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."
"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