Print this Post

Western theme park now a crumbling ghost town

May 2018

In the Adirondack Mountains north of Albany, New York, families once flocked to Frontier Town, a Western theme park in the Town of North Hudsen, where costumed re-enactors would provide an interactive glimpse of American history.

Opened on Independence Day in 1952 by owner Arthur Bensen, visitors to the 267-acre park where could watch robbers ambushing trains and stagecoaches and engaging in shootouts with the Sheriff and his deputies and “hangings” of gunslingers. Ladies would demonstrate butter churning and yarn spinning, serving pea soup cooked over a fireplace in an iron kettle.

Bensen’s original vision for the park was more of a pioneer village, but it was changed to a Western village when appropriate costumes failed to arrive. Bensen headed back to New York City and all he could get was cowboy costumes.

The park consisted of things like log cabins, a church, a saloon, a mill, a jail, a music hall, a store selling Western clothing, horse stalls, animal enclosures and a rodeo ring with grandstands.

Families could ride around the park in stagecoaches and or a train.

At its height, up to 3, 000 cars from across the country could be found in the parking lot. The popularity of Frontier Town was a boon to North Hudsen, with numerous motels and even a grocery store opening nearby.

Frontier Town closed in 1998, a victim of things like changing entertainment tastes and other options for family vacations.

The opening of the Addrondack Northway highway in the 1960s that diverted travelers around the North Hudsen didn’t help either.

The closure of Frontier Town was devastating to the town of just 240 residents. All the motels and the grocery store ended up closing including the Frontier Town Motel, which was owned by Delafrange, the last owner of the park, who kept it open for a few years after the park itself closed.

The property saw several owners come and go until it was finally seized by Essex County in 2004 due to a delinquent tax bill of $318, 000. The stagecoaches, trains, tracks, buggies and covered wagons were sold at an auction held near the property.

In April 2018, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the ground-breaking an ambitious $25 million public/private project aimed at revitalizing North Hudsen and Frontier Town itself.

A campground, equestrian facility and day-use trails, along with a brewing facility for Paradox Brewery, are planned for the property, a part of Cuomo’s “Gateway to the Adirondacks” tourism hub.

Planners envision a network of trails for snowmobiling in the winter months and horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking in the summer.

Unfortunately, many of the old buildings are beyond repair and will have to be demolished.

Sources:  https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/18/nyregion/a-western-theme-park-turns-into-a-ghost-town.html, https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-groundbreaking-frontier-town-campground-and-paradox-brewery, http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-north-hudson-new-york-frontier-town.html, http://www.frontiertownfan.com/.


Update September 2021:

Frontier Town A-frame, closed down since 1988, has been completely renovated and re-opened as Frontier Town Gateway, a restaurant and trading post gift shop.  Owned by developer Muhammad “Mo” Ahmad, it was also destined to become a welcoming center to the Frontier Town Campground, Equestrian and Day Use Area, a state-owned and run campground with amenities such as a network of horse trails and “glamping” sites.  

While the campground is open for guests and riders, the theme park area is not part of this revitalization and the buildings remain crumbling ruins.

Sources:  Community celebrates opening of Frontier Town A-frame | Sun Community News NORTH HUDSON | The soaring Frontier Town A-frame, which has spent the last quarter century in a forlorn state of neglect, made a triumphant return Saturday, as its doors opened to a new life as a welcoming center to the South Side of the High Peaks. Frontier Town A-Frame: A new life for an iconic landmark (adirondackexplorer.org), Events | Frontier Town Gateway | North Hudson, New York promises for Frontier Town fall short (timesunion.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/western-theme-park-now-a-crumbling-ghost-town/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>