Aiden Lair

My travels to New York state often start with the same question; Who is John Galt? Usually, I cross into New York via the Crown Point Bridge over Lake Champlain, and I always find myself observing this busted sign on dysfunctional wheels with two cryptic messages arranged on both sides. I’ve found plenty of questions, but no answers.

Good friend, mentor and fellow explorer Dan Koopman of Environmental Imagery tells me that the sign used to have a smorgasbord of anti Obama hate messages on it’s dented sides, which I assume was the work of the mysterious and aforementioned John Galt, ruler of the titular Galt’s Gultch, which seems to be a collection of ramshackle campers alongside the railroad tracks. I recall him showing me the sign years ago, but it seems the sign has gotten a bit more enigmatic and stagnant since then. I always make a point to look whenever I pass, to see if there is a new message. So far, nothing.

After a little internet research, the search term John Galt introduced me not to a New Yorker, but to a character created by author Ayn Rand from her novel Atlas Shrugged, which I’ve never read. The gist isGalt is a philosopher and inventor who believes in the power and glory of the human mind. Galt stood for the ideals of free thinking, individualism and Egalitarianism rather than a society embracing conformity oppressed underneath the government.  That’s something to think about on your commute.

DSC_0004_pe DSC_0002_pe

Though Dan was the one who introduced me to his stomping grounds of New York state years ago, on this trip, I would venture to the exotic world upstate with another friend and adventurer Eric Hodet of Cabbages and Kings. We made a quick pit stop for gas in Port Henry, a jaded village that climbs up some steep ledges above Bulwagga Bay.

Port Henry, Home of Champ

Though we once had a very short lived christening as the 6th great lake, Lake Champlain is still pretty great, being shared by 2 states and Quebec. It is also large enough to completely conceal an elusive unidentified swimming object of monstrous proportions. “Champ”, which I suppose isn’t the most creative name for a lake monster, is said to take on a Plesiosauric resemblance, and is most often depicted as your typical water dinosaur, with it’s defining humped back, small head, long neck and ending with a long tail.

Of all places that border Lake Champlain, Port Henry proudly claims itself to be the home of Champ, the lake’s renown lake monster, and they take that distinction pretty seriously. So much so in fact that the first Saturday of August is designated as Champ Day, which brings a street fair and entertainers, with the centerpiece being, a Champ float.

What’s made the legend of Champ so important, apart from the various marketing campaigns, bumper stickers and business names, is the numerous eyewitness sightings, consisting of a rather long tradition of reports. French explorer Samuel De Champlain’s journals told of a sighting of some strange beast near Isle La Motte when he first traveled down the Richelieu River into the lake. But his records were lost to knowledge until the 1800s, when the first verifiable report of a Champ sighting came into public consciousness. It captivated the public so much that P.T. Barnum once offered a reward for its capture, dead or alive. More interestingly, in the 1970s, Champlain’s records were once again studied, and it was discovered that the intrepid explorer’s account may have been mistranslated, making his sighting officially unofficial. Instead, it was most likely that Champlain saw a Garfish, which still live in the lake today.

But what really propelled allegations into fixation was in 1977, when Sandra Mansi captured a photograph of what she claims is Champ. The photograph in question shows something that vaguely takes on Champ’s described appearance rising out of the waters of the lake – but a sense of scale is hard to determine here. Was it actually Champ? A giant Sturgeon? Or maybe, just a piece of driftwood?

Regardless of Champ’s existence, countless sightings have been reported over the years, and people hold firm to their stories. My grandfather even claims that he saw it – as well as quite a few other people, whose names have been memorialized on a wooden memorial south of the Port Henry on Route 22. The sightings unsurprisingly start with Samuel De Champlain in 1609, and escalate into the 21st century. Even local celebrities like WCAX’s Gary Sadowsky made it on the list. The dates stop at 1989, which raises a few questions. Have there been any reported sightings in Bulgwagga Bay since then? Are any plans to extend the list?

DSC_0011_pe

I’ve sort of made it a point not to write about Champ in this blog, because admittedly, I’m just not all that interested in the Champ hype. But it’s almost impossible to not pick up some information about it along the line, and I found myself slowly giving in, because some of it is actually pretty interesting. This is probably my favorite; Documented sightings of Champ actually predate those of the Loch Ness Monster by fifty years! I find this amusing because most cryptozoology enthusiasts consider Champ to be “America’s Loch Ness Monster”, but maybe it should be the other way around?

To be fair, Lake Champlain is a large lake, with depths said to be beyond 400 feet in some places near the Charlotte-Essex ferry crossing. With many areas uncharted, I suppose it’s possible that something could live harmoniously in the lake undetected. That, and scientists did discover a sonar sound emanating from the depths of the lake that was so unique, they named it after the lake monster (they did, however, claim that the odd sound did not belong to Champ)

So, why did Port Henry land the distinction of being the home of Champ? The first modern day sighting of Champ was reported here in 1819, by a “Captain Crum” in Bulwagga Bay. His eyewitness report illustrated a rather graphic spectacle of a black monster resembling a seahorse with three teeth, large eyes, a white star on its forehead and a red band around its neck. So I guess that’s as good of a reason as any.

Ironville, Birthplace of the Electric Age!

When traveling to unfamiliar territory, one of the first impressions of a community you take in is their welcome sign. The small town of Ironville’s sign stood out from the others I’ve noticed (apart from Port Henry’s, of course). The sign had a pretty groundbreaking claim written along the bottom in capital letters; “Birthplace of the Electric Age”. That left me and my friend scratching our heads a little. But a little après-adventure research was able to put the pieces together for me.

The hills around Ironville were known for their rich iron ore deposits, and mining activities brought great prosperity to the rural region. Curious about the natural magnetic rocks in the area, Joseph Henry, an early pioneer in electricity and professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Albany, was interested in the phenomenon of magnets and how they worked. He traveled to the Penfield Iron Works in town where he obtained some high quality Iron to study. His goal was to attempt to create magnets of his own. At the time, magnets worked by wrapping bare wire around an Iron core, creating magnetic fields. But they were short lived, as the fields always rapidly collapsed into the iron core. Henry then got an idea; why not insulate the wires?

He attached his new prototype to a battery, the only known producer of electricity at the time, and created the world’s first electromagnet – and the key component to making all-electric power possible today. Eventually, Ironville became the first town to use electricity for commercial use. It was this breakthrough that would inspire Vermonter Thomas Davenport to invent the electric motor, and eventually, a world ran by electricity would become the norm.

Aiden Lair

The real reason for visiting upstate New York was to visit Aiden Lair, a sizely rotting wooden building, deep within the forests of the Adirondacks.

The history of Aiden Lair begins around 1850, with the construction of a crude log cabin to house travelers and hunters going into the interior of the Adirondacks, at a time where the rugged region was only beginning to be more accessible. The cabin eventually burned down, and in 1893, the first Aiden Lair lodge was built, a grand Adirondack hunting lodge ran by an Irishman named Michael Cronin.

The original Aiden Lair Lodge, early 1900s. (via town of Minerva website)

But the lodge truly gained notoriety for being a vital part of the so called Midnight Ride of Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, which would be the first stop of a remarkable presidency.

Being president of the United States can have contingent natures with the responsibility, and I don’t think there are many American presidents that have been more fit for the role than Theodore Roosevelt.

On Sept. 6, 1901, President William McKinley was in Buffalo attending the Pan American Exposition when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz, a hot tempered anarchist. At the time, vice president Theodore Roosevelt was a guest of the Vermont Fish and Game Club in Isle La Motte. When word reached Roosevelt on the attempt on the president’s life, he immediately left and traveled to Buffalo.

But McKinley’s surgeon insisted he was fine, and that he would surely recover. Roosevelt, no longer feeling needed, decided to travel to join his family who were vacationing at the Tahawus Hunting Club. He had campaigned laboriously during the election of 1900 – an effort which involved much traveling and speech giving. Some rest and relaxation in the Adirondacks sounded damn good.

In Tahawus, Roosevelt decided that a great way to kick off his vacation would be to have an afternoon hike up Mount Marcy, the tallest elevation in the state. He sought out some guides and set out up the slopes. While relaxing near Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, the source of the Hudson River, a foot messenger named Harrison Hall found him and gave him word that McKinley’s condition had worsened, and it didn’t look good.

According to local lore, Roosevelt’s reaction after reading the message was to say  “Gentlemen, I must return to the clubhouse at once,” before calmly finishing his lunch, and then making the 12 mile hike back to Tahawus in 3 hours.

Roosevelt was reluctant to go back to Buffalo unless he was truly needed. He was just there, and that would be a long trip to make for a false alarm. But soon, another telegram came with news came that president McKinley was dying. Roosevelt set out for Buffalo immediately, but first, he had to get to the nearest train station which was 35 miles away at North Creek. That would be an arduous journey on muddy rut choked roads in the middle of the night, through vast mountainous wilds, a journey that would take at least 7 hours to complete today. The 35 mile stretch would have to be completed on horseback, with a stop somewhere in between to switch the exhausted horse for a fresh one. He departed Tahawus and made the grueling journey to Aiden Lair Lodge in Minerva, where he would switch horses.

A team of wagon drivers were organized, and would switch off driving Roosevelt at different legs of the trip, until they made it to the train station. David Hunter, the superintendent of the Tahawus Club, drove the first leg, a 10-mile stretch from the Tahawus Club to the Tahawus post office. The first stretch took two hours to complete because the road was practically washed out due to rainy conditions. From there, he would swap drivers again until he would get to Aiden Lair Lodge in Minerva.

By the time he got to Aiden Lair around 3:30 AM, he was already president. McKinley had died at 2:15 AM, while Roosevelt was still rushing through dark wilderness and rough roads. Though word had reached Aiden Lair, Michael Cronin decided not to tell Roosevelt. The staff knew he was dealing with great stress, and tried to urge him to rest there for the remainder of the night, and leave a day break. But Roosevelt was having none of it, and hitched up his team. Cronin drove him the remaining 16 miles, partially in an altruistic gesture, but mostly because if anything were to happen to Roosevelt en route, he was threatened that he would be held accountable. The wagon barreled and slid down slippery and sinuous mountain roads, with Roosevelt himself holding the lantern in front of the wagon so they could see where there were going. They made the journey in an hour and 41 minutes.

By the time they arrived, the news had been broken. A telegram awaited him with the news of McKinley’s death at the train station. Roosevelt boarded the train en route to Buffalo and his oath of office. Apparently, Roosevelt’s final leg of his ride achieved so much fame that other drivers had attempted to make the same route and beat the time, but no one has been able to succeed. As far as I know.

