You Are In A Maze Of Twisty Little Passages, All Alike

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Catskills, Underground

Just as we left Albany, the pouring rain actually began falling, as the rest of the group promised as they decided to leave and not even try camping another night. It wasn’t at all how I’d hoped this would go; I barely managed to keep the last meetup together, and this time we only explored one place before falling apart, albeit on mostly good terms. I didn’t really care anymore though, we were still trying to explore, and it doesn’t rain underground. I’d gotten decent directions from one of the cavers I met last month on how to see the Rosendale mines, so even without the 9 people we lost back to New York City, we gave it a try. My first interpretation led us into Widow Jane’s Mine, the touristy one on the property of a museum, made even more touristy by a half-set-up installation art exhibit. I didn’t want to stay too long just in case any of the artists were still around and wondering who would be creeping around the mine, so we tried the other one. I had to ask for directions again when my reading of them led into a deer trail and a swamp, but on the second try we were in.

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While the cement supply ran out around 1900, these mines found (and some still have) other uses, being vast underground spaces with miles of passages, and acres of chambers, ranging from dry to flooded to completely underwater. This mine was once the nation’s largest producer of culinary mushrooms. Another one nearby was rumored to be an underground emergency shelter for the state legislature if Albany had to be evacuated — that one is now a data storage center for Iron Mountain, providing something a bit more down-to-earth than a cloud backup.

None of the mushrooms themselves, nor obvious signs of growing them, remain in the mine. However, there is still a slight infrastructure, in the form of downed power lines following some of the walls, and a few pieces of machinery left behind near the entrance.

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Beyond that, the mine opens up into a dark, seemingly endless maze.

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Not wanting a repeat of my last mine adventure, I approached this one with a working headlamp and fresh batteries, instead of a tiki torch. And this time there were no psychedelically-induced Lovecraftian horrors crunching underfoot with every step. But I still didn’t dare challenge the maze with anything more than the obvious, simple route following along one side of it. Not on a first venture into this particular abyss, and not with someone concerned enough about getting lost to be trying to make arrows in the ground with a tire iron to mark where we have already been.

The boundary, for this time anyway, was usually a shoreline, with flooded passages beyond begging for an inflatable raft, or a hotter day to make swimming in the flood zone more attractive than on this 48-degree rainy night.

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The farther in we went, the less flooding there seemed to be, as the air thickened with steam and a miscellaneous sense of going deeper and deeper underground.

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Each room was numbered, in more or less increasing order, counting how many chambers were between us and the surface, on a path not entirely different from the one we took to get that far. These markings, however, were far from reliable. This particular set of “OUT” arrows point directly into the mine. I have to wonder if the arrow pointers got lost, or if they were simply sadistic explorers who wanted to keep the less experienced from ever wanting to come back!

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About 80 rooms, or nearly a mile, into the mine, there was a “shed” full of machinery. The need for a building in the mine somewhat confused me, with the entire thing already being sheltered from the elements, but it seems to have been a storage area for (mushroom-era?) farm implements of some type.

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More troubling, though, was the passage behind this, with rising and falling ramps. Not only is this an enormous maze of twisty passages, but apparently it’s a multi-level vertical maze too! We stayed on the “center” level, and avoided any ramps, trying to keep this adventure relatively short considering we didn’t start until after midnight.

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On the way what we thought might be back, we found a spot that appeared to be “raining”. I imagine it was actually cave drips, but it seemed like just the tiniest portal to the outside world, letting in the weather drop by drop.

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As we continued, we eventually made our way to the exit — the same exit we came in through, no less — to find it was still pouring rain! I definitely need to go back here though. This was just one level, and counting only the ramps we could see, there are three more below, at least one more above, and plenty of buried river to take a boat out into…

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Hudson River Psychiatric Center

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Catskills, Institutional

After last week’s legal kerfuffle, all I wanted to do is get out and explore… originally, my trip to Poughkeepsie was for a very different purpose, meeting with my prospective lawyer, who had successfully saved a few explorers from terrorism charges already, for dealing with what could have been a life changing amount of court dates, but that disaster never came to fruition, and I wasn’t about to cancel my trip! So I found a college friend and, amazingly, two more experienced explorers who were willing to show me around, and turned the weekend into a surprise adventure. There’s only one obvious thing to do in Poughkeepsie, and we were about to do it.

