to the naked eye but rubble in darkness. It was at this point that Andy realized that we forgot to pack flashlights. After deciding not to enter that particular part of the complex we continued around the outside of the building. About 50 yards away we came to another entrance that opened up into a large two story open room. Our best guess was that this area must have been a lobby for the banquet hall. Shattered ceiling tiles littered the floor, cracked and split, but undisturbed from the time when they had once fallen.

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Other rubble was mixed into the piles of debris that we stepped through to get a good view of the room. Hundreds of old bowls and dining accessories from the kitchen lay strewn about.

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We explored the immediate area without delving too far into the darkness.

We didn’t spend too long there as we had seen some amazing pictures taken from a decaying indoor swimming pool, and we really wanted to find that location and explore it. Looking out from the door we entered through, we saw that the brush was extremely thick around the outside of the building. We chose to cut through a large room, crossing over to another door on the far side where we saw some daylight shining in. The room was massive, two stories tall, and about the size of a football field. As we crossed through the darkness towards the daylight emanating from the exit on the other side, we speculated that this must have been a ballroom, used for huge events and parties. The room was mostly free from debris and the floor was a solid concrete foundation.

We exited the building and made our way up a steep embankment, crossing a small paved road that led up to the golf course. Careful to not be seen, we jogged towards a small greenhouse farther up the hill. The small anteroom was strewn with trash. We poked our heads through the door into the greenhouse itself and viewed a beautiful scene of plants, vines, and weeds, growing out of control, up to the ceiling of the room.

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An old phone and scattered papers lay strewn about the room.

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After shooting the greenhouse we back tracked down the hill and came upon what seemed to be a loading dock area next to the old boiler room building.

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A monstrous pile of junk and debris was heaped between the buildings here and as if beckoning for a photo-op, an old wooden chair sat out in the middle of the courtyard in front of the junk pile. You can tell we are hardcore because of the wicked cool font I chose for our names! There are SKULLS in it!

Walt and Andy

We were having a blast, but at this point we were really getting anxious to see the fabled indoor swimming pool. Not knowing exactly where it was we continued around the outskirts of the complex. Just as we rounded the corner we saw it! The Pool!!! Magnificent two story glass windows surrounded three fourths of the pool. We rushed to the main outdoor entrance only to find it fully blocked and boarded up. As we began walking around the outside of the building we noticed an emergency exit door on the far corner of the building. The only problem was, there were no stairs. The door opened onto a small ledge that ran the full length around the building; however the ledge was easily 10 feet high and less than a foot wide. With all of our camera gear and the lack of good sturdy climbing trees, this was not going to be an easy option. We opted to fully circle the building to see if we could locate any other access. There were no other simple ways to get in from the ground level that we could see. It was at this point that we realized that up to now, we had not seen or heard any animals of any kind. Then, as if taking from a Hitchcock movie, a murder of large crows began circling above us, cawing loudly, as if to warn us that this was their domain and we should be warned. As we pondered our next move we noticed a glass entry way leading into an adjoining building.

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The glass entrance gave way to a large vacant room, with large ‘trenches’ running the full length of the room that revealed pipes lying in the bottoms.

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We crossed some planks over the trenches into what at one point, was the Coffee Shop and soda fountain area. A row of beautifully decaying green bar stools faced the wall of the room. The chairs were all still bolted in the floor and were textured with rust, mildew, and grime from years of neglect. Tattered red upholstery peeked from beneath the chairs offering a beautiful compliment to the vivid green vinyl of the chairs.

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Comparison shot of what the bar area used to look like (different angle): CORRECTION: The room pictured below is the Pink Elephant Lounge and not the same room as the bar stools (above) which were located in the Coffee Shop.

Compare 05

We walked back outside, pondering our dilemma of gaining access to the indoor pool. As we walked back around the pool building we passed under a second story hallway/catwalk that ran about 100 feet from the second story of the decaying hotel to the top level of the pool. This was going to be our only option. Nervously, we inspected the bottom of the raised hallway, we noted that it was made completely out of wood. Luckily for the most part it showed no signs of water damage save for one 5 by 10 foot segment that looked very rotted and decayed. We headed into the hotel building and climbed the stairs into the second floor. I poked my head in one of the hotel rooms on the second floor only to be smacked in the face by an overwhelming stench of mold and decay. I also noticed some graffiti which read “Jesus took LSD and thought he was ME”…Interesting…

A pair of steel swinging doors opened up into the raised wooden hallway which was littered with planks and boards which had fallen off the walls and ceiling.

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We knew the decaying area was close to our end and we figured going one at a time would be a wise idea. Andy volunteered…me….Suddenly wishing I had not eaten those super-sized fries on the drive out, I timidly inched my way out into the hallway. Staying as close to the wall as possible I crept forward…one foot at a time…listening, and feeling. After I had made it about 10 feet, I put my foot down and felt it SINK as the floor flexed under my weight. Since I had already transferred my weight to that foot, I was committed, I screamed like a little girl (just kidding) leaped forward past the decaying area on to what I hoped was a sturdier part of the hallway. At this point, with my heart racing, and legs shaking, I was not about to stop moving, and I speed walked safely to the other end of the hallway. Andy was able to cross safely, now knowing the treacherous spots. Still, I am sure it was a little more than nerve racking for him to cross that same area.

We stepped through the doors at the end of the hallway and feasted our eyes on a truly magnificent scene. What we saw was the epitome of beauty in decay.

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The massive indoor pool sat in the middle of the two story room surrounded by 20-30 feet of red and white checker board tiled floor, out of which grew lush moss, ferns, and grasses. Lounge chairs still adorned the green outskirts of the pool like broken Christmas ornaments on a tree hastily thrown out on the curb. From floor to ceiling, the still intact giant glass windows shone the mid day sun, which glowed off everything giving a warm nostalgic feel to the entire room.

