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Afton Mountain: A Modern Ruin

The cluster of decaying motel and restaurant buildings on Afton Mountain on May 19, 2011.Those who have followed The Schumin Web over the last decade have seen my coverage of the cluster of defunct businesses on Afton Mountain.  I first covered this cluster of decaying buildings in a 2003 photo set called Afton Mountain: Victim of Progress.  At that time, the only businesses in operation were a tourist information center, a gas station and convenience store, and The Inn At Afton.  I concluded at that time that the reason that many of the businesses on the mountain failed was Interstate 64, which blocked view of most of these buildings from the roadway.  I later covered the destruction of the Skyline Parkway Motel by fire in 2004, and its subsequent demolition in 2007.

On May 19, 2011, nearly eight years after I made the original photo set, I visited the cluster of defunct businesses on Afton Mountain again, and took new photos of the site.  Many of the buildings that I had given coverage to in 2003 were gone, such as the Skyline Parkway Motel and outlying guest buildings, the Skyline Parkway Motor Court’s gate lodge, and two Skyline Parkway Motor Court guest buildings.  The convenience store had closed, and the tourist information center had moved to a portable building near The Inn At Afton.  The Inn at Afton itself continued, though at the time of photography, its large sign was missing, having been destroyed during a windstorm.

My take after doing the new photo set was that while progress may have done the businesses in, neglect and vandalism in the process of finishing the remaining buildings off.  Roofs were decaying, mold had set in, glass was broken, and many had left their mark on the property via graffiti.  The future of these buildings is certainly demolition, but whether the demolition comes at the hand of man or nature remains to be seen.  Redevelopment of the entire property has been discussed for years, but progress towards that goal has been slow.  My opinion now, as in 2006 when I was interviewed on the subject, is that I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Howard Johnson’s restaurant on Afton Mountain, in operation from 1948 to 1998, is still the most intact of the abandoned structures on the mountain.  However, the sign, fully intact in 2003, is now completely bare, though the “WELCOME” message beneath survives.  The restaurant, which had a complete Howard Johnson’s cupola in 2003, was shorn of the cupola by 2008.  Additionally, the shrubbery around the building was noticeably larger than it was in 2003, following eight years with little to no maintenance.

Empty roadside sign. Howard Johnson's restaurant, without its cupola
Opening into a basement or crawlspace beneath the main level of the restaurant.
"WELCOME" message on the sign, still intact 13 years after the restaurant closed. Candy dispensing machines, likely untouched since the restaurant's closure in 1998. Note the faded colors of the candies contained within.
Howard Johnson's restaurant building, minus the cupola.

Following the Skyline Parkway Motel’s destruction by fire in 2004 and 2007 demolition, the site has been slowly returning to nature, as plants have grown over the buildings’ former site.  Four years after the demolition, the only evidence now that there was once something there is the message sign at the front of the property, a rusted tank in the ground, and the road around the property.

The message sign in front of the property, beginning to be covered by vines. The site of the now-demolished cabins.
The site of the main building, with the rusted tank embedded in the ground.

The Afton Mountain Convenience Store had sold its last gallon of gasoline, having closed by the fall of 2008.  The store had sold gasoline under the Chevron, Pure, and Woco brands over the years.  Since closing, the building has been emptied, the signage has been removed, and the gas pumps, and likely also the underground tanks, have been removed.  There was evidence that people had been living in the building in the relatively recent past, as I found some bedding materials in the main room.

The Afton Mountain Convenience Store, closed since at least 2008. Afton Mountain Convenience Store interior
Afton Mountain Convenience Store interior
Broken glass, Afton Mountain Convenience Store Former Chevron sign. A remnant of the Woco logo, the final brand of gasoline sold, is still in the sign frame.
Glass held in place only by the credit card logo sticker

The remains of the Skyline Parkway Motor Court were probably in the worst condition of all of the buildings.  The buildings as they were when the property closed appeared to have been constructed at different times.  The last building to close held the tourist information center.  While the tourist information center was in operation in the building, a row of abandoned motel rooms was located a floor above them.  In 2003, these abandoned motel rooms were closed off with the curtains closed.  By 2011, these rooms were wide open.  The curtains were gone, the doors were gone, and the roof was in a severe state of decay, which took its toll on the rooms.

Abandoned motel rooms above the old tourist information center. Note the missing section of ceiling on the overhang. Large hole in the roof
Abandoned motel rooms above the old tourist information center. Note the hole in the roof.
Patch of light on the floor of one of the abandoned motel rooms, coming through a large hole in the roof. Abandoned motel room showing extensive damage.
Peeling paint over wood paneling.
Hole in the ceiling from water damage. Abandoned motel room with a large section of wallboard missing.
Peeling paint on the exterior of the abandoned motel rooms, showing the original yellow color.
Debris from a collapsed ceiling. Debris from various collapsed structures on the floor.
Debris and mold growth on the carpet.

The oldest remaining section of the Skyline Parkway Motor Court appeared to be a row of one-story buildings attached to the aforementioned row of motel rooms.  Due to time considerations in 2003, I never visited these buildings up close, only photographing them from a distance.  At that time, there was a large hole in the roof of one of the buildings from an arson fire set by firefighters from nearby Dooms a year or so prior.  Additionally, there was a row of equipment and a large Chevron sign in front of these buildings in 2003.  This equipment was gone by 2011.  I was surprised to see the extent of the damage to this building, not only from the fire (which was never repaired), but also from nature following the fire damage.

Vines grow up the side of the building. Vines grow up the side of the building. What appears to be smoke damage is visible over the archway.
Broken mirror glass in front of the entrance to one of the guest rooms.
Interior of one guest room, showing extensive fire damage. Interior of one guest room, showing extensive fire damage.
Interior of one guest room, showing extensive fire damage.
In another room with extensive fire damage, a tree grows up from the floor. Hole in the roof over charred timbers, most likely from fire damage.
In another room with extensive fire damage, a tree grows up from the floor.
Exterior of guest room buildings. Extensive damage, likely from fire, in a guest room.
Debris on the floor of another guest room.

Another guest building, which I didn’t really cover in 2003 other than a photo taken in passing, has been completely demolished.  In this case, the building’s aboveground structure has been demolished, leaving floor remnants, and exposing whatever underground spaces were beneath the guest rooms.  Some debris from the demolition remained on site.

Remains of a demolished guest building. Remains of a demolished guest building.
Debris following demolition of a guest building.
Remains of a demolished guest building. Neighboring buildings as seen from the demolished guest building.
Remains of a demolished guest building.

Behind the above-described guest buildings was a second row of guest buildings.  Originally there were two sets of guest buildings.  The building that I photographed somewhat up close in 2003 had been demolished by 2011.  There was some evidence in a 2008 photo that I published as part of a Journal entry that the building was being prepped for demolition in late 2008.  The second building in this row was still standing.  The most notable feature of this building in 2011 was the amount of graffiti on it.  I only took one photo of the building in 2003, but in all of the views of the building that I could find in 2003 and 2008, I found that the building was free of graffiti through at least 2008.  I don’t know more specifically when it was covered with graffiti, except that it happened some time between November 2008 and May 2011.

 Guest building covered in graffiti. Guest building covered in graffiti.
A curtain blows in the wind in one of the abandoned guest rooms.
Guest building covered in graffiti.  Guest building covered in graffiti.
Guest building covered in graffiti.
 Guest building covered in graffiti. Broken glass litters the steps up to the guest rooms.
View down the side of the guest building.

The Inn At Afton, a Holiday Inn until the mid 1990s, still survived as a going concern in 2011, though it was somewhat difficult to ascertain this at first glance.  According to staff at the facility, the large sign was in a state of disrepair due to damage that occurred during a windstorm.  The sign had been replaced by mid 2012.  The buildings appeared in rough shape, though they had received some maintenance in the last several years, including a new fire alarm system.

Empty sign frame following the destruction of the original sign during a windstorm. Main guest building at The Inn At Afton.
Roadside sign near the Afton Mountain Convenience Store.

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