ABANDONED AMERICA: DISMANTLING THE DREAM
If the creation of a structure represents the values and ideals of a time, so too does its subsequent abandonment and eventual destruction. In Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream, internationally acclaimed photographer Matthew Christopher continues his tour of the quiet catastrophes dotting American cities, examining the losses and failures that led these ruins to become forsaken by communities that once embraced them.
Explore the magnificent remnants of the Victory Theatre in Massachusetts and the Variety Theatre in Cleveland as they fight for survival; the Catskill Game Farm in New York, the largest privately owned zoo in the United States, undone in part by a terrible secret; Long Beach, Connecticut - a beachfront community left for dead when the bridge to it burned; Taunton State Hospital in Massachusetts, a massive crumbling asylum with a dark past; the SS United States, a derelict ocean liner moored in Philadelphia that was the fastest passenger ship ever built; Vulture City in Arizona, a ghost town built around a gold mine that caused unimaginable bloodshed; Ohio's Randall Park Mall, a eerie relic of the days of the megamalls; Pittsburgh's Fort Pitt Casting Company, a steel foundry destroyed by escalating rivalries between management and labor; Schenley High School, once the most expensive public school ever built and closed over questionable safety concerns; Forest Haven, a haunting Maryland institution that gained a terrible reputation for killing its residents; the Lee Plaza Hotel in Detroit and the Fallside Inn in Niagara Falls, two hotels doomed by deteriorating economies in their surrounding communities; and Gary, Indiana, a city struggling to cope with 13,000 blighted properties left behind when the industries disappeared.
With a foreword by Don Wildman, host of the popular television series Mysteries at the Museum, and 150 full-color photographs of 14 remarkable abandoned locations with essays by Matthew Christopher chronicling these important and hard to access sites, Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream forces us to confront who we were, who we are, and who we wish to become.
Once one of the premier hotels in Niagara Falls, New York, the Fallside Hotel (originally a Treadway Inn, then a Parkway) hosted newlyweds, proms, and politicians. Built during a time of renewed investment in Niagara Falls tourism, the hotel was doomed by the threat that destroyed much of the city's downtown and its economy: ill-planned urban renewal projects and unchecked pollution from the area's failing industries.
A derelict remnant of a bygone era when care for those with mental illness was synonymous with imprisonment, Taunton State Hospital still reverberated with the echoes of those who spent their lives there in locked wards. Despite its haunting past, though, there was a surprising beauty to be found in the elegant architecture - one that would be lost forever soon after when much of the gorgeous hospital was torn down.
What would you do if the only bridge to your community burned, and your town refused to fix it? This was the nightmarish scenario for the residents of Long Beach, Connecticut. Cut off from the mainland and confronted with a rising swell of unpoliced theft and vandalism, the neighborhood faced a terrible choice that would change their lives forever. Find out more about why the community at Long Beach was left to ruin in "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream".
Once the largest mall in the world, Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio, was a modernist temple built to commerce. A murder in the parking lot shortly after the mall opened seemed a grim omen of things to come and in the years ahead Randall Park gained a reputation for violence and theft. Was it merited? What really caused the death of one of America's greatest shopping meccas?
A beloved family vacation destination, The Catskill Game Farm was the largest privately owned zoo in America. Its founder was not only a businessman but a passionate advocate for the preservation of endangered species. After ownership of the game farm changed hands in its final years, a dark secret emerged - one that would lead to much controversy during its closure.
Built as a grand residential hotel when Detroit was booming, the Lee Plaza quickly became mired in debt and controversy. It struggled along through different ownership, ultimately becoming a nursing home with problems that led to its closure. Even abandoned, it was the center of a scandal when ornamental lion sculptures were stolen from the exterior for use in a Chicago row house project. Now a developer has intends to restore the building - will he succeed?
Intended to be a state of the art training facility for those with physical and developmental disabilities, Forest Haven instead became a house of horrors. How did it devolve into one of the worst cases of institutional neglect in America's history, and what echoes were left after the facility closed? Learn about Forest Haven's tragic past in "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream".
Once a model of peaceful management/labor relations, strikes and contract disputes ultimately ran a prosperous steel casting company into ruin, impacting the surrounding town forever. What led to such a bitter stalemate between the workers and owners that they were willing to sacrifice their own investment in the plant over the battle? Find out what happened at Fort Pitt Casting in "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream".
When it was built in Pittsburgh, Schenley High School was the most expensive school in the United States' history, and the first to cost over $1 million. It represented a bold investment in education, hailed as the pride of the city. Less than a century later, however, it was shuttered - victim of redistricting, budget cuts, and a hotly contested report that the asbestos in the walls would be too costly to remove. Those findings would later be cast in doubt, leaving many guessing what happened.
Holyoke, Massachusetts was once flush with money from its mills, and the Victory Theatre - named after the Allied victory in World War I - was one of the finest theaters in town. When the industries left, the economy plummeted and much of the town's gorgeous architectural heritage was destroyed. Now, the Victory is the only theater left and a fierce battle is being waged not just for its existence, but perhaps the entire downtown itself.
The Variety Theatre in Cleveland had many lives. It opened with a showing of Clara Bow's racy film "Hula Girl", and continued for decades until the theater was mainly used as a live music venue for groups ranging from Metallica to R.E.M. to Motörhead. A concert venue no more, the community is rallying to save the historic theater and restore it to a more neighborhood friendly use.
The fastest ocean liner ever built and the largest constructed on US soil, the SS United States was meant to be the last word in American shipbuilding. Retired only 17 years after her maiden voyage, she is one of the last of her kind. Now an enormous rusting relic moored in Philadelphia, time is running out to save this beautiful monument to another era of travel.
Henry Wickenburg found the ore vein that would become Arizona's most profitable gold mine. The discovery would also ultimately cost him - and many others - their lives. Find out more about Vulture City's bloody past, and what eerie remnants of its glory days remain.
Dubbed "City of the Century", Gary, Indiana earned the moniker both in its rapid expansion and its meteoric decline when its industries failed. Now struggling to deal with an estimated 13,000 blighted properties, the town is fighting to cope with skyrocketing poverty and crime rates - and to deal with the scars that racism and deindustrialization have left behind as the reminders of its heydey crumble. Learn what led to the collapse in "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream".