Next stop on what accidentally turned into my abandoned school tour of the South: Alderson Academy.
Originally, plans included asylums and abandoned amusement parks, but as I’ve come to find out, time is never on my side. Asylums have been converted into cheesy haunted houses for the Halloween season, and amusement parks have been taken over by crazy gun-wielding fanatics. Here today, shot tomorrow. The safer bet? An abandoned Baptist academy whose only guardian are two adorable trailer park dogs, one who is now my best friend. And for once, this place isn’t even rumored to be haunted (I checked!).
After gallivanting around the country for the last 6 months, I have a gigantic backlog of photos that need some sorting and a blog that needs updating. I recently performed in a burlesque show where the MC mentioned this site and my adventures during my intro. If that’s not a kick in the pants to update this thing, then I don’t know what is.
A couple of weekends ago I took another road trip down south to see what abandoned treasures awaited me. Two years ago I visited Thurmond, WV, which is one of the many New River Gorge ghost towns that surround the area. After researching the town and reading up on the history, I found out about the hilarious rivalry between Captain William Thurmond and Thomas Mckell, the founder of Glen Jean and the infamous Dun Glen Hotel. Even though Glen Jean is not really a ghost town, I really wanted to re-visit the town to see what this infamous den of vice had left. (If you missed it the first time around, you can read the Thurmond vs. Glen Jean rivalry here).
The Boyce Thompson Institute is one of less menacing places I’ve visited. Located in an barren industrial park in Yonkers, with an Applebee’s directly across the way, this abandoned botany institute has been left alone for years, with the city hoping that some derelict will burn it down so they do not have to pay money to either raze or develop it (or so I’ve been told). The institute was initially founded by copper magnate William Boyce Thompson. The land was purchased in the early 1900s with the intent of building a summer home upon it (His Alder Manor still sits across the street from the institute. This, however, was purchased and renovated, now a prominent wedding venue). In 1917, Thomspson went to Russia with the Red Cross – a mission sent by President Woodrow Wilson to keep Russia in World War I and to encourage the formation of democratic governments (all under the guise of a relief mission, of course). With the Tsarist Monarchy recently overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the city lay in a state of poverty. Citizens were deprived of the basic human necessities, living in the streets, and slowly starving to death as a revolution tore cities apart around them. Deeply moved by what he saw, Thompson returned with a new mission: to help the needy in his own home by finding a sustainable food supply – and thus set out to build a horticulture institute on his remaining land.