But, there is a little deception here. Though it makes a good story, the ramshackle building that skulks behind the the state historical marker on the side of the road is actually not the Aiden Lair that Roosevelt stopped at. The first hotel burned down in 1914, and a new 20 bedroom hotel was built shortly after, the 16,000 square foot decaying wooden structure you see today.

Though Mr. Cronin seemed to play an important part in the earliest hours of Roosevelt’s new found presidency, cosmic relief would pay a visit to the Irishman. Not long after the midnight ride, A New York Tribune article from April 1914 ran a headline that announced: “Roosevelt Guide Crazy.” Michael Cronin was hospitalized for mental health reasons. The lodge burned a month later, and was rebuilt by his family without his help. He died shortly after.

The hotel continued to serve travelers to the Adirondacks from hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and as the times changed, skiers and snowboarders heading to Gore Mountain, until the 1960s, when Adirondack hunting lodges began to go out of style and Aiden Lair closed for good. According to a segment of Adirondack Attic on North Country Public Radio – a gentleman from Albany bought the property a few years ago, with the intentions of restoring and reopening it, to continue it’s storied legacy. But the hurtles of renovations and reaching out to historic preservation proved to be too much, and it has since faced demolition by neglect – rotting in a state of limbo.

The current Aiden Lair Lodge
Topographical map of Minerva, NY circa 1901. Aiden Lair was prominent enough to be plotted as a standout place on the map (upper right hand corner)

I drank copious amounts of Stewart’s Shop coffee before the long drive up to Aiden Lair, fighting the urge to pass out in the car. Long drives with the heat on and a prior week of insomnia tend to do that to me. It was much colder in Minerva. The temperature had plummeted to 11 degrees somewhere along the ride from Schroon Lake, and there was at least a foot of snow in the high peaks. Immediately after exiting the truck, my hands and face stung painfully, and I found myself not being able to control my shivering. But we didn’t travel 2 hours just to turn around, so onward we trudged.

I hadn’t had any expectations to get inside Aiden Lair, as I heard it was sealed up very well, but we found a door around back, near an old dam that created a small pond. The bottom had been kicked out, leaving a human sized hole to crawl through onto a rotting sun porch – the afternoon sun was pleasantly warming the peeling yellow lead paint that speckled the weather beaten floors.

I gazed into the interior dubiously. Because the floor had already begun to sag underneath the weight of my hands as I pulled myself up, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be worth the risk or not. The lack of maintenance has caused serious damage to parts of the buildings – especially the roof. The damage has festered its way down to the stone cellar, causing the entire structure to rapidly fall apart from the mercurial freezing and thawing of the seasons.

Aiden Lair was a now formidable and sizable husk of a building, devoid of most of its original details that have been effaced with time. Being on the upper floors in cramped rooms flourishing with mold that discolored disintegrating walls and suspicious water dripping down my neck, I found it almost difficult to believe that this was once a respected and comfortable place to want to be. But some beautiful details remained. Two massive and classic Adirondack stone fireplaces could be found illuminated by my flashlight, and a balcony overlooking Stony Pond Brook had that identifying mountain woodwork on the railings that many Adirondack lodges have synonymously featured in their architecture.

The vastness of the floor plan took me by surprise as well. Though it looks relatively tiny from the outside, once inside, it becomes apparent at just how much there is to see. I was quite surprised with how many hallways and rooms there were. We were humbled at least once when we found ourselves loosing our bearings.

The cold was having deleterious affects on my nervous system. At this point, I was already trembling in my coat, and I was beginning to get hasty. The floors throughout the entire building were so perilous, that we were exploring at a very slow crawl of a pace. This is definitely one of the most dangerous places I’ve ever been in to date.

The place was incredibly silent, void of life, so sound carried through remarkably well, not being obstructed by competition. The cold rushing waters of Stony Brook could be heard inside, and provided some white noise behind the clomping of our boots and steady breathing. The movement of a door banging against a wall from a gust of wind flickered in our peripheral vision – making us someone else was inside with us. Another urban explorer perhaps, or a cop…

I’ve always thought that the term “lair” in the name was a little ominous sounding, but after seeing it’s state of slow collapse and dark places within, that part of the name now seems very fitting.

When writing these blog posts, and comparing my photographs to historical ones when these places were in their prime, it’s almost surreal. A place that was once frequented and celebrated in many ways, now is forsaken and seemingly unwanted; a burden. We human beings are sentimental creatures, and those sentiments can transcend far beyond other humans. Man made things, constructed from wood, stone, mortar and slate also have powerful emotional bonds to otherwise utilitarian objects, and as they were once so easily loved, they can also be so easily lost.

Admittedly, the cacophony of all that we were taking in here can make you want to stay for quite some time to enjoy it all, finding a different world that doesn’t exist in the superfluous found outside. But, there was much wanted heat back in the truck…

DSC_0111_pe_pe DSC_0257_pe_peDSC_0110_peDSC_0114_pe DSC_0117_pe DSC_0125_pe DSC_0132_pe DSC_0136_pe DSC_0141_pe DSC_0146_pe DSC_0147_pe DSC_0151_pe DSC_0154_peDSC_0157_pe DSC_0159_pe DSC_0162_pe DSC_0166_pe DSC_0172_pe DSC_0175_pe_pe DSC_0177_pe DSC_0178_pe DSC_0179_pe DSC_0181_pe DSC_0182_pe DSC_0191_pe DSC_0192_pe DSC_0194_pe DSC_0197_pe DSC_0198_pe DSC_0202_pe DSC_0204_pe DSC_0205_pe DSC_0209_pe DSC_0211_pe DSC_0215_pe DSC_0218_pe DSC_0219_pe DSC_0221_pe DSC_0222_pe DSC_0223_pe DSC_0227_pe DSC_0229_pe DSC_0233_pe DSC_0234_pe DSC_0235_pe DSC_0237_pe DSC_0240_pe DSC_0241_pe DSC_0242_pe DSC_0244_pe DSC_0245_pe DSC_0248_pe DSC_0249_pe DSC_0250_pe DSC_0252_pe

The Glebus Count

I’m a bit of a weirdo, so it’s great that I’m also friends with weird people, with plenty of inside jokes between us. This one is definitely a time honored one, now being practiced for a few years running. Whenever we travel to the northern reaches of the empire state, we found ourselves engaging in something that I call “The Glebus Count”. What is this strange ritual?

While Vermont seems to have it’s fair share of real estate agencies represented, across the lake in the high peaks region, one name reigns supreme on red and white signs emblazoned with a bold, down to business, san serif font; Glebus. They’re everywhere. I’m not kidding. Almost every piece of property that listed as for sale has a Glebus sign in front of it, with the occasional other Realtor found in between. But who are they kidding, they’re not Glebus! Over time, we began to start pointing out when we’d come across one of their signs, and soon, that turned into trying to count as many as we pass during our trip. You’d be surprised at just how easily you’re drawn into it.

“Who do you think this guy Glebus is? He’s pretty much selling everything in upstate New York” The best satire we came up with thus far, was that the mysterious man had to have an old timey name evocative of infamous business moguls from the golden age of unprecedented capitalism- something like, say, Cornelius Glebus, (according to their website, his actual name is Gary) and he could be found in his real estate lair sitting in a gilded throne drinking wine from a chalice. Sometimes it’s those long drives that inspire the best conversations that you probably wouldn’t have elsewhere. You know what I’m talking about. It’s unintentionally became such a integral part of my treks here that I feel it’s that if I’m writing about upstate New York, it wouldn’t be fitting unless I included it.

Next time your in the high peaks, see how many Glebus signs you can count. And if you were curious, we counted 21 on this trip.

Glebus Glebus2

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

The Cold Spring House

It’s hard to describe a place like the deteriorating ruins of The Cold Spring House, especially if you’ve never had the experience of visiting it yourself. The remaining residue of The Catskill Mountains and their heyday as a resort destination – hotels such as this one once catered to primarily Jewish clientele during the 20th century, looking for a little relaxation from the turbulence of New York City in the scenic Catskills. Driving through the gripping, winding road through the Kaaterskill Forest, with wild rivers cutting through steep hardwood shrouded peaks that resembled saw teeth, it wasn’t hard to see the allure.

This is the first time I had ever been to the Catskills region before, and my target village of Tannersville made an attractive first impression, which I was incredibly relieved with after the problematic start to my day. It almost seemed like I would never make it to the Catskills, as numerous setbacks, construction projects and traffic jams kept delaying travel time, each hour of precious daylight being swallowed by the oncoming October evening. Because we were making a 5 hour drive down from Vermont, I was determined to make this count.

Navigating the highways of New York, we passed by many derelict structures and sordid towns that were more depressing than anything, reminders of the decreasing amount of tourists in the area. A passing visitor to the area, I admittedly knew little about it apart from conversations with friends who grew up around there, and a few things I’ve read. I definitely had no local insider information, so anything I took in was most commonly coming through the view of the windshield.

The road through Kaaterskill Forest
The road through Kaaterskill Forest
DSC_0001_pe
Catskill Glory

As we approached Tannersville, the comedown daylight was filtered through a black sky foreshadowing fury that never seemed to come. The air was crisp, carrying the smell of dead leaves, as chilly mists began to settle on our faces. It felt like it was going to rain, but it never came, and the mists continued to be misleading. There we were, staring up at the imposing ruins of the Cold Spring House, and it’s various stages of decay. The slumping roofs and bending wooden frame ripped open several holes in the building, giving off dead weight that popped out windows and pushed various items through the glass. It was well into the evening now, but we had made it, with just enough light to photograph and do a little exploring. But the question was, where do I even start?

From what I know about the place, it was one of the earlier Catskills hotels, on the outskirts of the Borscht Belt, an area once a dazzling vacation-land now reincarnated as a collection of behemoth and storied abandonments. The Cold Spring House was a grand showpiece, which was very different from the closet cottages and revelrous resorts the area was known for at that time.

Built on what is now Spruce Street in the 1890s, it was the second largest hotel in Tannersville, as well as the first Jewish hotel in town – able to accommodate 200 guests at the base of mountains rising to around 2,200 feet. It started as a hotel called Bieber’s Cold Spring House, but was sold in 1922 to Saber Khouri, and re-branded simply as The Cold Spring House.

According to a 1904 advertisement I was able to find online, the property featured expansive lawns, offering tennis and croquet grounds, surrounded by old trees offering comfortable shade on summer days. There were farms on the property that supplied the hotel with fresh milk and vegetables everyday, which were pared with what the ad boasted as excellent table service in the form of German and Hungarian cuisine. And of course, fresh spring water was offered – from the springs which the hotel derived it’s name from. The hotel was also widely regarded for it’s popular classical concerts on the lawn. Two signature towers at opposite ends of the building, now slumping dangerously, were once observatories, giving guests extensive views of the mountains. Today, that view would be worth the price of your life.

