What’s your ideal honeymoon spot? Perhaps it’s the Caribbean and its white sand beaches. Maybe Europe for its culture and foodie indulgences. Starting in the 1940s, surprisingly, the go-to destination was the Poconos in Pennsylvania and its illustrious resorts. And although this empire of love is no longer such, urban explorers can still tiptoe through the relics of former love hotels like the Penn Hills Resort.
The Poconos— then known for its world class ski and theatre scene— was an attractive option for newlyweds looking for an escape after World War II. At that time, the concept of honeymoons for two had become trendy and sex was considered less taboo. Thus, the Poconos found its market and a slew of themed love hotels were built. The resorts catered to all things romantic: suggestively-shaped beds, vinyl, shag carpeting, and wall-to-wall mirrors. Commercials broadcasted in New York City advertised the Poconos as the “honeymoon capital of the world,” a name which stuck well into the 60s.
Image of Penn Hills Resort circa 1970’s via Wikipedia Commons
The Penn Hills Resort was merely one of the many complexes dotting the Poconos in the honeymoon heyday. Its 500 acres opened in 1944 and included a golf course, ice skating rink, ski resort, and wedding bell shaped pool. It permanently closed in 2009 when its owner, Frances Poalillo, died at the respectable age of 102. He left behind a pile of back taxes and unpaid checks to his employees.
The wedding bell shaped pool
In the 1990s and 2000s, the love resorts of the Poconos were suffering in general. Bookings declined, upkeep costs exceeded revenue, and visitors turned to more modern options. Penn Hills Resort is not alone in its abandonment as most of the other love resorts have either closed down or reinvented themselves. Some— for years— have been slated for demolition. Not all the romance is gone though. You can still live out a tacky fantasy at Cove Haven Resort (the origin of the heart shaped tub), complete with a 7-foot champagne hot tub plopped right in the middle of your suite.
Visitors these days won’t find any of the retro glitz and glamor that was once associated with Penn Hills Resort. The pool is a green murky mass with random pieces of furniture stirred in for good measure. Most of the red heart shaped tubs have been cast from their slashed rooms. The mirrors are in pieces, insulation pulled from the walls, and the usual graffiti abounds.
Fires destroyed a few areas of the Penn Hills Resort and it has garnered a somewhat bad reputation. Cop killer and FBI Most Wanted Eric Frein once hid out at Penn Hills Resort, one of his several hideouts, as his manhunt ensued. It is rumored that Eric wrote out his manifesto on the walls. Wherever they are, it would be difficult to differentiate between them and the rest of ominous words scribbled on doors and walls.
The Penn Hills Resort straddles a busy road in the Poconos but makes for an intriguing stroll, if only for the history lesson.
Looking to explore abandoned places within New York City? Join us for this weekend’s tours of the Abandoned Hospitals on Ellis Island, where you’ll don a hard hat and go off-limits in the historic site – even to places open only exclusively to Untapped Cities: