10.03.2012

Penn Hills



It is no secret that the northeast is thickly littered with abandoned hotels and resorts. Not too long ago it was tremendously popular
to travel to the Catskill mountains or the Poconos with one's family, to briefly escape from the clamor of daily life, if even just for
a single weekend. This is the mindset of a past era, as it seems modern day leaves little room for such simple pleasures.
We are a society of digital escapism; no longer does one need to load up a car and drive off into the woods to get away from it all.
Today, simply switching on of the television or computer can suffice to distance the mind from the hardships of reality.

During its prime (in the 1960's and 1970's) Penn Hills was the honeymoon resort of choice in the Poconos, often requiring guests
to make reservations months in advance. Always crowded, even during the winter months, Penn Hills was a place renowned for its
on-site accommodations. Swimming, skiing, snowmobiling, archery, ice skating, and tennis were the key points of entertainment.
In addition there was also an indoor game room, as well as a massive dining hall and night club, to keep guests busy after the sun had set.
All this, though interesting, is not what made Penn Hills such an intriguing place to me. As it would turn out; this is the very resort which
my mother and father spent their honeymoon back in 1970, a fact which I learned of just prior to making my trip.



It's not often that I have a personal connection with a location that I'm filming. Yes, there is always some kind of emotional attachment to
the subject at hand, but very rarely has the location actually been tied to my life in any way. To me, it was more than a bit surreal filming
the badly decayed bungalows where my parents once stayed, seeing the overgrown field where they rode snowmobiles, or setting foot
in the now dead-silent reception hall and standing in front of the desk which they checked in at over forty years ago. The quiet and the
dark of this old resort holds a deeper meaning to me than it does to many others. It also shows that the significance of a place is impossible to clearly define.

As time went on, especially after crossing over into the new millennium, Penn Hills began a slow and steady decline.
Though it had fallen out of popularity, the resort had always maintained a clean (though out-dated) environment for travelers.
The years were taking their toll upon the buildings, and without proper funding to maintain and repair things, small problems began
to turn into very large ones over the years. In the end Penn Hills was doing nothing short of committing online fraud; promising a
romantic getaway via their website, while in reality offering guests musty bedrooms decorated with out-dated furniture, a stagnate
swimming pool, and shag carpeting full of dead insects. The resort eventually died at the hands of foreclosure in 2009, though many
parts of the facility had fallen into disrepair long before.

































Earlier I mentioned that my parents spent their honeymoon at Penn Hills during the midst of its popularity.
Luckily, after asking them about it in further detail, they were able to produce to me a photo album. I had to carefully scan the following
images, as the album had dried out to a very brittle state. I would also like to note the the black and white photography
was shot by my father, and later developed at his in-home darkroom.























The following customer reviews are just a small sampling of what people had to say about Penn Hills on TripAdvisor.com.
They serve to illustrate how bad things got at the resort in the years leading up to its eventual closure.

“Horror Hotel Film set!”
"My husband and I were looking to get away for a few days. We contacted a travel agent and she booked us an all inclusive package at the lovely Penn Hills Resort. Upon our arrival it looked shut down. Not a soul in site except for a few parked cars. Front desk people were friendly enough but from the look of the lobby it was a bit scary. They led us up the hill to our room where the building was deserted. We were the only ones in the building. Upon entering you could smell the odor of mold and stale smoke, out dated furniture, chipped paint, cracks in the ceiling, floors, heart shaped bathtub, which didn't work and stains everywhere you can image(carpets, bedding, curtains) I felt like we were some sort of horror flick. Really spooky. We immediately went down and asked if we could get an upgrade which they provided a private villa complete with round bed, bugs, dirt, old musty carpeting and again a tub that didn't work. The only laugh we got was when we opened the draws to see if we could actually put things safely in there, there was a ton of graffiti with saying like, you've been had, we got screwed, this place is a dump. We had the feeling that we were in a porn film set. The bar was decorated in cheap 70/80s decor. Drinks were watered down, food was edible but not worthy of anything more then the price of a happy meal. Needless to say we slept in our clothes on that night and decided to head out and ask for a refund. They refused to refund us and told that we were to contact our travel agent for the refund. The useless travel agent refunded $50 out of the almost $700 we paid them for the resort stay. If you like being spooked and alone with dirt and bugs then this is the place for you. HOLLYWOOD should check this place out for a great horror film."

“Honeymoon from HELL's PIT”
"OMG, you know the old saying that you get what you pay for? Well, in this case you don't even come close to getting what you've paid for and anyone associated with this place needs to be shot for false advertisement. Not only did our room not look like the website but my wife and I had to switch rooms when we got there because the first place was dirty (extremely filthy) and if we didn't come all the way from DC we would've requested a refund. We did make the most out of our honeymoon but the only thing that we could say was good about this place was the view when it snowed. We would never recommend this place to ANYONE."