What I found interesting about the advertisement was that it boasted such amenities as “sanitary plumbing and fire extinguishers on every floor” – items that we take for granted today, but around that time period, were new features and were only beginning to be enforced by laws. I’m sure that was a selling point – definitely a plus when I choose a hotel. But it makes sense. The time period was a time of transition. There was a nationwide push that required to implement such systems, but it was a costly expense to outfit these old buildings, and many old hotels couldn’t afford keeping up with the competition.

The advertisement also stated that the hotel was continuously expanding as it’s increasing popularity was luring more and more people to stay there each season. Older photos showed a much different building, with only one tower, and most of the western wing not yet added. The final product was a much larger and grander property – the brooding structure you see today.

But times certainly have changed. During the late 20th century, much of the region fell out of favor as a vacation destination. With an increase of automobile travel and an ever burgeoning highway system, more Americans were driving, and could travel farther distances and see more places,. Now, they no longer had to settle for the closest area available – a trend that I’ve seen so many times in humbled abandonments I’ve visited. Tannersville was no exception. Many vacation homes eventually were abandoned and hotels were shuttered. The Cold Spring House fell into the trend, and was abandoned in the 60s, leaving quite the compelling ruin in it’s wake.

It literally hunches over Spruce Street in it’s old age, leaning in all directions. A symbol of human progress and the change of the times, something inevitable that tends to leave growing pains on the often bumpy road of advancement and the fodder of bandwagon fads. In an ironic sense, this more off beat form of tourism can also serve as a poignant melding of public awareness, a chance to learn from our past.

Today, Tannersville is more known for it’s proximity to Hunter Mountain Ski Area than a summer destination, but while many Borscht Belt towns are still struggling, Tannersville seems to be in the middle of some sort of revival. As it was explained to me, people started to rediscover the town and were taken by it’s natural beauty. Old vacation homes began to be fixed up at expensive costs because of the bad shape they had deteriorated to, and more businesses have opened up on Route 23A.

As for the Cold Spring House though, I had the pleasant chance to speak with photographer Linda O’Donnell, who has been researching and documenting the building’s deterioration for the past several years. She informed me that the place has been scheduled for demolition since 2012, but demolition by neglect may happen before any actual bulldozers arrive on the property. It makes you wonder, when will the familiar become just history?

Dying Light

This was truly one of the most spectacular places I’ve had the chance to photograph (and a great change of scenery from Vermont!), but with it’s awe inspiring profile came very tangible dangers. As I walked around and got to know the place better, I was able to recognize something very quickly. The building was far too dangerous to venture inside, and because of our late start, there was little daylight left. Peeking in through an opened window, I was met with an interior of collapsing floors, wooden walls intended to support the structure were crushed into an accordion like resemblance, and various artifacts collected in indistinguishable piles of fragments covered in dust and lead paint speckles. The weight was so great in some places that many things had actually been pushed through the floor, which was already cracking on the added weight of my body. That musty old building smell wafted out from the opening, mixed with a heavy damp musk. To my far left, a staircase, illuminated by the dull light of broken windows, climbed above the wreckage and into the mysterious upper floors. Or what was left of them. Though I ached to go inside, that would have been an idea that probably would have been counter productive to my travel plans, which were to leave intact and alive.

For a relatively rural back street, the traffic was thunderous, a constant roar of pick up trucks going by, and slowing down when they noticed me with my camera. Because New York State has very unforgiving rules against trespassing, and with me being in such a surprisingly public area where I would no doubt be trapped should I be caught, the odds were stacked against me.

I had no choice but to keep a safe distance. But the exterior alone was worth the drive. The tops of the building still wore it’s yellow paint job, the original color of the hotel, while the lower levels were weather worn into a dull grey and showed signs of various stages of rotten cavities that completely ate through the walls. Older photos showed a sign that read “Cold Spring” that hung over the porch near the front entrance, but when I visited, that was also long gone, the last clue to it’s identity.

Signs of human presence were everywhere. Graffiti was found on many of the upper windows, and not the good kind of graffiti – instead, it was the almost expected profanity and unoriginal racial slur sort of stuff. But, it also meant that some adventurous intruders made the trip to the upper floors…

I often find strange items left behind when I explore – and this was no exception. There was an interestingly large collection of abandoned records found all around the hotel, most on the front lawn, tangled in tall grass and cedar trees. Some of them were arranged specifically, with various items such as kitchen utensils and bottles filled with suspicious colored liquids in them, propped purposely around the sides. I didn’t recognize any of the artists – but some looked like they would have been right at home in some embarrassing 70s porno.

Just gazing up at the place and looking in the numerous windows offered many things to see. Radiators that had fallen out broken windows. A glimpse of a bed post. Dark rooms with holes in the ceiling letting in the dying daylight. Old glass bottles left on windowsills. Then the wind blows, and the eerie creeks of a shutter can be heard, before it bangs loudly against a wall several stories above you – you see the movement, and your pulse quickens as you jump to conclusions. Despite the reliable hum of noise outside, closer to the hotel, things faded into an uncomfortable silence that was almost loud in itself. It was quite startling considering it was just a short walk down the lawn that offered such a fast transition.

Not wanting to draw attention by staying too long, we left and began the journey back to Vermont, the Cold Spring House leaving a lasting impression.

ColdSpring
These are some great historical photos of the Cold Spring House in it’s heyday, which I found online accidentally and was kindly given permission to re-link by Flickr user Linda O’Donnell. Not sure of the dates, but it really gives you a sense of what this place used to be like.
ColdSpring2
Used with permission from Flickr user Linda O’Donnell
ColdSpring3
Used with permission from Flickr user Linda O’Donnell
ColdSpring4
Used with permission from Flickr user Linda O’Donnell

  The Cold Spring House Today

DSC_0861_pe DSC_0881_pe DSC_0888_pe DSC_0890_pe DSC_0893_pe DSC_0899_pe DSC_0916_pe DSC_0922_pe DSC_0924_pe DSC_0925_pe DSC_0929_pe DSC_0933_pe DSC_0935_pe DSC_0941_pe DSC_0942_pe DSC_0945_pe DSC_0946 DSC_0955_pe DSC_0961_pe DSC_0999_pe DSC_1000_pe DSC_1001_pe DSC_1002_pe DSC_1003_pe DSC_1004_peDSC_0981_pe DSC_0993_pe

Information:

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on this place. Most of what I was able to compile in this post came from speaking with various people, and a good article I found online from the Register-Star 

There is also a group on Flickr I found, dedicated to sharing memories and photos of it.

This is one of my favorite things I came across while researching. Here is a fascinating article and photographic journalism piece about the Borscht Belt

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Disappearing

A favorite activity of mine is to go shunpiking – cruising around Vermont’s back roads and letting my eyes and mind soak up whats out there. A few nights ago while traveling down a straight-of-way in Addison County, a pancake flat paved rural roadway surrounded on both sides by expansive hay fields, I came across a forested island in the middle of a vast expanse of nothing – a small patch of surprisingly dense hardwood trees, tall grasses, and the Vermont state flower, the Clover.

Behind the growth, I noticed there was something man made here that was coexisting with the small jungle – the second story of a sordid farmhouse could be seen above a fortress of clinging vines that were almost consuming the structure. Slowing down to take a better look, I realized there was yet another abandoned house across the street that was nearly invisible, and behind it, I could make out the shapes of a scattering of barns and sheds, all falling and fading. I had stumbled on an abandoned farm.

Pulling off into what was once probably a driveway, I basked for a moment in the silence that hung around the farm. The sounds of crickets and the smell of clover came through the open windows, and the breeze gently rustled the trees. As I was sitting in my late summer reverie, movement caught my eye. From behind the abandoned farmhouse I was near, a solitary figure rode into the opening on a bike, through thick grass and tanglewoods that I assumed were probably very difficult to bike through. Manning the bike was a haggard looking fella, who appeared to be in his 40s, outfitted in moth-eaten clothing and a rather new looking bike helmet. He approached the car, and I braced for his encounter the best I could, giving him a small smile, waiting to see what was about to unfold.

“What are you doing here?” was his first question, which I predicted as much. “I’m just turning around, took the wrong road” I said calmly and cautiously. “Do you own this land? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you”. “Oh, I worked here for over 30 years, so I pretty much do own the land” he began. “The farm is abandoned now, the family is pretty much all dead. I still come by almost every week and check up on things though” “Oh wow, that’s pretty incredible. This place looks like it has a lot of history” I observed. And that seemed to light an internal fire – a simple initiation of conversation, and suddenly, his reserves were taken down, and he opened up to me. “Oh man, the stories I could tell you”. I smiled at him and explained my passion for stories and history. His eyes lit up like flashbulbs. “Actually – do you have some time, I can show you around?”

Next thing I knew, I had my camera in hand, and was ignoring my better senses as I followed a total stranger through thick tall grasses, well out of sight from the relative safety of the road out front. He introduced himself as Ivan as we went to shake hands. Putting blind faith in this gentleman, I allowed him to lead me around the property and we began to talk about the shifty ways of time, his stories cutting deep into history.

“I started working here when I was 10, back in the 60s”, Ivan began. “I used to carry hay bails from the fields to the barn all day long. That’s how I got these” he snickered, as he flexed his muscles. “I used to work all day long, never took a water break. People always used to warn me I’d get dehydrated, but I never did” he said proudly.

We found ourselves standing in front of a barn. “These barns are over 150 years old, built from Oak, Cherry and Ash, all cut right here on this property. There used to be a mill over there” he gestured to now open pastureland. He walked over and wedged a sliding door open, it made a loud groaning noise as the door grinded against the building. The entire facade seemed to tremble at this disturbance.

