The Honeymoon Is Over, and This Is What It Looks Like When Love Slowly Fades Away
Nestled away in Pennsylvania, the Pocono Mountains open up to breathtakingly beautiful views consisting of rivers, mountains, and trees, which is exactly why romantic resort getaways started popping up in this region back in the early 1960s. In 1963, the heart-shaped jacuzzi was introduced at Caesars Cove Haven in Lakeville, Pennsylvania. It wasn't long until this latest novelty that caused couples to flock to the Poconos ultimately resulted in the region being coined the “Honeymoon Capital of the World." Since then, times have changed, and the honeymoon is over; this is what happens when love slowly fades over time.
I recently just returned from the Poconos to document the sad decline of some of what used to be the most popular resorts in the area that have since become empty and abandoned.
As I walked through several of the abandoned resorts, I was left somewhat heartbroken, asking myself more questions than I had answers. What happened to this romantic theme vacation destination in America? Was it outmaneuvered by more exotic honeymoon places?
My thoughts are rudely interrupted by the loud sound of my foot crushing part of a broken mirror adjacent to a heart-shaped hot tub. A dead flower rests on its ledge. The crushing noise echoes throughout the empty room. Everything is dead here. The romance is gone, and it's all kind of heartbreaking to see firsthand.
The Penn Hills Resort closed its doors in 2009, though it was already suffering for years before its demise. Many people assumed that the faded sign and abandoned structures were just another casualty of the economic collapse. The once-popular romantic getaway was slowly being abandoned by the same couples and vacationers who had made the Poconos the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” for decades.
When the owner, Frances Poalillo, failed to pay millions in back taxes, the resort closed for good. Ever since, the sprawling 60-plus acre plot located in Analomink, Pennsylvania, has been left to rot and be overrun by nature.
A walk inside is like walking into a time capsule back into the ‘70s, replete with shag carpeting and ceiling mirrors. Most rooms are equipped with heart-shaped beds, mattresses, and the aforementioned hot tubs. The pool is filled with murky, green water resembling something out of a horror movie.
To add to its eerie feel, 'cop killer' and one of FBI's Most Wanted, Eric Frein hid out in abandoned rooms and scribbled his manifestos on the walls. He was caught in 2014 as the suspect in the Pennsylvania State Police barracks attack. Watch video of the hotel room where Eric Frein was hiding below.
The Buck Hill Inn
The Buck Hill Inn could possibly be the most beautiful abandoned hotel I've ever seen. Built in 1929, at one time it boasted over 400 guest rooms of pure elegance. Buck Hill Falls is known for its natural beauty, each room with a great view of the Pocono mountains. The front entrance to the Buck Hill Inn is intimidating: an architectural marvel both hauntingly beautiful and inspiring.
The Summit Resort, a couples and honeymoon escape located in Tannersville, closed in 2002. The resort lobby is filled with large dead trees slumping over debris and miscellaneous hotel furniture. A large clock still hangs on the wall behind the front desk where guests would check in. The chandeliers are vintage and accompany the ‘70s wallpaper and other woodwork along the main hallways. Through a large door to the right, a large ballroom awaits, full of tables and chairs that have been knocked over. One table still has a bottle of wine and a few wine glasses on it. The bar is glowing red, shrouded in darkness with its dusty black bar stools seemingly untouched, as if people just up and left in a hurry.
The sprawling site has several abandoned small cabins throughout the area that were built along the river. Each room is equipped with ‘1970s design layouts, from vintage fireplaces and lamps to dated phones and textiles.
Also located in the Pocono Mountains is the deserted Unity House hotel, which suffered a different kind of heart ache over the years.
Originally built as a lavish summer resort hotel for German-speaking Jews, it flourished until World War I, when anti-German hysteria pressured the owner to sell the resort. It would later become a worker resort during a time when the American labor movement was enjoying a new continuity with unprecedented legitimacy.
For a good part of the twentieth century, the Unity House provided relaxation, education, and entertainment to thousands of blue-collar Americans.
It's motto, "a promise of a better day and our ability to bring that day," helped the Unity House thrive during the 1920s. Here, union members and their families enjoyed a broad range of dramatic performances, concerts, and lectures presented by college professors and union leaders. It was forced to close its doors in 1998 from lack of patronage. As I walk around the sprawling site I encounter several decaying structures, which are all eerie remnants of the past. Today, the Unity House is a shell of its former self.
The 1990s heralded an era of change to the Honeymoon Capital of the World, and several well-known honeymoon resorts closed; however, not all resorts gave up hope. These resorts made significant improvements to their properties. The Cove Haven Entertainment Resorts is one of those that operates three successful resorts in the Poconos.
Since it was the heart-shaped hot tub introduced by the Cove Haven Resort that started this honeymoon craze in the Poconos in the first place, I thought it appropriate to circle back to the Cove Entertainment properties to give me more clarity regarding why the Honeymoon Capital of the World has declined so drastically in recent years.
Cove Entertainment operates three resorts in the area: Cove Haven (located in Lakeville), Pocono Palace (located in East Stroudsburg), and Paradise Stream (located in Mount Pocono). Pocono Palace was purchased in 1976. It had existed as a separate resort prior to becoming part of the Cove Haven family (back then, the Caesars brand). The Arena was then added onto the building to provide more space more games and activities for guests, greatly expanding the main building.
I spoke to the PR Coordinator for the Cove Haven Entertainment Resorts, Kyle Kuczma, to get some insight as to why he believes the region has changed over the years.
"I believe growing competition with cruises, tropical tourism, and alternate vacation destinations contributed to this prior to the 2008 recession. Of course, the recession in 2008 didn’t help (you’ll see that Penn Hills closed in 2009). The Poconos was also home to numerous romantic destinations -- you could perhaps blame oversaturation of a niche product," says Kyle Kuczma.
Despite their recent decline, whatever the Cove Entertain Resorts are doing now, it's working. All three resorts have shown sustainability that has allowed them to flourish during hard times and, according to Kuczma, the reason is connected to one of their fundamental values.
"Our business runs on one of the greatest human resources of all -- love. People are always in love. People are always finding love. They have crushes, strong feelings, and long for romance and to continually grow their romance. While you could spend time with your significant other anywhere in the Poconos, no other resort puts the extra emphasis on romance the way our resorts do.”
During my visit to the Poconos, I stayed at the Pocono Palace resort, and my stay was a great experience. The resort showed tremendous hospitality, offered amazing food, and the rooms were absolutely stunning. The room was equipped with their own private heart-shaped pool, a large champagne glass shaped jacuzzi, mood lighting, and even a starlit ceiling above the heart-shaped bed. The room was beautifully sprinkled with candles and rose pedals that led to the upstairs bedroom.
I spent my days documenting the shuttered romantic resorts that dot the Pocono region as they lie in absolute ruins while enjoying my nights at the thriving Pocono Palace. It was a surreal experience to say the least, and as I left to head back home, I passed by the entry sign into the Pocono Palace that read, "You are entering the Land of Love." They were right.