Monday, June 19, 2017

The ruins of a Chinese city, turned into a museum after the Great Sichuan Earthquake

On May 12th, 2008, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit a mountainous region in southwestern Sichuan province of China. Over 70,000 people lost their lives while hundreds of thousands were injured and 5 million remained homeless. 

In Beichuan county 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed and 80% of buildings were destroyed. Qushan Town which was until then Beichuan's county seat was abandoned but instead of pulling them town, authorities decided to stabilize and preserve the ruins as part of the Beichuan Earthquake Museum. There were hydraulic engineering projects to help preserve the site and an underground museum was built at the site of of the old Beichuan High School. 

The Earthquake Museum site also includes Tangjiashan Lake which was formed during the earthquake.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Inside the abandoned Cottontail Ranch brothel of Nevada

Two and a half hours outside Las Vegas, near the intersection of U.S. Route 95 and State Route 266, stands a small abandoned building that used to host the legendary Cottontail Ranch brothel. The brothel opened in 1967 on leased federal land from the Bureau of Land Management by madam Beverly Harrell, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn and former dancer. 

In its early days one of the most faithful customers was billionaire aviator Howard Hughes who would make several visits while he was living in nearby Las Vegas. He would fly there are a small airstrip exists next to the brothel. 

While Cottontail Ranch was licensed as prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada, the bureau of Land Management evicted her in the 1970's when word leaked of the government's role. In 1974, Harrell attempted to run for a Nevada Assembly seat in 1974 gaining national attention. 

The madam died in 1995 and the brothel finally closed in 2004. Since then it remains abandoned. 

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Monday, June 5, 2017

The deserted Boblo Island Amusement Park of Ontario

For almost 100 years, Boblo Island Amusement Park was known as Michigan's Coney Island, even though it was built on Canadian land. The amusement park opened in 1898 in Ontario's Bois Blanc island, above the mouth of the Detroit River. Its name, Boblo, is an abbreviation of 'Bois Blanc'. 

The island was accessible by boats departing from from Amherstburg, Ontario as well as from Detroit. SS Ste. Clair and the SS Columbia excursion boats, two steamers known as Bob-Lo Boats, served the island for more than 85 years. 

On the island, the most popular attractions were The Nightmare, Falling Star, Wild Mouse, Sky Streak, and Screamer rides, a Ferris wheel, a zoo, and a carousel. Visitors would move between different rides via a railway that the park constructed. Henry Ford financed a dance hall which at the time was the second largest in the world, holding 5,000 dancers at full capacity. 

Boblo Island Amusement Park closed down in 1993 after 95 years of operation. Most of its old fashioned structures were torn down and the island was renovated for luxury homes. A few remains bring back memories from when Boblo was an island of joy. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

A deserted hotel in the Brazilian tropical jungle

It is now known as Esqueleto Hotel or 'Skeleton Hotel' because of its eerie appearance but its original name was supposed to be Gavea Tourist Hotel. Its construction began in 1953 in a wooded area between the neighborhoods of Gavea and São Conrado in Rio de Janeiro

The hotel had reached a height of 16 floors when the construction was halted 19 years later because of a bankruptcy. The massive building was left abandoned and the thick tropical jungle reclaimed much of the area around it. 

Eventually, the Skeleton Hotel became home to the moradores na rua (street dwellers) and later, a shelter for criminals who used it to hide weapons stolen from the army. Today, many adventurous locals visit the hotel through a secret path to explore its remains or climb to the top to enjoy the stunning view of the ocean.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Russian space shuttle, left abandoned at a Moscow car park

Back in the 1970's the Soviet Union began their own reusable spacecraft program, in response to NASA's space shuttle program. Soviet space shuttles, called Buran, had unsurprisingly a similar appearance to NASA's space shuttles. The Soviets built about 13 space shuttles, most of them only partially, and some only for testing purposes. Only one Buran was flight-worthy. The expensive Buran program was soon suspended due to lack of funding, and finally cancelled by Russia in 1993. 

The Buran spacecraft with the designation OK-2K1 (or 2.01) was the third spacecraft to be produced for the program, scheduled to take its first flight in 1994. Although it was never named, it is known by the nickname 'Baikal', after the large Russian lake. When the Buran program was cancelled, Baikal was only 30%-50% finished, practically an empty cell.

Since the collapse of Soviet Union, Russia hasn't done a good job maintaining its Buran shuttles and celebrating their history, probably considering the Buran programme a failure that isn't worth remembering. After residing for about a decade in the Tushino factory were it was constructed, the Baikal orbiter was left in 2004 under open sky on a car park in Moscow, near Khimki Reservoir. 

On June 22nd 2011 the orbiter was put on a barge to be moved via the Moskva river to the MAKS 2011 international air show, which took place from 16 to 21 August in Zhukovsky. As of November 2013, it remained at the Ramenskoye–Zhukovsky Airport.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The abandoned Marine Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee

The Marine Hospital of Memphis, Tennessee opened in 1884 in the French Fort district of the city. The hospital consisted of 6 buildings: the surgeon’s house, a stable, the executive building, two wards and the nurses’ building. The main building, a three-story neoclassical brick building in Georgian style, with slate roofing and large limestone columns was completed in 1937.