Inside was a forgotten world. Incredibly thick quilts of spiderwebs clung to brawny timber beams and fell from the ceilings like snow, getting tangled in my hair. Hay scattered on the dirt floors 30 years ago was still there, matted and molding. Certain rooms were packed wall to wall with various artifacts. wooden apple crates, tires with wooden rims, old bikes, desks and shelves filled with various artifacts and paraphernalia, accounts of over 150 years of farming now sitting forsaken underneath swirling dust and sunlight coming in through dirt streaked windows. On our way out, he noted me looking at the apple crates. “I love these things. I have a few of them in my apartment, holding books and stuff” I commented. “Oh yeah, I love those old crates too. There used to be an apple orchard right behind this barn. Over 100 trees! I remember, we all used to eat so many apples – they were great on a hot summer day. They tore them all out a few years ago, the entire orchard”

Making our way through the tall grasses, we made our way across the property. In a neighboring barn almost completely concealed by tree growth, he pointed out that that particular barn was used exclusively for trapping. The farmers used to trap unlimited beavers, otters and raccoons on their property and the nearby creek, and used to bring all the pelts to hang and dry in that barn – where a long narrow hallway ran between two sets of walls where the hooks still were hanging.  “This barn used to be full of hides – all the walls would be covered” he reminisced. “We used to either eat them or sell them. Any bit of money helped” It was a strange image, staring at those filthy and barren walls that afternoon underneath filtered light streaming through broken boards. I noticed a dated industrial grain sorting machine at the very end of the narrow hall. He told me that the farm used to also produce its very own grain. The floor was still coated in ankle high piles of the stuff and it had gotten in my shoes. Standing inside, there was a moment of silence as we took in our surroundings, and weird sounds seeped throughout, the soft summer breeze clearing my mind.

Wondering back around one of the abandoned houses, he told me that after the farm started to go out, the house was rented out to people outside the family. The last occupiers apparently stole a great deal from the farm. Valuable antiques such as firearms, milk jugs and other artifacts they had been taken. Most of the original family had died off, all but one member, who is now well into her senior years, and still lives nearby. She’s tired and doesn’t have the want to upkeep the farm anymore, and is almost completely unaware of it’s slow collapse. “It’s a real shame” he said. “Once she dies, a guy wants to buy the place, come in and bulldoze all the barns, the houses, everything. They want to expand the fields and farm this area. Everything here will be lost”.

Walking across the road, he brought me over to another abandoned farmhouse. “Back in the 60s – this used to be filled with people from California. Used to come up here by the bus loads – there must have been at least 20 or so people living in this house. They were the ones who were in charge of keeping this farm running ship shape”

The door to the house opened effortlessly, swung inwards and banged against the neighboring wall – the sound was like a shotgun blast in the somber interior. Inside, the life was gone, but something kept on creeping on, the floors creaked as the past walked by. The interior was what I expected to find in an old Vermont farmhouse. Faded linoleum floors, porcelain sinks, peeling wallpaper and rooms filled with garbage. There were holes where stove pipes used to run and heat the house, and an the exposed skeletons of an electrical system that looked like it was done haphazardly years ago. “There used to be rows of bunk beds in these rooms – they all used to sleep in here” he pointed out as he swung open a door of an upstairs room.

As we walked back down the stairs, he paused at one door we hadn’t opened yet – the basement door. The entire farmhouse had shifted and slumped over the years, almost trapping the door in its frame, but after a few hard tugs, it wrenched free, sending splintered fragments of crown molding in the air. The basement was pitch black, and the old wooden stairs were no longer standing. “You know, I’ve always wondered if there was like a chest full of gold or something down there” Ivan said as he scanned the darkness with his eyes. I was now curious. Was he making a joke? But he was quick to explain. “Back when I was growing up – I heard stories that the older members of the family had hidden gold coins around the farm. There was some sort of currency scare in the 1800s where people assumed paper money was going to loose its value, so they all started to switch to gold coins. I guess I heard they had a few stashes hid around the houses” Hidden treasure was certainly intriguing to me, so I asked him if he had ever found any of these alleged gold coins perhaps hidden under a floorboard or in the pipe of a woodstove. “Nope, never. I think it’s just a story” he said.  With a little research later, I discovered that there was in fact a large scale panic in the mid 1800s, The Panic of 1837, where wages, prices and profits went down, and unemployment and a general distrust of banks went up. As a result, I’ve heard other stories of old Vermonters investing in gold currency, something they were confident was dependable and safe, and kept it around the house as opposed to opening an account at a bank. Even if his intriguing story was a rumor, or if he was simply trying to spin a yarn, it did have its roots in historical accuracy.

Now outside the house, he brought me over to another barn and stared up at a rusted basketball hoop rim that was hung above one of the entrances. “Used to play here a lot as a kid to pass the time” he recalled nostalgically. “We used to have games, me and the Californians. Was thinking about going out for the basketball team in high school, but I never did”

“How often do you come by?” I asked Ivan, now curious by our chance meeting. “About every week” he replied. “I like to check up on the place, to make sure things are alright, to make sure it’s all as it should be”. It seemed Ivan was waiting in vain for something to happen – throbbing, and wincing, not knowing who to love or who to blame.

Getting ready to leave, I reached out to shake his hand, and sincerely thank him for his grand tour. It always means a lot when people open up to me – those experiences suddenly become shared experiences, and effect both parties involved. “It’ll sure be sad when this place goes, that’s for sure. Just down the road, the neighboring farm already sold parts of their land to other people, and they built houses on them” I knew too well what he was talking about. “Yeah, that’s pretty common. A lot of the farms I remember growing up around have succumbed to development now” My comment seemed to strike him off his feet. “What? Oh no…I’ve never really left town, haven’t really been anywhere I guess. So I wouldn’t really know” he said wistfully, he almost seemed to grieve from the disease of change and urbanism. I felt badly for him, it seemed all he wanted was a sense of place, but there was only silence and heavy humidity.

It’s always interesting to think about how many great stories are still existing in Vermont that have gone untold, and are in danger of completely disappearing. Images of proud men slick with sweat sticking to tractor seats and labor that would break the summer’s back. Farm life isn’t a romanticized escape from the bustle of modern life, it’s sadly an often thankless, lynchian job of back breaking work with little to show for it. But it also is a labor of love and devotion matched by earnest gazes and blue skies that have seen the same troubles as us. Exploring abandoned places like this sometimes compels you to look for answers to your own questions, but all I seemed to find is everything seems to change. As the world progresses into a future that seems like a dream now, countless more farms may find themselves like this one. It’s an experience like this in a haze of turbulent innocence, where you get a hard reminder that nothing stays the same.

Update, August 2015

A month of so after I had posted this blog post, I received a Facebook inbox message from the owner of this property. I opened it hesitantly, thinking that it’s contents would be angry and accusative, but to my very pleasant surprise, he was actually telling me he digged my blog, and loved this particular entry. But one thing was bothering him. He asked me about my tour guide, Ivan, and said that the family never employed anyone under that name on the farm before. A bit befuddled, I gave him a detailed profile of the guy. “I knew it!” He started. “His name isn’t Ivan, he lied to you. That was Tom, the town drunk. He’s the guy who set the meetinghouse on fire a few years ago, then tried to come here and light up one of our barns”. I certainly didn’t expect that.

DSC_0797_peDSC_0781_pe DSC_0782_pe DSC_0783_pe DSC_0786_pe DSC_0789_pe DSC_0792_pe DSC_0795_pe DSC_0796_peDSC_0809_pe DSC_0799_pe DSC_0804_pe DSC_0805_pe DSC_0859_pe DSC_0810_peDSC_0811_peDSC_0855_peDSC_0815_peDSC_0819_peDSC_0820_peDSC_0821_peDSC_0827_peDSC_0830_peDSC_0849_peDSC_0852_peDSC_0858_pe

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Roadhouse Blues

This abandoned house is lost in between the lines of the blur of traffic and the pensive solitude of the woods it sits in. Only a stones throw away from the nightmare that is 5 corners, this house sits alone on the threshold of suburbia, licking its wounds in dense woods that serves as its sanctuary. Time seems to have been forgotten by the modern world here, whose motorists pass it frequently 10 feet beyond its rotting doorstep.

The modest 6 room wooden structure has succumbed to its slow death, refusing to make a sound, allowing mother nature to reclaim it at her own rate.

This house tells an ambiguous story. Its age is evident, most likely preceding most of the development around it, and now a symbol of how good times come and go, and how anything can be broken. Inside are various keepsakes littering the dirty floors in knee-high mounds, most indistinguishable as the years and the weather mold everything together in soiled masses of soggy decay. Vines and trees snake their way into the kitchen and furniture sinks its way into the rotting wooden floors.

Local lore tells that a local boy made good, who today owns an area sports team and a huge local transportation company, grew up here, and the reason of the house’s disintegration is because he couldn’t bear the thought of his childhood home being torn down, and would rather have it in a state of decay than the alternative of it not standing on the increasingly busy route it’s fading on.

To some, a small farmhouse might be a boring place to explore, opting for the dreamier abandoned asylums or hotels of neighboring states. But it seems every town has a forsaken property of some caliber. And it’s here in these forgotten and neglected spaces that incubate some of life’s most poignant stories, falling on those with open ears and minds.

Only time will tell what will become of this place, as years go by and the woods grow thicker.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Modern Fossils

Strangely Isolated from its central village location and untouched for more than 30 years – this place has the eerie kind of remoteness where every noise heard inside its cavernous and dark interior is startling, and the thought of this once being an active business with a vibrant human presence borders on the absurd.

What was once a prosperous creamery seemed to have suffered the same inevitable fate as other Vermont creameries. Fluctuating milk prices and the high costs of expenses were much higher than the final paychecks distributed to local dairy farmers, and the eventual pressure from larger industrial creameries made smaller operations like this one obsolete. And as gravity came, the good times couldn’t be reinvented. Built in the early 1900s, this rural creamery operated for most of the century, shipping it’s milk and dairy products locally and beyond to exotic destinations like Boston and New York City. In the last years of it’s life, it became a cheese factory, before finally shutting down in 1999 after a landslide of problems the business couldn’t circumnavigate.

Because of the thick forests that obstruct it from view, it was only when I walked right underneath its shadow that I got a good impression of the place. A sizable melding of wood and brick that eventually raises to 4 stories, the complex is made up of rambling additions that marked periods of the creamery’s success, now a chaotic collection of decaying ruins surrounded by young forests and actively farmed fields. From the outside, the warping geometry of the wooden structure is showing signs of neglect and pride that has long vanished into the smoke – the building slowly burying its storied legacy.

Inside, once you are enveloped by cold and filthy shadows, no order prevails. As you walk around, you begin to adapt to your surroundings as you notice the uncomfortable stillness that creeps over your skin. Your boots crunch over plaster dust and broken glass and lead paint rains from the ceilings. You experience feelings of vertigo as you maneuver your way around collapsing ceilings that are masqueraded by the dark. The floors are littered with debris and dirt. Wooden tables sit underneath years of dust which obscure the artifacts left behind. Fading signs that comically demand you partake in sanitation efforts still hang on warped vinyl walls, an almost laughable concept amongst the utter filth that hangs around you. Certain hallways were plagued so badly by water damage that my boots sank into the tiles like a sponge as I passed. It’s easy to lose yourself in the dark and desolation, but someone else has been here. Graffiti can be seen on dingy white walls where offices once resided. As you take a moment to take it all in, the wind blows a lose piece of rusted mangled tin – the sound echoes throughout the building as you immediately tense up. And on this lovely Autumn day as the Green Mountains blazed outside broken windows, an odd sense of tranquility permeated through the hallways.

