Twenty years ago, a newlywed couple would have had to wait weeks, even months, to book one of the sultry suites at the “Paradise of Pocono Pleasure,” better known as Penn Hills Resort.
Upon wandering one spontaneous Sunday morning I happen to stumble across this deceased honeymoon hideaway. Let me be the first to tell you…the honeymoon is over.
Although now dilapidated and badly vandalized, I can’t help but feel the energy that this vacation spot surely once had as I walk up the creaking steps to the first love bungalow I see. Before I step inside, from my perch I notice a perfect view of the entire facility and close my eyes. This is the type of place I can imagine my grandparents sneaking away to for the weekend, tennis rackets in one hand, mimosas in the other.
The room is covered with debris and graffiti, but I can still smell the 1970’s. The gaudy furniture is battered, but surprisingly it’s still there and mostly intact. The heart shaped hot tub in a bathroom complete with wall-to-wall shag carpeting and a rotating bed surrounded by a sea of mirrors, now cracked and broken, were once amenities that made Penn Hills the premier getaway for Honeymooners and romance-seekers.
I am nostalgic as I walk aimlessly around the abandoned buildings. Something catches my eye: a series of geometric shaped light fixtures, each square reflecting an array of colors in the Pocono sun. (I’ve since found out that those light fixtures were brought in from the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, NY, a still beautiful and distinctive piece of American history shimmering in the ruins of the broken-down love nest.)
A swimming pool in the shape of a giant wedding bell somehow outdoes the heart-shaped Jacuzzi and serves as the centerpiece of the entire venue. I continue to wander, soaking up the view as the sun is rising and stumble upon two overgrown tennis courts and a raggedy basketball court. The wooden Penn Hills “Court Rules” sign still hangs on the vine covered gate.
Inside of the resort feels more like an eerie mystery movie plot than a “place of unbridled love,” as Penn Hills once proudly advertised. Beaten and worn coffee tables, cheap furniture and shabby TV-sets haphazardly stacked in corners of rooms are seriously outdated and in disarray. Holiday decor and glittery New Year’s Eve hats still cover the floor of the main dance hall (at one time Penn Hills Resort hosted the most popular NYE bash in the area). Paperwork is strewn all over the office floors; unissued paychecks, handwritten registration notes and a sea of endless files are covered in dirt. The dining hall floor is littered with daily menu specials and there are still salt and pepper shakers on the tables. A grand piano lays tipped over on the floor.
It’s as if everyone just up and vanished one day, leaving behind a ghostly feeling of unfinished business.
The thing is…everyone did up and vanish. Records indicate that when owner Frances Paolillo passed away at age 102, he owed the county over one million dollars in back taxes, not to mention that his employees never received their last paychecks. Penn Hills Resort died along with Frances Paolillo right then in 2009, though reviews on the resort clearly indicate its demise had been in the works for over a decade before it closed its doors.
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Penn Hills originated as a tavern in rural Stroud Township of Monroe County, PA in 1944. Frances, with the help of his wife and children, transformed their local bar into a 500-acre, 100-room premier vacation spot. Tennis courts, an archery field, swimming pools, Alpine ski mountain, an ice rink… just some of the reasons why in 1975 (at the height of its success) a couple would have to plan their getaway six months in advance.
The place might be a distant memory or a shabby burden to most, but I can somehow still feel the memory of newlyweds as they jump into the pool hand in hand, hear the sounds of a live entertainer playing an aging couple their wedding song as they dance cheek to cheek, and envision love-stricken Honeymooners gawking at the lavish amenities of their luxury suite. The honeymoon might be over, but the memories of Penn Hills Resort still linger in the Pocono air.
Photos Ashley Dunek