Poconos: Penn Hills Resort

penn_hills_resort2c_bubble_bath2c_circa_197027s

Once touted the “Paradise of Pocono Pleasure,” Penn Hills was a popular honeymoon mountain resort for young newlyweds throughout the ’60s and ’70s.  Empty but still speckled along Pennsylvania’s busy Route 447, the vacant resort is both surreal and impossible to ignore, attracting a different breed of traveler these days.

d7k_3861

 

It humbly began as a tavern in 1944 and grew to over 100 rooms across 500 acres by the 1960’s.  Atomic-era streetlights repurposed from the 1964 World’s Fair dotted the landscape with dreamy rainbow colors, guiding guests’ late night walks to the resort’s nightclubs and bars.  Here’s one at the fair (in front of the Uniroyal ferris wheel that still sits along I-94 outside of Detroit today!):

d746c669f5e8f3ee6c9406a07fc37be1

Also, check out this super saccharine commercial from 1978:

By the millennium, when floor-to-ceiling carpeting was beyond out of style and the maintenance problems with the buildings became financially insurmountable, Penn Hills had lost its glamor.  As the resort reached its bleak and bitter end, anonymous staffers shared the following with the Pocono Record in a 2009 article announcing its closure.

Several employees said there are only a hanful [sic] of guests at the resort on weekends.

“It’s like we work for a haunted hotel,” one employee said. “People check in and check out within 15 minutes. They say, ‘I don’t want to stay here. It’s not what I expected.’

“The disappointment on their faces — you can’t do that to people.”

“The rooms are around $300 a night. You can get a better room at the Howard Johnson’s for $55,” another employee said.

Employees say Penn Hills has not been properly maintained and housekeeping cannot hide chipped tubs, broken mirrors and mold behind the carpet on bathroom walls.

The deteriorating resort could no longer stay afloat by the charm of its kitsch and mild internet fraud alone, especially with the travel industry changing to reflect the poor economic conditions of the time.  Katherine Wisniewski wrote for Curbed, “The demise of old-school Poconos loves [sic] nests could be blamed on the rise of Vegas as a tourist attraction, AirBnB, and/or affordable cruise lines.”  Penn Hills closed with the death of its 102-year-old co-founder in 2009, too deeply in debt to pay its staff, and was quickly ravaged by metal scrappers and teenage taggers.

d7k_3925

The heart-shaped bathtubs and round mattresses left in ruin gained widespread notoriety across the internet, much to the chagrin of embarrassed locals.  The residents of Alanomink and Stroud Township seem pretty unanimous in their desire to have the very visible blighted property wiped off their busy street.

d7k_3872

And, as of 2016, a lot of it will be.  While there are plans to reopen parts of the resort (though no announcement has been made regarding what exactly it will become), certain buildings feature Videofied security and dumpsters have appeared around the well-boarded windows and doorways.  According to PAHomepage, construction crews arrived around March of this year to clear out the restaurant and ice skating arena.   Luckily, some/all of the World’s Fair light fixtures have been saved and were gone by the time we got there.  A chain link fence has also been erected in front of the property.

d7k_3886

Now in September, stasis seems to have temporarily returned to Penn Hills.  The intimidatingly playful Space Age Brutalist architecture, considered outdated by somehated by others, and utterly condemned, is coming cautiously back into style, though there isn’t much else in the area to attract tourists anymore.  It does appear that the restaurant/bar, where cameras have been installed, will be the focus of any renovation effort, but I hope against hope that if restoration does actually happen, they try to save a few of these weird angular red and white buildings as well.  Like so many other examples of retro futuristic style, Penn Hills has fallen so far down a hole of kitsch that it’s starting to become sort of timeless.

d7k_3878

d7k_3846

Each angular, lofted room in these buildings had a big red, heart-shaped bathtub downstairs and a round mattress circled by pillars up a short flight of stairs.  Mirrors and carpet are everywhere.  It’s wonderfully, breathtakingly tacky.

d7k_3844d7k_3856

The furthest guest buildings run along a sort of canal carved out of the landscape in concrete and crossed by pedestrian bridges, once lined by the World’s Fair light fixtures.  At the center of the property are the pools, both indoor and outdoor, with yet another indoor hot tub for those looking for a more public and less heart-shaped experience.  The outdoor pool is supposed to be shaped like a wedding bell.

d7k_3860d7k_3866

d7k_3874d7k_3876

At the base of one of the main guest buildings was a ground-level Tiki bar to service the pools.  The funky vintage bar stools have been scrapped to their ornate little bases.

d7k_3869

Here’s the main restaurant/bar, where plywood boards have been securely installed and cameras have been implemented.

d7k_3882

Past the restaurant, all kinds of recreational complexes were available for the visiting couples’ amusement as well, including tennis courts, basketball, skiing, golfing, archery, swimming, and an indoor ice skating arena.  Beyond were individual guest bungalows for more private accommodations.

d7k_3889d7k_3891d7k_3894d7k_3896

d7k_3918d7k_3901d7k_3902

Furniture had once been piled into the ice skating arena after the resort was abandoned, but cleanup crews have since cleared it out.

d7k_3905d7k_3908d7k_3912

Watching the colorful Pennsylvania sunset over the once lavish resort was still weirdly romantic.  Most of what I’ve encountered in my research is about how much people passionately despise Penn Hills both before and after its closure, but I live for this silly nostalgia.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing this place for a long time.

d7k_3919d7k_3921

 

Sources:

Pocono Record: Honeymoon is Ending at Penn Hills

World’s Fair Lights at Dilapidated Penn Hills Resort Find New Home

Curbed: The Glory Days of Poconos Resorts

Wikipedia

Antiquity Echoes

AdventureBibleSchool

6 thoughts on “Poconos: Penn Hills Resort

  1. So sad, If they had have kept with the times they probably would have stayed reasonably out of debt. That first commercial pic of the people in the bath surrounded by carpet I actually cringed at. I know it was all vogue back then, but all I see if mold waiting to happen hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah the Yelp reviews (it was actually open that long!) complain about the moldy carpet. Personally, even with the mold, I would’ve loved the chance to stay there – my coworker told me she took her daughter somewhere similar in the Poconos just for fun. I think there are a few tacky ones left, but they’re few and far between!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s