This decrepit place is apparently well known to local kids who are revved up everything and wild like hurricanes. It makes sense. Small town kids love the mystic of places like this, just as I did. Although, my visits were one of reverence, and these kids seem to erroneously view the old creamery as a “law free zone”. According to a police officer who saw me go in with my camera and pulled me out a gun point, the powers that be have to enter the sketchy property far more than they’d like too. The reasons range from those aforementioned kids stashing stolen property there, drug labs and drug usage, and activities that range on the more destructive, such as arson attempts or scrapping. Because the property is designated as a brownfields location because of heavy contaminants as asbestos, lead paint and heavy metals, little can be done with the otherwise prime piece of real estate without lots of money for state approved clean up and permitting, and so far, no developers are interested enough in investing.

Sort of like how the abandoned creamery in my hometown was a local rite of passage for kids, the creamery in this burg is of the same culture. A friend and frequent exploring companion used to work at a restaurant nearby, and one night as he was offhandedly conversing with their teenage dishwasher, the youth told him animatedly “Oh, yeah, I know the old creamery! I fell through the floor there a few weeks ago!” Good times, I’m sure.

A historic postcard view, circa 1938

creamery1938_pe

Fall 2013

DSC_0028_peDSC_0025_pe_peDSC_1006_peDSC_1007_pe DSC_1012_pe DSC_1020_peDSC_1021_pe DSC_1027_pe DSC_1026_peDSC_0527_pe DSC_0529_pe DSC_0530_peDSC_1035_peDSC_1041_pe DSC_1049_peDSC_1046_peDSC_1047_pe DSC_1048_peDSC_1053_pe DSC_1058_pe DSC_1061_pe DSC_1063_peDSC_1069_pe DSC_1071_pe DSC_1075_pe DSC_1079_pe DSC_1086_pe DSC_1089_pe DSC_1092_peDSC_1095_peDSC_0001_peDSC_0004_peDSC_0005_peDSC_0011_pe

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

The Land of Boulders and Bears

It seems this year it rains every time the summer sends her best. The weather hasn’t been ideal for adventuring, with a string of floods and road washouts. So when a rare overcast afternoon came my way, I took advantage of it.

Getting together with a good friend, we set off for West Bolton, a remote area located high in the slopes of the Green Mountains, only accessible by a labyrinth of back roads that twist their way up steep hills. But as soon as we left Route 117, we were greeted with washed out dirt roads and attention grabbing orange cones as our car bumped and jarred its way into the mountains.

With Motown soul coming through the radio, I gazed up at the mountains in my reverie, the fogs soluble on the summer canopy. It was wild country up here, and the change of scenery was lifting my spirits, as I felt like I was coming back from what seemed like a ruin.

There was one particular house I wanted to see, and as we ascended up a slight turn, it’s ramshackle facade came into view with tall grass and vines and a rusting tin roof under the promise of rain.

I loved this old house. The front lawn had grown wild and covered the piles of discarded junk that surrounded the house, their forms almost indistinguishable. All of the old farmhouse windows were broken, and from its vulnerable wounds, the inside could be seen. The inside appeared to be chaotic and filthy. Most of the windows had mysterious mounds of debris in front of them, some of it threatening to spill out onto the lawn. Other windows had quilts and bed sheets nailed over them from the inside, and were long moth ridden and disintegrating. But my line of sight faded into the contrasts as the heavy shadows soon swallowed my visibility, keeping the house’s secrets lost in the dark. The battered metal screen door hung open near the front lawn, stopped by the tall grasses. The remnants of a rotting wooden fence occasionally protruded from the growth.

Looking at this old house now, and its depleting condition and fading paint, it’s almost as if this property is wistfully saying “this past century went like a life out of me”

With a surprising steady flow of traffic for a rut chocked back road, and tall grass that obscured our vision, we decided it was best (to my disappointment) not to venture too close to the sagging property. That decision may have proved to be very smart, as we heard scurrying through the grass and the sounds of claws on wooden siding. Some kind of animal had just crawled into one of the broken windows.

With some quick research, I was able to find some old photos of the house, which offered an interesting glimpse into what once was. The first thing I found out was it had an official name; The Pease House, named after its founding family. The wide open spaces and cleared hill meadows that surrounded the house have long returned to woods – this house a last enclave of Bolton’s former life as the area continues to meld with the untamed mountains above.

The determined people who once cleared the land and built this house, the ones who once knew the front porch and the doorways and cherished the moonlight on hot summer nights, now nothing more than dust – a deadpanning reality at how fragile urban infrastructure is, and how easily things can become lost.

The reasoning for its current abandonment is unknown to me, but as someone informed me, it is owned by someone. Perhaps sometimes, we are the ghosts we don’t believe in.

The Pease House circa 1860s

West_Bolton019

West_Bolton036 West_Bolton049

The Pease House Today

DSC_0147_pe

DSC_0743_pe DSC_0746_pe DSC_0758_pe DSC_0761_pe DSC_0766_pe DSC_0740_pe DSC_0775_pe

 

West Bolton is a name lost to history. What used to be a small village in the mountains, complete with 2 churches, a sawmill and general store, is now nothing more then a name on the map, with a scattering of private residences and a more well-known golf course that wears the same name.

The town of Bolton is mountainous, rocky and gave the early settlers more work than they bargained for.  It’s no surprise that Bolton is referred to as  “the land of boulders and bears.” The town has more than twenty mountains of over 2,000 feet, and nearly as many more just under that height – creating natural barriers to trade and travel in the town, along with isolation that would meet the pioneering families under the stars. Today, it’s rugged slopes create outdoor recreation opportunities in the form of skiing and snowboarding at Bolton Mountain, tons of rock climbing opportunities and the infamous Bolton potholes, a beloved swimming hole that the locals despise because of the hoards of disrespectful visitors who flock there.

Even driving along Interstate 89, which seems to be the most traveled route in town which also doesn’t technically let you off in Bolton, the awesome vertical cliffs that the highway cuts through are testaments to Bolton’s nickname. Though many of Bolton’s bumps remain unnamed, one vertical drop earned its namesake from a man who committed suicide from it years ago. Alan’s leap is seemingly well solidified amongst the locals for its views and it’s perception of a moment of morbidity. Vermont is known for its grueling winters, and Bolton’s position literally on the spine of the Green Mountains means it gets dumped on rather spitefully once the temperatures drop below freezing. A blog commenter recalled that two women who lived down the road from one another both committed suicide because of the internal darkness they faced brought on by the perennial death of the year.

Historical records tell stories of bears coming down from the mountains and mass slaughtering sheep flocks around the village of West Bolton. The bear problem was once so bad that Bolton once had the honor of being the town with more bears slain in its borders than any other town in Vermont.

In the 1930s, The Government bought around 6,000 acres of land around West Bolton and Jericho for the Ethan Allen Training Site, and much of the village of West Bolton was destroyed in the name of progress. Today, all that remains are a few foundations sitting in the quiet woodlands above boulder logged streams and old Apple Trees hinting at the site of a former farm.  I was told that UVM mapped the area and had a walking tour for a while in the 1990s.

The surrounding woods along the back roads that travel along the ridge lines and swamps are congested with “US Property, NO Trespassing” warnings on almost every tree.

West_Bolton011

DSC_0149_pe

One of the few remaining foundations we were able to find is the site of a former church, now nothing more than its front stairs.

Nearby was the old West Bolton Cemetery, which is still maintained. It was oddly quiet here, with a solemn weight that seemed to hang over the Maples and hollows. There was also an amusing sign attached to the front gate, humorously prohibiting ATVs from riding in the local cemetery. Within 10 seconds of us seeing this sign, a group of ATVs came up the dirt road towards the cemetery, 4 of them packed with 2-3 riders on each one. They slowed down as they approached the fence, revved their engines obnoxiously for several minutes, then took off down the road sending gravel and dust in their wake. Maybe they didn’t like the new sign?

DSC_0169_pe

 

I sometimes enjoy walking through older cemeteries to admire and become intrigued with unique epitaphs, symbols alluding to secret societies, and other oddities that have been chiseled onto the aging headstones. There is always a story to be told. One of my favorite finds in West Bolton was this etching of a hand, with a finger dramatically pointing up to the skies above. In the 1800s, it was sometimes common for this to appear on headstones, with the intention of saying that without a doubt, this deceased soul did in fact go to heaven. But no one knows for sure if this gesture was telling any profound truth or not. And I suppose you don’t have to go ghost hunting in your afterlife to find out.

DSC_0184_pe

As seen in “Downtown” Jonesville.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Curious Centennial Woods

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city; the last census reported around 42,000 people making their home within the city’s 16 square miles. And anyone who knows Burlington would agree its an interesting city, with a diverse history adding to the layers that form the design and the architecture of the big picture. But even among the urbanization, there are still untapped places that can offer a rare glimpse of mystery and perspective that have managed to survive.

Centennial Woods is 65 acres of oddly wild land sitting in the middle of Vermont’s largest metropolitan area, and a lot of people don’t realize it even exists. With a discrete entrance located off a side street under the shadow of Fletcher Allen’s herculean edifice, the park is only marked by a small green sign that is almost lost among the environment around it. And once you find one of the trail heads, you find yourself in another world entirely that strangely coexists within such a vulnerable area- its secrets inhabit the influence of the city.

At the entrance to Centennial Woods lies something that doesn’t fit in with the gentle charm of the woods. A sight among the sites, you suddenly get an odd sinking feeling when the brutal military-esque form of a crumbling concrete bunker emerge from a steep hillside, its graffiti offering ambiguous messages from others who have visited.

DSC_0019_pe

So what is it? The ruins of some sort of military installation? Some sort of early agricultural attempt to tame the steep hillside around it? Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any answers, and any information about it just doesn’t seem to exist. But there are theories. Some say that these ruins were once built by the legendary Green Mountain Boys for training exercises. However, that seems far fetched, as concrete wasn’t wildy used in construction projects until the post civil war era. Others say that this might have been part of some sort of unusual surveying attempts along the Burlington/South Burlington city line, which runs right through the middle of the woods. And another more mysterious theory is that this is the last remnant of a series of monuments that once were scattered throughout the woods. But if so, than a monument to what?

The answers seemed to be somewhere in the smoke, and until they choose to reveal themselves, we’ll be waiting to pick at those pieces.

There was a strange indented area in front of the “bunker”, indicating that there was once more to this arcane structure.
There was a strange indented area in front of the “bunker”, indicating that there was once more to this arcane structure.

