In late June of 2014, I received a Facebook message from a friend from high school. He wrote: “I noticed you like to shoot derelict buildings and decaying scenery in a lot of the work you’ve posted. Whenever you’re in the Poconos you should go to Birchwood. All kinds of weird shit there.”
I immediately opened my calendar and noticed that I had a rare weekend off. I phoned my Mom and asked if she’d like to take a trip to the Poconos. Within minutes of receiving that message, a trip was planned.
After the trip, I was driving along and this song came on. The lyrics struck me and told the story of this project. I would like to suggest readers play while viewing the work
Birchwood Resort is located in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, also known as the Poconos. The resort was for couples only and like a cruise on land. On the resort were private cottages along ponds, foot paths leading you through the property, an indoor pool, bowling alley, cross-country ski area, roller skating rink, and nighttime entertainment.
I grew up 10 miles from the resort and worked there for a bit in my late teens. On July 4, 2014 my friend who inspired this trip, met up with me to experience Birchwood as it is now.
Outside the resort, I captured the entrance, the main lodge, and some of the cottages that used to be alive with employees and guests.
Why I love this type of abandonment is beyond me, but I am absolutely fascinated by ghost towns, and this happened to have a personal history for me. The wooden doors and fences that once stood tall are now rotted and mangled, and the cottages are covered in moss and ivy.
This is the front desk, where I worked in the late ‘90s. I had a lot of fun at this job. I got to work with some great people and meet some interesting characters.
Everything is covered in dust now, but there are still stories to be told.
This is Claude. He was the maintenance man when I worked at Birchwood and now he’s security. Notice the gun on his right hip. He told Mom and I that kids have broken into the buildings so many times that the local police told him he could shoot them, but not shoot to kill. I believe he’s the one who wrote the message in dust on the coffee table.
This desk tells its own story. It’s as if one day the crew just stood up and walked away. There is even a jar of peanut butter on the desk from that fateful day.
I captured a closer view of the chalkboard, which had notes from 2003.
My friend worked in the activities area, so it was fun to capture him in a place that was also a part of his history. There were still bowling shoes and skates scattered around the rooms. We didn’t touch anything or move anything into better light. The photographs below are exactly what we saw and it just so happens that most things were in the perfect natural light.
An aerial view looking west at the ramp & hangar at Birchwood Pocono, showing over 2-dozen light aircraft parked on the ramp. The photo was on the cover of the 10/87 issue of New England Weekend Flyers (courtesy of Jay Friedman).
A 1960s photo (courtesy of Don Hamilton) of Don & his wife & Wally Hoffman, in front of a Piper Apache painted in Birchwood markings. Source
I held onto this personal project for quite some time before sharing. Mainly because a few months after I was there police ended a nearly seven-week manhunt at Birchwood. The man they were looking for was found to be hiding in the airport hanger. The one place I didn’t bring my camera. Lesson learned. The new owners of the resort are planning to renovate and reopen in the coming years.
I’m glad I got to capture it in its original state while I still could.