As it stands today, Penn Hills Resort is a repugnant, aesthetically offensive shithole, and I really can’t imagine it was much different when in operation. Located in the Poconos in Analomink, Pennsylvania, it was once a gaudy honeymoon resort geared towards couples and swingers and…well, why don’t I allow this 1978 commercial explain it for me:
So, yeah, that was a thing that once existed in the world and probably involved an unfathomable amount of cocaine, body hair and STDs. HOT STUFF. I tried not to waste too much time researching this place, since it’s not terribly interesting, plus phrases like “unbridled passion” and “the paradise of Poconos pleasure” were words my eyes were punished with for my efforts.
Penn Hills began as a tavern in 1944, and soon took over 500 acres with a ski resort, golf course, tennis courts, swimming pools, waterfalls, a stream, a spa, cabins and lodges. It was famous for throwing lavish New Years Eve parties, like this nightmare described in the New York Times: “This year’s guests, like those at the Caesars resorts, will be issued noisemakers, leis and hats. Entertainment will include a magician and violin players who walk around taking requests. The ceiling of the nightclub where the party is held is always invisible behind the layer of balloons, and it is a tradition at Penn Hills that no balloon goes unpopped.” NO BALLOON GOES UNPOPPED. I just can’t even, with this place.
In the years preceding its closure in 2009, Penn Hills fell into financial trouble, the place began to decline (although its zenith is suspect to begin with) and visitors were scarce. When co-founder Frances Paolillo died at age 102 [insert obvious joke about the correlation between sex and age here] the resort was shut down within two months.
Employees openly discussed the quick decline of Penn Hills, as quoted in the Pocono Record: “It’s like we work for a haunted hotel…People check in and check out within 15 minutes…The disappointment on their faces…The rooms [at Penn Hills] are around $300 a night. You can get a better room at the Howard Johnson’s for $55.” Before closing, the employees went on to disclose that “Penn Hills has not been properly maintained and housekeeping cannot hide chipped tubs, broken mirrors and mold behind the carpet on bathroom walls.” The last quote pretty much sums up how it looks today.
Turns out my favorite part of Penn Hills was something I didn’t even know about until later: Original streetlights from the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, as featured in the photo below, which I’ve taken the courtesy of ruining by circling the lights in yellow:
Two perfectly in preserved streetlights, obscured by trees and general hideousness of it all:
I had no idea they were there, and didn’t even notice them until after I looked at my photos, only two of which had the lights in them. Below, one light is to the left:
I wish the town would be more proactive about saving the streetlights. They should be removed and put elsewhere, because given enough time, they’ll eventually get destroyed too. Fuck everything else at Penn Hills though, especially the wedding bell shaped pool that totally looks like a boob at the bottom.
I mean, really? Man, I love to hate this place. It’d actually make a pretty cool ski lodge if someone fixed it up, but there’s nothing else in this area of Pennsylvania to attract tourists, which is part of the reason there are so numerous abandoned resorts in the Poconos. The Poconos remain a vacation spot for many people, however the resorts fell out of favor for private houses.
This postcard looks like an early incarnation of the resort before it got popular. The cabins along the right side of the image were replaced by these things, which I actually kind of like:
I can’t quite figure out the look they were going for with the front desk, and I really wish I knew what was in the display case on the left. Probably some stupid bullshit, I’m sure.
The indoor sports area seems to be where a lot of the cum stained furniture was stashed before the resort closed up shop. It was used for ice skating in the winter, some dumb sports in the summer and had a little arcade in the back.
If you’re wondering how to get here, I’m not going to bother pretending to discourage you from going, because I don’t know why you’d want to. But if you must, Route 447 drives right through it. I mean that literally, the road goes right through the middle of the resort, separating the restaurant and recreation building from the lodging, reception and pool area. But heads up- cops have recently increased security at abandoned resorts all over the east coast, due to piece of shit scrappers who ruin everything for everyone. Trust me, it’s not worth the trip, this place is a red hot dump.
Amendment #1 I just talked a bunch of (mostly speculative) shit about this place, but allow me to eat my hat and share with you an email I got from the photographer of the earlier photo of honeymooners in the jacuzzi:
“In the early 80’s when I was in the photography biz I spent four or five years working in and around Penn Hills resort in the Poconos. The WIKI article about it being for swingers was very inaccurate. It was a corny Honeymoon resort for young marrieds, mostly from the north-western states and Canada, and a small but interesting and educated couple of guests each season from Mexico.
The guests were very young, mostly they came to the Poconos because they couldn’t afford Hawaii, which was the hottest US honeymoon destination, or Paris, an unaffordable trip for most in those years. These kids were sweet, young and sincere. I remember kids on their honeymoon who thought the maitre’ d was the owner because he wore a tux.
I was good friends with many of the comedians and singers and dancers that did the shows, most were trying to work their way into NYC night clubs. Some had SAG cards and had done commercials here and there. None were strippers, hookers or heroin junkies (that I could tell anyway) or any better or worse than average entertainers. Thursday (I think) was Western Night with a fiddle band from PA with a young fiddle player and his whole family in the band, that had the place rocking, if you’ll excuse the expression.”
So I stand corrected, and thanks so much to Alan, who sent me an email to politely point that out and enlighten me about the atmosphere of the resort.
Amendment #2: The World’s Fair lamp posts have been saved! Many thanks to David Turner who wrote to tell me he has them, and they’re safe in storage, awaiting restoration.
To see more photos, go to my Penn Hills Resort Flickr set
Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me.