I’ll have to admit I was a little bit, no, maybe a lot, scared of this one. While it probably wasn’t justified, I’ve always been paranoid about asylums, as if security there is more intense, or just more of them, than any other abandoned buildings, and with the property having just been sold last week, there was potential for it to be even worse than normal. With the help of our guides, we were marched directly into the Kirkbride to explore the best known (some would say overdone) main building. After a few minutes together on the top floor, they went off to climb things, leaving us to be the tourists and take photos of everything in sight!

It immediately became obvious there was no way we could see all this in one short November day!

All this furniture isn’t cheap! Someone must have decided it was too heavy to move…

Somebody had a bad day. It’s a bit small to read here, but this was a firing (with immediate hiring at any other facility in the state, for greater pay) letter from the civil service board, for someone who wasn’t quite pulling their weight but had earned tenure…

This seemed like it would be the way to the next section of the hospital. Unfortunately, it only leads to a locked room. It seemed like a good idea at the time… but now we realized we were lost. As paranoid as I was about going back outside into the (absent) security, I sent us looking desperately for tunnels, which we may have found blocked, and trying in vain to reach the rest of the group, and we wasted an inordinate amount of time trying to get into another ward before finally going outside and just doing it. After I probably made an idiot of myself to two explorers I would have loved to meet up with again.

These are always a bit unsettling… I’m glad I’m not climbing around with the other explorers!

When you see it…

We spent a while trying to find the morgue, and eventually did find the right building, but the entrance took quite the climb, or a ladder we didn’t have. So we settled for a maintenance shed and what turned out to be the campus power plant for our last building (I hate how it gets dark before 5pm!)

Now this is how to spend a weekend! So much better than meeting a lawyer and planning for my own demise…

Bluebird Of Friendliness

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Amusement, Catskills

Once we finally found the stairs (which are not obvious in any way), we arrived in the iconic pool. The only resort with a full-size Olympic pool indoors, Grossinger’s used it not only for recreation, but also for championship competition, hosting Olympic qualifying in swimming in 1956, as well as championship boxing, and early development of Alpine skiing, having been held in the resort’s glory days. The pool area itself is a relic of its time, built in space-age modern style.

Unfortunately every year nature and vandals eat up more of it… although it was always unlikely at best anyone would want the place, it’s still sad to see it go in this way.

And then, just as I was about to leave the pool, she showed up:
Birdhouse

I never would have thought I’d wish I had bird seed with me… this little bird let me walk right up and take pictures!

Overall, the 1993 wing was in the worst shape of anything on the property.

If any of you go back, it’s the one corridor of the hotel where the floors are seriously scary. You won’t want to go any farther than this.

Toward the top of the hill, approaching the clubhouse is the resort’s power plant, which has been cleared of almost all its machinery.

I think this ballroom has seen its last dance!

This enormous space was either the boxing arena or the conference room, as far as I could tell

Are you itchy yet?

This chalet looks out directly over the golf course, and adjoins the maintenance building. I got a very distinct feeling I shouldn’t be here.

Or especially here!

Just as I ducked out of here, two golf carts of course workers came in. We didn’t stick around long enough to know if they saw us…

Lives of the Rich and Famous

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Amusement, Catskills

When it closed abruptly in 1985, Grossinger’s Resort had just began its sixth major expansion, and attempt to reclaim the title of “World’s Largest Hotel” from the Concord and a few up and coming contenders in Las Vegas. With a declining tourist business in the Catskills already, and the scattering of Jewish families out of Brooklyn and into the rest of the northeast, the Borscht Belt’s days were numbered, and the few remaining resorts intensified their competition, building unsustainably to build market share and go down in history as the Greatest. Among frequent guests in the 1980s, vacationing here as well as performing, Evandor Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Barry Manilow and Bill Murray were Grossinger’s mainstays, and Arnold Palmer was there at what became the hotel’s final days, planning his redesign of the golf course for a 1986 season that would never arrive.

Once the property left the hands of the Grossinger family, it passed from developer to developer, alternating phases of demolition, reconstruction and languishing abandonment. By 1993, golf was booming in the region, and the course reopened, along with the clubhouse restaurant, tennis club and one building of the decaying hotel, hardly a shadow of its luxurious former life. Without the entertainment and culture of Grossinger’s’s glory days, the hotel failed in less than a summer, leaving only the golf course behind, as it remains to this day. Reaching the golf course requires driving straight through the abandoned resort complex, creating an eerie feeling for the golfers, but a perfect excuse for us exploring, and plenty of traffic to blend in with on what should be deserted roads.