DSC_0023_pe

The “bunker” didn’t seem to extend back that far. Any indication of a former entrance had long faded away, lost to memory.
The “bunker” didn’t seem to extend back that far. Any indication of a former entrance had long faded away, lost to memory.

DSC_0033_pe

Just down the trail from these sturdy ruins sits a cool artifact on the forest floor, something small enough where you can easily trip over it if you aren’t careful; a city boundary survey marker.  It’s erosion and cracked surface showed the plaque’s age, especially compared to its newer street sign replacements located further down the trail. “City of Burlin – C.B. 40” could be barely made out through its erosion and faded youth.

DSC_0050_pe

some rather interesting “trail art” – the tangled barbed wire quite possibly a vestige of the areas agricultural past, now acting as abstract art, or the victim of an act of boredom.
some rather interesting “trail art” – the tangled barbed wire quite possibly a vestige of the areas agricultural past, now acting as abstract art, or the victim of an act of boredom.

DSC_0062_pe

Centennial Woods is a surprising hilly area, which is practically unknown unless your familiar with the topography here. It’s rocky ledges and serpentine marshlands hold another set of peculiar yet unmemorable set of ruins;  a series of badly burned stumps, a rusted machine gear and a beaten utility pole. Though the casual hiker would probably never guess it; these are the remains of the former South Burlington Kiwanis Ski Area. It opened sometime in the winter of 1963 and offered a 500 foot rope tow and lighted ski trails. However, the ski hill fell victim to arsonists in June of 1967 – the fire destroying the rope tow, tow shack and machinery. The rest was looted by vandals, and all have been left abandoned and forgotten as mother nature reclaimed it. The burned foundation of the former tow shack still can be seen in the new growth forest, more then 40 years later.

The charred and worn remains of the former tow shack
The charred and worn remains of the former tow shack
the former utility pole that powered the ski hill, now also abandoned and defunct.
the former utility pole that powered the ski hill, now also abandoned and defunct.

DSC_0071_pe DSC_0073_pe

the complete set of ruins
the complete set of ruins
Any attempts to find the remains of the ski trail would be impossible, the area has grown wild and indistinguishable
Any attempts to find the remains of the ski trail would be impossible, the area has grown wild and indistinguishable

Walking down the hill behind the former tow shack made me understand immediately why this site was chosen. The woods suddenly descend a very steep slope that makes its way down to a thick swamp along the fringes of Interstate 89, the flash and blur of traffic seems like a dream through the soft spring canopy. To my surprise, the hill had found new life and has been resurrected by another group of people looking for an adrenaline rush; mountain bikers. The steep and sandy slope had been carved into a series of dirt jumps with incredible elevation drops in between them, nothing for the faint of heart.

DSC_0091 DSC_0092_pe

These jumps had a steep and not at all dangerous drop down towards the interstate.
These jumps had a steep and not at all dangerous drop down towards the interstate.

DSC_0098_pe

And I felt a change coming up as the skies grew dark – and there were apple blossoms in the air. Centennial Woods is a wonderful place to get lost for a while underneath the red maples, taking the woods in before you take them home. Besides a single passing hiker, I had the entire area to myself for 3 hours. It’s amusing to think about how much of an influence these woods have had in the 2 cities they grow in, told only fleetingly by the things they’ve left behind. The families that frequented the ski slopes near the interstate, the mysterious people who built the concrete ruins on the hill, The Green Mountain Boys and the farmers who may have once cultivated the land – there’s a connection here that is now linked by the isolation and the wilderness as it continuously changes the landscape. And if the woods bleed all their stories out, then what would be left for them to take to their grave?

How to get here:

Centennial Woods can be found off Carrigan Drive in Burlington – a side street off East Avenue. Click here for a map.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Railroads and Silos

It was an icy Winters day as me and some friends drove through the Champlain Islands; destination unknown. It was one of those situations where we were seeking a place to explore, hoping to find some inspiration and intrigue in the brown fields burned by the harsh blue skies. In the Winter, the Champlain Islands loose the comfort and allure brought with the Summer months, vanishing with the shivers and darkness of the later half of the year as if it were a completely different place.

Not having any real luck in the islands, we crossed the Alburgh bridge into New York, the sturdy ruins of Fort Montgomery were not being pitied by the season as they were battered by the choppy and relentless waters of Lake Champlain.

For a region with such an extraordinary history and important connection to the rest of the country, a surprisingly large amount of it has been buried (metaphorically and literally), the occasional historical marker is scattered across the geography, hinting at what once was.

Rouses Point, New York has always been a heavily trafficked locality thanks to it being a portal into Quebec. It’s where the dotted border lines of New York, Vermont and Canada all meetup, as well as Lake Champlain and Quebec’s Richelieu River, which were the area’s original super highways before the interstate systems were built.

Automobile, rail and boat traffic is all siphoned through the gateway community, and because there are always nuances, that also includes the more illicit of things, like rum runners, smugglers, the underground railroad, and a few wars fought by the British and the Americans skirmishing on Lake Champlain over the past hundred years. Seriously, Rouses Point was such a noteworthy place that the feds financed a fort to be built at the mouth of the Richelieu just in case British troops wanted to invade us through Canada. Only, the United States was a much younger nation then, which meant that no one knew exactly where the border was, and the fort was accidentally built in Canada, later returned to the U.S, and never actually used. It was eventually partially salvaged for parts, and a lot of the small village was built up with the bricks, stone and wood salvaged from the brawny structure. From what I was told, the present day village offices were built on top of a former prohibition era dumping site of all the paraphernalia that was confiscated. Today, a drive through Rouses Point is mostly simple wood frame houses, moored sailboats and a Dollar General, a ubiquitous find in Upstate New York.

The village really did well for itself when the Delaware and Hudson Railroad decided to build passenger and freight facilities here and a rail yard to accommodate. Though Rouses Point is a pretty obscure community overall today, just outside the village limits are the remains of the oldest and last remaining Delaware and Hudson roundhouse turntables. Being battered by fierce winds, our trip here was short as the numbness in my hands began to outweigh my increasingly diluted curiosity. What can I say, I hate the cold.

This building was formerly used for washing down the rail cars

dsc_0448_pe

Interestingly enough, most railroads, the D&H included, didn’t bother to wash their steam locomotives. Every so often, they would go over them with a mop soaked in kerosene to make them shine, but that’s about it. Roundhouses were built in the steam era as a way to store and maintain the locomotives, as well as repair and prepare them for their next trips. Other buildings on the site would be a coach shop, which was used to repair passenger stock, a cooling tower which was used for fuel, water tower for water, and in some cases a freight house where less than carload items were sorted and shipped out.

So, what is the reason that so many roundhouses are now abandoned?  In short, diesel engines need much much less repair than steam engines. When the steam engines faded away, so did the roundhouses.

This building was used for holding freight.
The original roundhouse

Alburg is a 45th parallel town, and one of a handful of Vermont communities that have found themselves in a weird moniker contention, where the United States Board on Geographic Names decided that they needed to standardize place names around the country in 1891. Every city or town ending in ‘burgh’ had their H dropped, pretty much so the mail would go to the right places and to make them easier to write on federal documents.

Well, over a hundred years later, a few Vermont towns decided that the dropped consonant was something to get up in arms about, with a few bringing it back, and the other few not caring that much.

Back across the bridge, in the pancake flat farmlands of the Champlain Island archipelago, the landscape is dotted with trailers, sagging farmhouses done in vinyl siding, and silver silos that reflect the coarse December sunlight from their gleaming surfaces.

There is a rural road off of Route 2 called Missle Base Road, a moniker that supports the notion that this cul-de-sac is different from other Alburg byways . Whether or not it’s misspelling is a VTrans blunder or intentional, it’s sort of a weird road name in a region that only has a sheriff to bring down the law. That street sign is overshadowed by a much larger and more intimidating sign. In fading lettering, it sort of reads “Stop! Authorized Personnel Only Beyond This Point” in attention grabbing orange, while even more faded text behind it once read “Town of Alburg” (spelled without its H)

A drive down bad tarmac puts you dead ending in front of 2 rusted Quonset Huts, a chain gate, construction equipment that has seen better days and a dune of road salt. You’re looking at the Alburgh town garage!
But the Quonset Huts give its past away. Underneath the salt pile is the reason for the huts construction; an atlas missile silo.

This is the site of one of Vermont’s 2 nuclear missile silos. But you’d never know it. Towards the back of the property, a rusting pile of junk and a dune of road salt sits on top of the closed silo bay doors, each concrete door weighing 45 tons, enclosing the dark dripping confines of the flooded silo below.

Peering down the silo today would be a wondrous gaze into man’s eternal battle with evil and glorious ruin, but if you had peered down this shaft in the early 1960s, you would have been gazing at the tip of a nuclear missile.

In the 1960s, the military was scrambling to build defenses against the potential of a nuclear apocalypse that the Soviet Union was scheming, with the Soviets doing the same thing with the role of the villain reversed. The Army Corps of Engineers constructed 12 sites in a ring around the Air Force base in Plattsburgh — 2 in Vermont, 10 in New York, and absolutely no expenses were spared, with each site costing between $14 and $18 million to build, each one coming with a brazen claim that each could withstand a direct nuclear attack.

But these mysterious and aggressive projects were quite a feat to build. Many workers died during their constructions, with urban legends reciting that some unfortunate souls became entombed in the concrete silo walls they were hired to produce. The thought of the cold walls and dark depths of the missile silo as someone’s last vision is an image is a poignant one.

Ironically, despite the large expenses invested in these agents of destruction, the pulses of these missile silos were short lived, only active from 1962 until 1965, thanks to leaps in progressive apocalyptic technology. To add to the uncertainty, many were disputing afterward whether the missiles would have been able to hit their targets, and even be able to lift off the ground.

But they left a lasting impression on the landscape. However today, they hold contaminated waste and shadows smothered with valiant ghosts.

Each launch site constructed included two Quonset huts, a utility shed and an antenna that could detect a nuclear attack up to 30 miles away. The silo itself was 52 feet wide and 174 feet deep, encased in a shell of incredibly thick and durable concrete.

After their demise, the sites were abandoned. Ownership was now the burden of their communities, including this one, which was, uh, gifted to Alburgh, who turned it into their down highway department headquarters and dumped road salt over the perforation. Others were looted, some were sold to private investors and military enthusiasts. According to lots of testimonies over the intervening decades, most of them flooded to some degree.

