Frontier Town, located in North Hudson, NY, was well known both near and far. Any kid growing up in the 1950’s through the 70’s would have known about it and most certainly, hounded their parents until they got a chance to visit. Most likely some of the parents were equally excited to visit and join in the fun as well.
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Update 2022: Sadly, as depressing a site that the long dead Frontier Town once was, now a visit to the location is virtually unrecognizable. It is now a Campground, Equestrian and Day Use Area and looks very little to what it did in it’s glory days.
Back in those early decades, TV and movie westerns were very popular for both young and old alike. It would only make sense that a theme park based on the genre, would attract families from miles around. In 1951, Art Benson had a dream to build a western theme amusement park in the Adirondacks region of New York. With the added enticement of the nearby Schroon Lake, such a destination would easily entice vacationers of all ages. So it did, as it flourished and became extremely popular in the 60’s and 70’s. The video below is a great flashback to the glory days of Frontier Town.
Back in those times, every kid who watched Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman and all the other TV westerns also played “cowboys and Indians”, in just about every back yard in the USA. The chance to visit a western theme park would have been the dream of most any kid…especially if you were a young boy.
Frontier Town is now a ghost town
Unfortunately, I never did get to visit Frontier Town when I was a kid. We may have driven by it though and certainly would have known about it. You couldn’t miss the ads on local TV. Any kid who did get to visit the theme park definitely had bragging rights.
On a cool day in April 2015, I did get the chance to visit Frontier Town. Though I completely missed it during it’s heyday and even into the 1980’s and 90’s when it was sold and later revived (unsuccessfully), Frontier Town retained a certain fascination. I had discussed it with a friend of mine, Chad Abramovich (of the simply fantastic blog, Obscure Vermont). He had visited the abandoned property before, albeit during winter months when it was not quite so easy to get around and see everything. Needless to say, Chad was chomping at the bit for a chance to return and take some more photos of the long dead theme park. With me trudging along with a video camera, we managed to thoroughly document most of the remains of Frontier Town before it entirely decays into obscurity (pun intended Chad!).
Although I placed a teaser video on YouTube rather quickly after the trip last year, I finally had a chance to edit the footage correctly and can now present the full 40 minute version. After spending the day adding visual effects, sound bites and music snippets from old TV westerns and movies, I decided to scrap the overly produced video and just upload the basics, so here it is in glorious 1080p resolution. We tried to do as thorough of a trip as possible. Hope you enjoy it!
We actually picked the perfect day to hike around Frontier Town. It was a cool, Spring day and easy to walk around prior to any overgrown grass and pesky bugs. The only precautions to take would be to carefully consider the delicate condition of some of the buildings. Floors were rotten and many structures were caving in. A missed step or lack of attention could have resulted in a serious injury. Definitely no longer a “kid friendly” place to wander around in anymore. Those days are long gone indeed!
Walking around the long dead theme park grounds was an eerie experience, at best.
When entering some of the buildings you would constantly remain on guard for squatters or wild animals hiding in dark corners. You just never knew what you might encounter next. Chad was an unofficial expert at this sort of thing with his many “urban explorations” experience behind him. On the trip by car to North Hudson, NY he had shared many of his fascinating tales of just what can (and does) happen when you’re stomping around places that are generally off limits to the public. His stories of encounters with vicious dogs, unstable people with guns, wild animals and police, while conducting his urban postmortems would discourage even the most hardy, would-be explorers.
As you would walk around the long forgotten remains of Frontier Town, your mind conjures up images of what the place would have been like, back in a time when it was full of happy families and excitement. I could only imagine just how magical and wondrous this place might have been, when I was 8 or 9 years old. You could easily sense the ghost of it’s glorious past, lingering in the shadows and moss, with birds singing a bittersweet song of times gone by. Perhaps a wake up call to most people have as they grow older. Time moves on but not always for the better.
The rodeo has been over for years, time to go home…
Strolling around former boardwalks, arcades, snack bars and ice cream stands trying to imagine what they may have all looked like “back in the day”, was quite a challenge. A walk around the former rodeo area with it’s overgrown grass and decrepit grandstand were a bit depressing. All of the energy and happiness that had thrived here, now lay dormant and cold. Dead as a black hat villain on Boot Hill.
A final walk through the main parking area yielded only one “souvenir”, a worn out and ragged bumper sticker that proudly announced “The New Frontier Town Theme Park“. How ironic.