Entering from the first, obvious, open door, this sight and an arresting stench of decay and rot are your welcome as newly arrived guests.
Front

Nature has taken over here, with moss and even some fully formed plants occupying many of the bathrooms

How long has it been since you’ve seen a computer with a monitor like this?

Play room

October 1984 — program for a late season Saturday, including an Evandor Holyfield bout

Where the front desk used to be, only a reflecting pool now

Take a seat at the bar…but we haven’t had that spirit here since 1985

Approaching the pool… this was, believe it or not, part of the wing that was open in 1993, pressed into use as a makeshifted lobby.

Due to the architectural changes in the late stages of the hotel, despite being directly under the pool it takes a lot of wandering around to actually reach it from here.

…continued in part 2

I Walk Along Darkened Corridors

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Amusement, Catskills

This was my second try at what is without a doubt the creepiest place I’ve ever explored. I’m still not sure why, but something about the Paramount Hotel is about as “haunted” as an abandoned building can get. Its history isn’t particularly dark; the hotel expanded and contracted from 1905 to 2000, run for 93 of those years by the Gasthalter family, before burning partially in October 2000, while full to near capacity with 350 guests of a conference on Judaism. While everyone evacuated the hotel without casualties, 1/3 of the hotel had to be removed, including the lobby and restaurants. A new ownership group tried to revive the Paramount and reopen it in 2004, but went bankrupt the night before the hotel was due to open, and it has sat abandoned ever since, slowly decaying after its missed opening day.

This furniture seems to have been awaiting placement in the rest of the rooms … or being scrapped for future use

Probably the least glamorous of the Catskill pools I’ve seen
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…even before it became a chemical dump

This seems to have been a rather utilitarian outdoor pool? Or just a place where they never got around to rebuilding?

Room 92 still has its ‘opening’ day inspection checklist

And it’s still kind of, sort of intact

With a Gideons’ bible open to the book of Revelations.

And right about then, we noticed we weren’t alone (again!) and got the hell out of there. We came back in the morning just to see if anything had changed; it turned out to only be scrappers who left a pile of metal on the driveway.

Compared to the other resorts, this one even looks a bit off from the outside.

Pining For The Fjords

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Amusement, Catskills

The Sullivan County Catskills are no longer the prime vacation spot they were for most of the last hundred years. Once known as the Borscht Belt and the Jewish Alps, the region was the birthplace of stand-up comedy and the ski lift, and once known for bumper to bumper traffic all the way from Brooklyn to the mountains. Air travel, air conditioning and middle-class Jewish families moving to the suburbs brought hard times to the Catskills, and resorts started closing through the 80s and 90s until by 1998 only two remained, out of nearly 100 abandoned and destroyed.

The Pines was one of the last survivors, falling into bankruptcy just before the summer of 1998, and shuttered once and for all in 2005 after a few attempts at reopening. Commonly considered the third-largest and third-most luxurious (after Grossinger’s and the Concord), the Pines included not only a massive resort hotel, but also a golf course and ski mountain on adjoining land, none of which are still in use. Entry to the abandoned resort is remarkably straightforward, as long as you can climb a fence. Otherwise, it takes quite a bit of searching for one of the few holes.

Vandalism and nature have done far more to this resort in 10 years, than Grossinger’s suffered in 25. A botched partial demolition, which struck asbestos and quickly ran out of money, did not help the cause.

I think this is one remaining wall of the building that was once the indoor swimming pool

Any ideas? I think it may have been an amphitheatre, although the rows are extremely wide for that

An Army cot. First, why was this in a hotel? Second, what is wrong with me that I actually kind of miss these things from my Massawepie days?

There is no logic to the setup of the Pines. Rooms were just stuck together anywhere they would fit, and the numbers reflect this, being more or less chronological. The newest rooms were in the worst condition by far, both from being the last ones used, and of well inferior quality.

I love it when the floor is greener than the grass outside

What remains of the front desk and/or mailroom

A surprising portion of the property was built on stilts…

UER does not destroy places. That job is left to people liky out!