Because everything has a market, interest in these intriguing properties has picked up in recent years, thanks to curious buyers who see the old silos as great “fixer-upper” projects, especially for private homes. But due to their deteriorating conditions, these sites require a buyer with a lot of money, patience and time. One of the former sites, in Champlain, New York was found and purchased on eBay. The new owner plans to clean it up and live in the remaining Quonset hut, and possibly in the launch control center. Taking his project a bit further, he has created an intriguing website which tracks his progress cleaning up the site, and gives everyone else a cool and rare look into these fabled locations.

Alburgh’s site wasn’t phenomenally interesting, but I still thought it was cool. I snapped a few photos of the Quonset Huts, because that’s more interesting than a photo of a pile of salt. I’m pretty confident in my assumption that the town won’t be opening up those blast doors anytime soon, so it’ll have to do. A town garage that doubles as a weird monument to humankind’s strange tendency to destroy itself. 

dsc_0480_pe dsc_0481_pe dsc_0483_pe dsc_0484_pe dsc_0485_pe

As of 2015, it looks like the street sign was spell checked, but Google maps still uses the misspelled moniker for the road.
As of 2015, it looks like the street sign was spell checked, but Google maps still uses the misspelled moniker for the road.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Rabbits, Rowboats & Roosevelts: Lake Bomoseen’s odd history

The largest lake entirely within Vermont’s borders, Lake Bomoseen in western Rutland County measures 9-14 miles long (depending on who you ask). It extends from Lily pad choked swamp lands in the small town of Hubbardton to the north, expanding into a broad center complete with an island, before narrowing into a slim passage way running just slightly below the interstate type highway of U.S. Route 4 to the south in Castleton.

And there is something compelling about this lake. Speaking to a few people about it along its shores, they all somewhat described they felt a strong pull to the lake – some sort of inexpiable connection of fondness towards it. And with the lake’s storied history with layers that are piled on more compactly than the slate piles crumbling into the lake on the west shore, it isn’t that difficult to understand.

(via CardCown.com)

The name Bomoseen is an Abenaki word which translates to “keeper of ceremonial fire”. The Taconic Mountains, which make up the rolling hills that run along both sides of the lake, are the slate-producing region of Vermont, and the area’s history parallels the rise and fall of Vermont’s slate industry. The area surrounding the lake contains several quarry holes and their adjacent colorful slate rubble piles as reminders of this period, many you can see tumbling down the western shores of the lake – a bizarre and stark contrast to the otherwise gentle landscape around it. Across the lake, you can still witness the overgrown cellar holes of the ghost town of West Castleton, a product of once prosperous times, now a landmark to what once was.

Weird Waters

If your into ghost stories, Lake Bomoseen have an interesting one. The story goes that one night in the 1800s, 3 Irish slate workers from West Castleton obtained a rowboat and decided to row to a tavern on the east shore to entertain themselves. But they never showed up. The next morning, their rowboat was found floating empty on the open waters of West Castleton bay, but no trace of their bodies were ever found. Locals say that on certain moonlit nights, the phantom rowboat can be seen moving effortlessly across the waters of Lake Bomoseen, making no disturbances in the water.

But if phantom rowboats don’t grab your attention, this mysterious body of water has a far stranger tale woven into its web of folklore. Towards the north end of the lake is a surprisingly undeveloped island (apart from an estate on the very southern tip). The island is long, densely wooded and rests a mere 30 feet away from the lake’s North West shore. But this island is known for something far more mysterious than its idealized lakeside real estate. It is here where Vermont’s entire population of giant rabbits are said to reside. As the name implies, they are distinctive because of their size, and more noticeable, their glowing red eyes. But how did the entire population of this elusive sub culture become to be contained on such a small island in Lake Bomoseen, and why?

I turned to Joseph Citro’s The Vermont Monster Guide for an explanation. In a pure Darwinian principle, they somehow hopped the 30 foot jump from island to mainland, and couldn’t get back. The bigger rabbits were the only ones who could make the jump, leaving the biggest of the big trapped on the isolated chunk of land in Bomoseen’s murky waters.  What happened next however wasn’t so bizarre; they did what rabbits did best, and multiplied.  As the years progressed, they became bigger and stronger. Legend has it that some have seen rabbits as large as Volkswagons and Saint Bernards somewhere amidst the dense evergreen foliage that climb the shores.  But these rabbits are by no means new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, the Abenaki may have in fact told tales of these oversized rabbits on the island. And today, it is not uncommon to see curious campers and adventurers boating and kayaking around the island trying to catch a glimpse of these unique cryptids – and as far as we know, they are harmless. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that residents began calling the narrow landmass Rabbit Island.

If giant rabbits and rowboats piloted by unseen forces aren’t good enough for you, Lake Bomoseen has another surprise, one that is concealed by the largest existing entity on the lake – it’s waters. And if the legends are true, this will definitely bring you a dose of rigor…

Around 1986, a man and his wife were fishing on the lake in their seventeen foot boat, when they saw an extraordinary creature moving beneath the water’s surface. It looked like a giant eel. The description created a picture of something eight to nine inches in diameter, and an astonishing twenty feet long! Well – they said it was longer than their boat anyways. Not wanting to attract the USO with their fishing bait, they reeled in and headed quickly back to shore.

So, is there really a giant eel lurking beneath the waters of Lake Bomoseen? Surely something so massive and so distinctively intimidating would have been seen by others? Not so much. As a matter of fact, this was the only sighting I was able to dig up, meaning either it was a one time phenomena, something far more innocuous, or maybe, people are just keeping quiet about it. After all, Vermonters are pretty good about keeping secrets…

State wildlife biologists weighed in on this, and said that generally, the size of eels can vary greatly, but it’s entirely possible that they can reach up to around five to six feet in diameter and weigh around fifteen pounds, and, they speculated that it was entirely possible that larger ones could exist in larger landlocked bodies of water. But Bomoseen, the lake in question, well, they sort of left that answer somewhere in the smoke.

(via CardCow.com)

A Famous History

Lake Bomoseen has been drawing tourists to its shores long before the year round camps and state routes began to ring its shores. As early as 1870, Lake Bomoseen began to establish itself as a tourism getaway. The Johnson farm, on the north end of the lake was said to be the first location around the lake to began hosting summer guests around this time. To reach the Johnson farm, guests crossed a float bridge, which actually did float on the surface of the lake. Still referred to as the Float Bridge, it now does just the opposite of float, as it’s fixed sturdily to land with granite, concrete and steel. Just take Float Bridge Road, still in existence at the north end of the lake.

Over the next couple of decades, more hotels sprang up around the lake. Even the ruins of nearby Hyde Manor brought guests to the lake by stagecoach.

Over time, something else began to make their appearance along the lakeshore as well; summer camps. One of the most famous was on Lake Bomoseen’s largest island – the secretive and elite Neshobe Island, which had a reputation that helped establish the aura of mystery for exclusive clubs and societies.

Purchased in the 1920s by Alexander Woollcott, author, actor and New York Times drama critic, the cottage and island became a retreat for the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, editors, actors and press agents who met regularly at New York’s Algonquin Hotel starting in June 1919. Summer weekends were said to consist of cocktails and croquet on the island with Woollcott as host, and catered to notable guests such as President Theodore Roosevelt – who could be seen landing his seaplane on the lake during his arrivals.

The island was said to be beautiful, with rolling topography, mixed woodlands and miniature meadows filled with wild flowers. While local Vermonters left the islanders to their own business, it was the tourists who tried to invade their privacy (or so the accounts claimed). That was, until comedian, film star, and visiting guest Harpo Marx put a stop to it. One day, as a boat full of rowdy tourists invaded the island’s private beach for a picnic, Marx stripped naked, smeared himself with mud, grabbed an axe and ran down towards the startled tourists hollering and making animal noises. They never came back.

Today, the grand resorts and private clubs are gone, succumbing to disastrous fires and the changing times, and the lake has given way to a more dominating landscape of summer camps and private homes. But the lake is still quite active, and is just as beloved as it was a century ago. An official stop on Vermont’s Stone Valley Byway, and lined by several beaches, a state park, a popular golf club and lakeside restaurant that offers dock side conveniences (after all, Bomoseen is a boating lake), Lake Bomoseen still draws several crowds that all share a mutual love of the lake, but undeniably, a lot has indeed changed.

Below is an interesting video of Lake Bomoseen’s history, if you are so inclined.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RIB4hfAvwrQ]

 Left Behind

Just south of Lake Bomoseen, where the road breaks from the shoreline for the first time, and the landscape returns back to woods, is a small and rotting remnant of Lake Bomoseen’s tourism heyday of yesteryear – an abandoned mini golf place. The faded and weathered sign over it’s sloping rental building reads “Bomoseen Golfland” with a rather creepy looking clown as its official mascot, something that conjures more of an image of sinister intentions than a round of mini golf.

Though I don’t know any of the history behind this small mom and pop operation, it most likely functioned during the mid 20th century and provided passing tourists and summer campers with some cheap fun for a few hours, and closed when the region’s tourism trends changed. Today, the ruins can still be seen from the side of Route 30, now desolate, weed ridden and forgotten, the water logged AstroTurf’s awkward green color a sort of gross presence to the otherwise natural landscape around it.

DSCN2407_pe DSCN2409_pe DSCN2414-2 DSCN2416 DSCN2417-2 DSCN2418-2 DSCN2419-2 DSCN2421-2 DSCN2424_pe DSCN2425_pe DSCN2426_pe DSCN2428

Overall, I spent a total of 10 minutes wondering the moldy grounds of Bomoseen Golfland. It wasn’t the most interesting place I have ever visited but it was creepy enough. The dilapidated wooden building with its peeling paint sat underneath a sky of broken lights,  smashed over the sad remnants of each mini golf obstacle. But it certainly is a monument to classic roadside Americana and a simpler time. And for that, I’m thankful I had the chance to visit.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards

The Broken Tower

Winooski is a brawny old mill town built intentionally on a series of cascades on it’s namesake river that would power the woolen mills that built the city, and a prevalent French Canadian populace that affixed their surnames to street signs and brought down francophone media from Quebec. The textile mills both lifted the city up, and then let it fall when the industry went bust. The flood of 1927 was particularly harsh to business, when swells of rapid brownish watery destruction decimated most of the buildings along the riverfront. The mills never recovered fully, and went from the state’s largest employer, to limping along rather awkwardly until 1954 when they shuttered for good after they no longer landed government contracts when new synthetic fibers became the future.

The town was bruised for decades afterwards underneath economic blight, higher rates of poverty, and a humbling lack of identity. In the late 1970s, the one square mile burb made news when it ambitiously decided it was going to build a glass dome over the city to keep down the costs of heating prices in the winter, and partially for a publicity stunt inspired by a town meeting with lots of wine. That idea surprisingly almost happened, but was coffined in the 80s, when the Reagan administration came into power and decided that there were better things to spend money on.