“OMG!”
"We stayed at Penn Hills on our honeymoon over 30 years ago and returned once about 20 years ago. Today as we were driving home from a weekend getaway in the Poconos we drove past Penn Hills. OMG - initially I thought it must be abandoned, but here I am reading reviews about the poor guests that have made reservations for a romantic weekend. To say the resort is "outdated" would be one thing, but this once beautiful resort is literally falling apart. The wood on the buildings is rotted, anywhere there is cement, it is crumbling, the pool is peeling, tennis courts have potholes ... I saw one archery target laying on the ground ... the buildings look abandoned. Thankfully, we DID NOT book our getaway here ... I would have flipped-out thinking of sleeping in one of the rooms here. I wouldn't mind if it was "retro" and maintained, but this place is beyond neglected. I just think it's so sad that this once beautiful resort is in such disrepair. And worst yet, I can't believe they are accepting reservations and deceiving guests. I only write this to warn couples to stay away."

“This resort made me cry!”
"My fiance entrusted me with the task of booking our stay in the Poconos because we were heading there for race weekend. I made the BIG mistake of not referring to TripAdvisor first and booked a weekend at Penn Hills Resort. When we arrived, the front desk gave us keys to a room that was located in another building on the property. When we arrived to our room, the first thing we saw was a bag of garbage sitting by the door. Upon opening the door, we saw a trail of ants trying to exit the room from a crack around the door frame. Let's talk about the room. There is carpet everywhere. On the floors of both the bedroom and the bathroom AND on the walls of the bathroom!!! Anything that was once white is now smoke stained yellow, like the door to the refrigerator/freezer that is built in the wall! As I sat on the bed and sobbed, my fiance tried to open the sliding glass door that fell apart in his hand! When I called the front desk to ask if we could be moved to another room, we were told they were no other rooms available! Knowing we would lose our first night's deposit, we still decided to leave and fortunately found a room at the clean and updated Ramada Inn. Beware of Penn Hills!"

If you some time to kill, and wish to read more "colorful" reviews from the last years of Penn Hills, you can do so here - Trip Advisor




8 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photos of an amazing place! I love that the retro elements are still intact and it seems a great shame that it could no longer be maintained. It looks like a place that was living in the past long before it was abandoned.

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  2. I love this place! Wish I could have stayed here back in time. Love your pictures & your fathers!

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  3. What state of disrepair is it in now?

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  4. My husband and I honeymooned at Penn Hills in 2003. We had a villa. We got in very late at night. When we pulled up to the office, we walked in and a security guard had us follow him up the hill to our villa. When we pulled up, we thought....."This is cute." Then we walked inside. It was a bit musty smelling. We saw the furniture from the 60s, the shag carpeting on the walls, the round bed, and mirrored ceiling. Pink toilet and sink with gold leaf marble counter tops. It was interesting. But, we didn't have a lot of money, and we were getting what we paid for. We decided to make the most of it. We enjoyed our dinners in the dining room. We went to the bar to enjoy the company of the staff and a few other honeymooning guests. We even won a free weekend trip back playing the newlywed game. After we returned home, we went back to our lives, and a few weeks later found out that we brought back a BIG souvenir from Penn Hills Resort. Baby #1 was on the way! 9 months later, we had Andreja. But, we still had that return trip to plan! So, we decided that our first anniversary would be a good time, since I spent a major part of our first year cooking a bun in my oven. We decided to stay in a different room for our second trip. This time, we stayed in the hotel. The hotel had been decorated in the early 80s and that was how it remained. With fake ivy climbing the walls, and heart shaped tubs, the decor was still better than the villa we stayed in the previous year. And, still, we came home with another BIG souvenir! Shortly after that trip, we found out that our family would grow by one more. So, after two trips, and two babies, I can't complain too much about this outdated resort! We did make the most of our time there. It is actually very sad to see the photos of the place in ruins. Though I knew that it wouldn't be long after our final trip that the doors would close forever, I wish that I could visit it one more time. With our 10th anniversary coming this summer, we will be headed to New England. We may just have to detour a little to visit the ruins of our honeymoon destination. I wouldn't mind photographing it one last time.

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  5. Blogged about Penn Hills here. Fantastic site, by the way. Thanks!!

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  6. Wow !!! All I can say is thank you to this sites creator for sharing a piece of America while still in it's prime. Especially for sharing his parents old Honeymoon Photo's and the videos. I grew up partly in Bear Rocks Resort. A skiing community built in the early sixties and 40 miles SE of Pittsburgh. The skiing is gone since 1972, but the community of engineers and artists flourished for another 25 years. For example we did Christmas time plays usually featuring Rogers and Hammerstein movie musicals. etc... You can look up Bear Rocks on Google maps and still even make out the ski slopes !

    Thank you for you shared memories, I can really tell that you cherish your parents. Blessing to you and your family.
    Alexander Federowicz
    https://www.facebook.com/alexander.federowicz

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  7. Just when I was thinking this looked like an old swinger's resort...you had to mention your parents honeymoon. Still looks like it could have been at one time, a swinging good time.

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  8. The jingle way playing in my head when I opened the page. I remember that commercial because it played on television ALL THE TIME when I was growing up in the '70s along with "Beau-ti-ful Mt. Ai-ry Looooooodge....."

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