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Comparison shot of the pool:

Compare 02

Gigantic wooden beams ran up the walls and across the ceiling leading the eye to the rows and banks of lights that at one point lit up the room at night. From the ceiling hung beautiful art deco chandeliers straight out of the 70’s. As we walked around the pool gazing at the decadent beauty that surrounded us, particularly the vegetation, we noticed that for the most part, the moss seemed to grow only on the red tiles. This made for a strange checkerboard effect, the likes of which we had never seen before!

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As we shot the room from all different angles, we heard noises echoing through the building. What must have been parts of the building falling and breaking off on distant floors, occasionally echoed through cavernous room, giving the feeling that the building indeed was alive and aware of our presence. Water trickled down from the leaky roof spattering on the floor around us.

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Before we left I could not resist getting a picture of myself sitting in the bottom of the pool!

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We successfully crossed back over the decaying hallway and continued our circle around the outskirts of the complex.

We passed by another few large hotel buildings on the west side.

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Another shot to compare:

Compare 06

As we neared the first building we entered on the way in we discovered the outdoor swimming pool on the north west side of the complex.

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Outdoor pool comparison:

Compare 01

Inside the power box at the outdoor poolside bar I discovered that the only breaker labeled was the beer cooler! This must have been party central!

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Andy led us down some stairs at the end of the pool and we discovered the pool’s pump room below. We figured this was a good time to don our masks. We entered the room which was filled with decaying pool chairs stacked all around. Giant pipes, pumps, and tanks lined the far wall of the room.

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Large industrial sized canisters sat on the floor in front of the tanks. Presumably at one point they held chlorine or other pool cleaning chemicals, but they had long since leaked out onto the floor, leaving a powdery snow-like substance which made us glad that we had masks.

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We walked back up around the pool and headed towards the tennis courts and clubhouse. The office part of the clubhouse was utterly destroyed with papers and junk littering the floor, but the ‘den’ area was open with a few old couches and random junk spaced around.

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An old pay phone hung on the wall next to the entrance.

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We found an old panel that at one point controlled the lights and heat(?) on the tennis courts.

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Stairs leading out of the clubhouse:

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We headed up to the tennis courts and were witness to an amazing sight of birch trees growing up through cracks in the court. The interesting thing was that there was a straight line of trees growing directly across both courts where the tennis nets used to be!

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We headed back to our car, thrilled and exhausted from an exciting afternoon photographing these amazing modern ruins.

While exploring and observing the decaying glory of what was once a beautiful thriving location, we could not help but feel that Grossinger’s was still alive. While it was obviously in a state of decay, it was autumn here. It was past the point where its shiny facade glistened in the sunlight, but it had yet to arrive at a state of complete entropy and ruin. If the resort was a living being, it gave the impression that it was still waking up each morning, still putting on its makeup, still trying to look good for its guests, but all the while slowly falling apart. Around every corner we could still see and imagine the beauty that once was. We could envision guests strolling around walkways lined with gardens and flowers, we could see people lounging in deck chairs next to the pool and jumping off the diving board. Grossinger’s physical beauty was slowly crumbling and dying, but its spirit was still very much alive.

This is an aerial map showing the path we took while exploring Grossinger’s:

1000x SatelliteMapWALKTRACK with notes

View more of my work and purchase prints at The Digital Mirage

Map Provided By Andy Wheeler Studio@dragonnote.com

Comparison Photographs provided by Joe Lehman http://www.joe4speed.com/grossingers.htm

The Land of Broken Dreams

DISCLAIMER: The following pictures were from one of my first explorations, and you might say this location helped foster my interest in abandoned places. These photos were taken back in 2007 when I was still trying to learn the ropes of my digital SLR so don’t critique them too hard!  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Land of Broken Dreams

 

 

In NY, north of Syracuse, off the interstate in the woods behind Robert Smith’s AKA “The Birdman of Exit 39″ humble house, lies a fascinating place called:

“The Land of Broken Dreams”.

 

Over many years, Mr. Smith built and expanded upon his labor of love, creating a entire world in the woods. Small huts and crude shelters along makeshift “streets” once housed birds, peasants, ducks, peacocks, rabbits and other such wildlife. He decorated these streets and buildings with children’s toys, statutes, lights, and what he lovingly calls junk. “It’s all junk” he told us when we arrived at his house to explore and take pictures of the “ruins”.

 

“Why would anyone be interested in this old junk? Are you from the big city?” he asked, his voice barely audible above the roar of the interstate just 100 feet away that was put in years after he built his house. Walking around this place that was literally falling apart as we ventured around corners and in and out the small huts, one could not help but imagine the former beauty and the staggering enormity of this ‘land’ that Robert Smith had created.

 

As we walked underneath a two story structure built up with plywood and fiberglass roofing materials, a large part of the structure abruptly collapsed onto the group just feet behind us, driving home the notion that what remained of this fascinating place might not be around for much longer.

Toys and yard sale junk adorned the boards and shattered glass that we traipsed through looking for…for what I don’t know, but simply exploring and wondering at the sheer size of this world he had created and the years of work he had put into building and acquiring the components required to make this surreal place come to life.

 

These are just a few of the literally hundred of pictures I took that day, and most of them are microcosms of this place. There was too much to take in so I focused on the small intricacies of this decomposing dilapidated world. Robert Smith took “folk art” to epic levels with the creation of his “Land of Broken Dreams” and I wish I had been around to see it in all of its glory. However my fascination with abandoned and decaying locations was piqued with the exploration of this one of a kind place.