A few more decades later, Winooski once again made headlines for another construction project; brazenly undertaking the largest downtown redevelopment project in state history, which simultaneously included the construction of a controversial rotary that was oddly blueprinted on a hill. It was intended to lessen traffic congestion where routes 2,7 and 15 met downtown, but instead confused and upset certain commuters and Winooski-ites, earning it the bad for business nickname “the circle of peril”. But their massive scale improvement project seemed to work, and years later, downtown Winooski has filled in with some of the best eateries in the Burlington area, a pretty enjoyable microbrewery and an awesome indie music festival which brings all sorts of converging artists into town.

Brawny industrial towns like Winooski have had their rises and falls, but if there is one good thing about old mill towns, is that their lasting impression comes in the form of admirable architecture. More precisely here, it’s spacious and handsome brick mills. Most of the old mill buildings have taken on new lives as very nice mixed office and apartment space, but a small vestige of Winooski’s raw and unrenovated industrial past can still be seen, if you know where to look.

Sulking behind the expansive brick edifice of the Woolen Mill, down in a recessed area of scraggly trees and the graveyards of stagnant mill ponds once formed by water entering through the low stone tunnels now being filled in by erosion, sits the crumbling remains of a brick tower.

 

These dangerous ruins were enigmatic to me, as I know practically nothing about early twentieth century mill operations, so with the help from my friend who was also the one who took  me here, a little research was done and was able to shed some light on what this tower once was.

Basically, there is a large intake pipe at the top of the tower. Using gravity, the water flows from the river to the top of the tower.It then is diverted downwards into a turbine where the rushing water turns a wheel before being used for power generation. This turning wheel would have been connected to a shaft that ran into the mill to turn and power the equipment. After 1930 however, the turbine would likely have been repurposed, so instead of using water to create mechanical energy to turn the actual machines, the machines began to use electricity  So the turbine would have been repurposed. Instead of turning a shaft and going into the mill, it turned a shaft that turned an electric generator and this power would have supplied the mill.  Or, something perhaps very similar to the diagram below. (If you are using this blog for any sort of essay information, I encourage you to find a more reputable source)

Fairmount_Water_Works_Jonval_Turbine_Cutaway

Sure enough, there were the remnants of additional pipes and tunnels that formed a broken trail from this spot over to the bridge where the water levels were higher, making this a very plausible description of how this tower might have functioned.

But by looking at the crumbling, and rusted ruins today, they keep their secrets far from your presence, besides the strikingly obvious – this place is dangerous. The tower had made its mark on this part of the property since it’s construction, its shadow forever burning its impression into the wet ground around it, but a few more winters may finally bring this decrepit place down into the muddy recesses of the foul mill wastelands below it.

A surprisingly warm day for December 2nd in Vermont, I probably could have gotten away with just a flannel or a hoodie, but chose to bring a more protective layer just in case. And I’m glad I did. As we shambled over piles of soggy ground and driftwood to the arched entrance, the inside of the tower was noticeably colder – the air was dead inside. There would be no “safe” traveling, so much had fallen that we were constantly crawling over untold amounts of dirty bricks covered in slime and rust, underneath piles of the rotting wooden floors above that had long collapsed below.dsc_0209_pe

dsc_0779_pe dsc_0210_pe dsc_0214_pe dsc_0215_pedsc_0220_pe dsc_0218_pe dsc_0219_pe dsc_0243_pe

Now this is where things became interesting. We climbed further inside the tower, and saw just what we were up against. Behind the massive bulk of debris infront of us, were very narrow crawl passages that hugged the dripping and filthy walls around the tower. To get inside any further, it would require us to squeeze through them. But to get there, we’d have to scale a 6 foot drop to a level below us, onto a series of rusted steel I beams that were glistening with ice, rust and slime. One wrong move, and a sprained ankle would be the least of your problems, as your body would tumble down into a dark rocky cavern beneath in a world where no one would hear your cries for help. Did we want to take this risk? Yes. So one by one, the both of us hoisted ourselves down the 6 foot drop, using the cold and dirty brick foundations as support, the bricks crumbling to dust in our hands.
Now this is where things became interesting. We climbed further inside the tower, and saw just what we were up against. Behind the massive bulk of debris in front of us, were very narrow crawl passages that hugged the dripping and filthy walls around the tower. To get inside any further, it would require us to squeeze through them. But to get there, we’d have to scale a 6 foot drop to a level below us, onto a series of rusted steel beams that were glistening with ice, rust and slime. One wrong move, and a sprained ankle would be the least of your problems, as your body would tumble down into a dark rocky cavern beneath in a world where no one would hear your cries for help. Did we want to take this risk? Yes. So one by one, the both of us hoisted ourselves down the 6-foot drop, using the cold and dirty brick foundations as support, the bricks crumbling to dust in our hands.

dsc_0224_pe dsc_0228_pe dsc_0231_pe dsc_0241_pe dsc_0242_pedsc_0267_pedsc_0246_pedsc_0249_pedsc_0250_pedsc_0252_pedsc_0264_pedsc_0266_pe

At this point, our excitement had gotten the better of us, gawking at the incredible textures to photograph, the industrial gears frozen in rust and time as the shadows became wild. The inevitable and comic question of what the cold slimy substance our hands were touching was mentioned a few times, as well as how surprised we were that we hadn’t ran into any animals yet – these dark and cavernous ruins would make the perfect home for a mischievous creature.

Turning to the realization that we had spent an hour or longer (most definitely longer) inside a dank crumbling tower, and we were beginning to feel the effects. My hands were numb, and we were more than filthy. “I think it’s time we head out” I said. But it was then I realized exactly how much work we went through to get to our current position, and all that clambering and wedging through those tight damp spaces back to the entrance just didn’t excite me. “Think we can fit down there, and climb out that way?” I asked, pointing to the dark area below the steel beams that suspended us above the pit. Below us, was a crumbling shadowy world of filth and fallen bricks, with a tunnel type entrance out to the former mill pond. Going out that way would save us a lot of time, if we could make it. “We’re not 16 anymore” I jokingly called up to my friend – I am not nearly as limber as I was. Down there, it was so cold, icicles were forming on the pipes. “I’ll give you $5 if you eat one of those” my friend called above me. I declined the offer to fatten my wallet and made my way out. He soon followed.

DSC_0372

me
Self Portrait. Here, you can get a good idea of perspective, from where I climbed down and where my friend was standing.

It’s incredible to think about the ingenuity and complex systems behind how these mills harnessed the natural water power of the falls. Today all that remains of Winooski’s industrial legacy are the buildings, a few relics in a museum, and little else. The Winooski skyline as viewed from Burlington is a great picture and one of contrasts, the Champlain Mill and the new downtown symbolically rising next to it.

Nearby, on the rocky ledges of the Winooski River Gorge, there were a few more sites of interest, so before we wrapped up our adventure, we took a short ride from Downtown Winooski to Colchester.

The Walls

Years ago, you had to stumble your way along a riverbank of roots, swamps and thick northern jungle to reach this cool urban locality. Nowadays, there’s a path and a designated natural area that brings you here, which in a way is sort of a bummer.

The area underneath the interstate bridge that spans the Winooski River in Winooski city is colloquially called “the walls”, a youth minted term which is most likely a reference to the humongous concrete pylons supporting one of the busiest bridges in the state overhead. Those pillars are sprayed with some of the best graffiti and spray paint art in the state. In my humble opinion anyways. The robust and colorful artwork is always evolving, with some tags in seemingly difficult to reach places that conjure more questions and hint at the engines and the love of those who do their thing here.

I’ve met some local taggers down there before on a summers afternoon years ago. Most people you run into are friendly folk who will strike up a conversation with you. The other half are either people like me, or teenagers who are smoking swisher sweet cigars they got from the local Maplefields convenience store having fires along the beach areas. The area is a neat one, which is undoubtedly why it draws so many eclectic folks. It’s isolated and a bit of an inconvenience to get to, with thick vegetation, sandy river bottom beaches and the gradual limestone rises of the Winooski gorge giving it a dislocated feel from the pulse of Burlington, but never too far from the hum of the highway.

dsc_0335_pe dsc_0348_pe dsc_0312-2_pe dsc_0316_pe dsc_0318_pe dsc_0325_pe dsc_0326_pe dsc_0332_pe

There is an abandoned hydroelectric station amongst the ledges and evergreen forests of the gorge walls, but as we found out, access is almost impossible, and unless you want to risk a security encounter and some torn clothes as a result of climbing a very sturdy fortified fence. As I later found out from someone, if we had dared to climb down into there ruins, we would have been met with several feet of rapid flowing river water and foul mud that now flows freely through the complex. In this case, it was best just to admire it from a distance.

An area landmark, and a cool one at that, a double railroad trestle bridge spanning the turbulent waters of the Winooski Gorge.
An area landmark, the double truss railroad bridge spanning over a ledgy oxbow river bend in the Winooski Gorge. Locals mistake this impressive feat of engineering as a haunted trestle, where a little girl was struck and killed by a train in the 60s. But that’s actually another truss bridge down the river a ways, crossing into Burlington’s intervale. It’s called “the blue bridge” because according to legend, the girl’s ghost hangs around the bridge and is a pale blue, like an oxygen deprived corpse. If the real blue bridge wasn’t weird enough, I’ve heard tons of stories of sketchy characters who hang out on the bridge. I once ran into a young couple (I assume) dressed in dollar store magician and assistant costume, with top hat and plastic wand, sitting in the middle of the train bridge and quarreling. I’ve seen them 2 additional times afterward. That’s an old ghost story though, not one I think many younger Winooskians are aware of nowadays. It’s easy to see why the double truss bridge would be the assumed monument to tragedy, given its striking location and unique construction. Just make sure you’re not eligible for a statistic if you decide to walk the tracks.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To all of my amazing fans and supporters, I am truly grateful and humbled by all of the support and donations through out the years that have kept Obscure Vermont up and running.

As you all know I spend countless hours researching, writing, and traveling to produce and sustain this blog. Obscure Vermont is funded entirely on generous donations that you the wonderful viewers and supporters have made. Expenses range from internet fees to host the blog, to investing in research materials, to traveling expenses. Also, donations help keep me current with my photography gear, computer, and computer software so that I can deliver the best quality possible.

If you value, appreciate, and enjoy reading about my adventures please consider making a donation to my new Gofundme account or Paypal. Any donation would not only be greatly appreciated and help keep this blog going, it would also keep me doing what I love. Thank you!

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/b5jp97d4

Donate Button with Credit Cards