The Marine Hospital was originally used to treat Civil War soldiers and also to conduct scientific research in hopes of finding a cure for yellow fever. For more than a century it was used to treat marines and other seamen.

During the 1930's several new buildings were added to the site, while other buildings, like the wards and the stable were demolished. Today, only two of the original buildings survive: the nurses building and the executive building. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The Marine Hospital closed in 1965. Since then, part of is was leased to a group of businessmen to house a metal museum while the government used part of the complex to house soldiers during Desert Storm. Developers are now looking to turn the building into apartments and a boutique hotel. 

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Monday, May 8, 2017

The ruins of San Haven Sanatorium in North Dakota

San Haven sanatorium was built was built in the early 20th century on Turtle mountain, close to the North Dakota and Canada borders. It was founded in 1909 after the state legislature put aside $10,000 for such an institution to treat TB patients of the state. Its location was ideal as it was far away from big cities were the population felt threatened from the disease. The sanatorium attracted patients and medical staff from all over the country until the tuberculosis epidemic died down in the 1940's thanks to antibiotics. 

Unlike other TB campuses, San Haven allowed (by a 1913 state Act) social organizations, like the Freemasons, to build cottages on the property. The same Act also forbade the sharing of drinking cups. San Haven was operating as a satellite hospital for the North Dakota Institution for the Feeble-Minded at Grafton, but as the hospital expanded it gained more autonomy.

In the 1950's, San Haven was converted into a sanatorium for the developmentally disabled, as most TB patients were now treated at home. Like with many similar institutions at the time, there were rumors for mistreatment of patients and other abuses at San Haven as well. The sanatorium was finally shut down in the 1980's. The closure of the hospital by government mandate became an issue that created a lot of anger and resentment in the area (which was named San Haven, after the sanatorium) as it brought a lot of money in the region. 

Since then, the results of abandonment are visible, while nature has reclaimed parts of the buildings. 

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Jessica Mae Olson/

Monday, May 1, 2017

Penn Hills Resort: An abandoned honeymoon resort in Pennsylvania

Penn Hills Resort was founed in 1944 in Pennsylvania's Pocono mountains, outside Stroudsburg and near a small town called Analomink. A tavern at first, it expanded to over 100 rooms, becoming a popular honeymoon resort. 

In the 1960's the 500-acre Penn Hills grew to include a ski resort and a golf course. Guest villas featured floor-to-ceiling carpeting, round beds, and heart-shaped bathtubs. An ice rink and a wedding bell shaped outdoor swimming pool were also installed. Billed "Paradise of Pocono Pleasure", the resort catered to young couples who enjoyed archery and tennis and danced at modestly lavish New Year's Eve parties where the motto was "No balloon goes unpopped."

During the next decades though the decline came gradually, and by 2009 when the 102-year old owner of Penn Hills died, the business owned more than a million dollars in back taxes. The resort closed 2 months later, with Monroe country taking over the property. 

Already in serious disrepair, flooding and copper thieves damaged the buildings further, and the resort was abandoned. Small pieces of the property were sold and in January 2016, a group of New York investors purchased what remained of Penn Hills for $400,000.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The abandoned Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers castle in France

Encircled by a moat in the midst of a large wood, Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers can be found at the at the town of Les Trois-Moutiers in the Poitou-Charentes region of France

Originally called Motte Bauçay (or Baussay), the stronghold was built in the thirteenth century by the Bauçay family, lords of Loudun. In the Middle Ages, the castle was taken twice by the English and it was devastated during the French Revolution

In 1809, Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers was bought by wealthy businessman François Hennecart who restored the castle to its former glory, an in 1857 it was passed to Baron Joseph Lejeunea. After a major fire destroyed most of the buildings in 1932, the castle has been abandoned. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Italian ghost town of Balestrino

Situated in Liguria, 70 kilometres (43 mi) southwest of Genoa, Balestrino is one of Italy's most mysterious ghost towns, with little information known about the town's history and origins as well as its demise. 

Balestrino dates back to at least the 11th century. During the middle ages, the Bava family, nobles from Piedmont, were the feudal lords of the town and the one's who built Balestrino's oldest castle. Later, in the 16th century, the Del Carretto family came into power and built their castle. The castle was burned down and the lord was killed in 1561, leading the family to establish a court and torture chambers to maintain control and stop rioting. 

Although the town managed to flourish, battles between his armies and locals during the occupation of Napoleon severely affected the area and its population. Balestrino came under the rule of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont and in 1860 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy

It is believed that earthquakes and hydrogeological instability was the main reason for the town's demise. A number of earthquakes in the 19th century caused a part of the population to flee, with the last inhabitants evacuating Balestrino in 1953. 

The abandoned area is 1.5 hectares wide and is made up of fascinating buildings such as the churches of St. George and St. Andrew, built in twelfth century. The town's best-preserved building is the Byzantine castle of Del Carretto, while the bridge of Deautra, covered in wild plants, is another beautiful corner of the abandoned town. 

Today, the ghost town of Balestrino, situated close to the newer Balestrino town is visited by thousands of visitors and explorers every year. It has also caught Hollywood's attention, chosen as a location for the movie Inkheart.

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