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Abandoned Home for the Abandoned: Forest Haven Asylum

Welcome to Forest Haven, one of the most deadly institutions in the United States.

This asylum for the mentally ill was built not far the nation’s capital in 1925, hidden in forested acreage away from the busy city center. The campus was beautiful, however care and treatment would deteriorate rapidly as the city’s budget tightened. Understaffing issues were common, and for decades reports of resident abuse and neglect went ignored.

The District treated Forest Haven like a dark secret nobody wanted to discuss. A combination of budget cuts and lawsuits eventually forced the institution to close in 1991 after 80 years.

But before Forest Haven was shuttered, hundreds of residents died and thousands more deteriorated while enduring a horrific quality of life.

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There Was Nothing in the World Like Action Park

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Action Park was one of the first water parks in the United States, and by the time it closed in 1996 it was the most dangerous. The park was a pioneer, not afraid to experiment with attractions in the quest for fun. Aggressive ad campaigns brought a million visitors per year and turned the northern New Jersey water park into a household name.

But a lax attitude toward safety eventually caught up with the owners. After 18 years of operation, a series of lawsuits stemming from injuries and deaths forced the park to close. This is a look-back at the classic water park and the wild attractions which made it famous.

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Abandoned Kaua’i Jewel: The Coco Palms

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On the east coast of Hawaii’s westernmost populated island, an abandoned hotel is slowly being reclaimed by nature. It was a landmark for 40 years, a success story immortalized in classic American movie culture. The Coco Palms Resort was the result of hard work by the Guslanders, a couple who offered an enjoyable Hawaiian experience on beautiful grounds featuring a coconut grove and lagoon.

The resort enjoyed worldwide fame when it was featured in several mid-century films, most notably the Elvis Presley classic Blue Hawaii. It thrived for decades as a popular hotspot among royalty and stars, but when Hurricane Iniki struck Kauaʻi in 1992 the hotel was critically damaged.

Twenty-plus years later, most businesses and residents in Kauaʻi have moved on. But at the Coco Palms, it’s still 1992: A perfect storm of obstacles has kept the dilapidated structure in a seemingly-inescapable purgatory.

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The Forgotten Castle on the Hudson

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On a lonely island fifty miles north of New York City, the bricks of a once-proud castle slowly return to the earth. The crumbling fortress is one of several remaining structures on tiny Pollepel Island, an abandoned six-and-a-half acre crag hugging the east bank of the Hudson River.

The 100 year-old Bannerman’s Castle was originally built as an arsenal, and has been abandoned for the last forty five years since a fire ravaged the island in the summer of 1969. It was the creation of a nineteenth-century businessman and served as an advertisement for the era’s largest military surplus empire.

When the castle’s namesake passed away, the island was forgotten. It’s brief resurrection was cut short by a fatal fire. For half a century the building has been losing battles against nature. Absent intervention in the very near future, it may lose the war.

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Abandoned Industrial Icon: Armour Meat Packing Plant

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The Armour & Company meat packing plant in National City, Illinois is a window into a bygone era, a time capsule with late-19th century technology still on display. During its heyday the busy stock yards of East St. Louis were the largest in the world, and known around the U.S. as the “Hog Capital of the Nation.”

Advances in technology and labor disputes ultimately drove the meat packers out of National City. The obsolete Armour plant had become expensive to operate and was eventually shut down by the company in 1959.

Unused since Armour & Co. left nearly 55 years ago, the 110 year-old structure still sits in East St. Louis today.

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Concrete Arrows and the U.S. Airmail Beacon System

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Scattered across the United States is a network of mysterious concrete arrows. They are often found in remote locations or areas difficult to access. Some will be accompanied by a small shack, a few have a metal tower affixed to their base. Many are in good condition while others have succumbed to nature. The shape and direction of the arrows vary, but it is clear they served the same purpose.

The purpose was important: helping early pilots navigate U.S. transcontinental flights at night.

In a era before radar, pilots used ground-based landmarks for guidance. This solution worked for flight during the day, but grounded pilots at night. Before long, a system of beacons was established across the United States to guide airmail pilots around-the-clock. When radar and radio communications made the beacons obsolete years later, most were torn down and abandoned.

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