While everyone is ignoring abandoned homes and buildings, I am usually adoring them. My fascination with them started with this one little deserted house on Evesham Road in Runnemede, New Jersey. We would drive by it every time we went to my cousins’ house and I remember thinking I wanted to have my birthday party there (weird, I know). It was vacant for as long as I can remember. It sat there silent and lifeless but with so much to say. The worst part is that most abandoned structures end up just as that one did- demolished.
Seeing abandoned buildings always makes me wonder what kind of life once lived inside of them. Undoubtedly, tons of memories were made within their walls. Tons of laughs, tears, fights, reunions, heartbreaks, holiday celebrations, realizations, and so much more. I wonder what kind of music was played there and what kind of books were read. I wonder what kind of jobs they had and how many people occupied the rooms. But what I wonder the most is how these homes end up as shells on the side of the road, withholding more secrets than any person could ever be responsible for.
These are just a few abandoned locations I have amateurly photographed throughout Connecticut.
Fairfield Hills, psychiatric hospital- Newtown, Connecticut
Sunflower Farm- Plainville, Connecticut
Unlike many abandoned buildings, Fairfield Hills (pictured first) is currently being resurrected by its town. This makes me happy because I think every neglected building deserves a second chance and it hurts my heart when they are torn down.
One (not pictured) abandoned location that really gets me going is Camp Schade in Burlington, Connecticut. It is comprised of several buildings, a pool, and basketball courts at the end of a dirt road in the middle of the woods, all protected by a chain-link fence. From my research, I have concluded it was once the New Britain Fresh Air Camp and then affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club. This is interesting because New Britain is a good 15-20 miles from Burlington. There are rumors that a camp counselor killed over 60 people, which caused the camp to close in the 90s. What intrigues me most is that the camp is very well kept. The grass is always cut and the light bulbs are always replaced yet no one seems to ever see anyone inside the fence. To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to reopen or re-purpose the camp but I would love to see that happen.
I love watching all of these television shows such as Fixer Upper, Rehab Addict, Flip or Flop, and Good Bones. They are some of my favorites because they frequently take old, ignored houses and flip them into the most desirable homes in the neighborhood. They seldom tear them down and often restore their original designs and details.
I hope to be able to flip houses one day or even old buildings such as Fairfield Hills and Camp Schade. Everything around us is so rapidly changing that I think it’s important to go back to our roots once in a while. There is no harm in putting some life back into these lonely structures; a little more adoring and a less ignoring.
I went to New Britain Fresh Air Camp for two weeks every summer from 1960 to 1968 (ages 7 to 15). It was a camp designed to help city kids….most of the kids who went were troubled & disadvantaged kids from the housing projects. We were loaded onto buses at the Elks Club on High St. When we arrived at camp we went to an Introduction Meeting at the Chow Hall where Major (Frank Schade) would lecture us that “This is not Mount Pleasant.” (the toughest housing project in New Britain at that time). We got a long lecture on discipline.
Counselors had free reign with ‘discipline’. If someone refused to eat what was served, they were force fed right there at the table. If someone used a swear word..counselors would hold them down & wash their mouth out with soap. If someone talked after lights out, they would be forced out of bed to run laps around the basketball court in the dark until they were so tired they would drop. Talking during Rest Period and they had you were forced to kneel outside on concrete with your arms extended, holding a heavy book in each hand. It was torture.
All this severe ‘boot camp’ discipline aside…I actually looked forward to camp every summer (because the projects at home were worse). The camp had swimming, 3 good meals a day, games & crafts, hiking, campfires, etc. My favorite memories are of the big bonfire at Indian Hill where Major told fantastic stories of Chief Broha.
My favorite counselor was Dave Foberg, the camp’s Assistant Director. He was kind to kids & really cared about them. I am 68 years old now..and he will never know how much his kindness & wisdom has stayed with me over the years.
As for deaths at the camp…I remember counselors making the kids stay in their cabins when they happened. A boy was found dead on an old bus parked behind the cabins…another boy was found drowned in the little pool…a girl was found drowned in the big swimming hole…another boy was found dead under the treehouse.
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Wow. Thank you so much for your insight! It’s great to get some clarity after so many years of wondering. I’m so curious as to why they haven’t torn the camp down and it makes me wonder if there’s a chance it will ever be reopened.
That Camp Schade was actually open in 2014-216 if I recall the years correctly. I think it was used as a day camp where people from New Britain were bussed in for the day and back out at the end of the day.