The Tacky Luxury of the Poconos
Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of couples spent their honeymoon here. In the Poconos of the '70s and '80s, shag carpeting, mirrored walls, personal pools, and intimate fireplaces were the rage. Now photographers have captured these sensual details in all their mildewed decrepitude.
The first resort hotel in the Poconos was built in the Delaware Water Gap in 1829. Tourism blossomed after the Civil War (that would be after 1865 for you history-challenged folks). The Poconos, only a few hours away from New York and Philadelphia by rail, were a great place to vacation for city dwellers. Lush mountains, fresh air, and pretty lakes offered picturesque views and relaxing down time. Resorts from this period included the Kittatinny, Water Gap House, Montanesca and Buck Hill Inn. Of these, only Buck Hill is still standing.
After World War II, the invasion of the honeymooners began, starting with GIs and their sweethearts. In the late '50s and '60s, highways made it even easier to escape to Pocono resorts. Not only was it a happening place for happy honeymooners, but skiers began to hit the slopes in the Pocono Mountains.
During the '60s, one of the Pocono resorts (the Caesars Cove Haven, which still exists) brought happy honeymooners the heart-shaped bathtub, as seen by many in Life Magazine. Below is a fine example from one of the region's abandoned resorts.
Heart-shaped tubs took over the Pocono honeymoon suites, along with champagne-glass-shaped elevated Jacuzzis (some of which are still in use; see video at end).
Unfortunately, I have yet to find an abandoned resort with a champagne-glass tub. It is my life goal to photograph one. It is also my dream to secure a red heart-shaped tub and turn it into a goldfish pond in my flower bed.
In the '70s Pocono resorts became even tackier. Honeymooners enjoyed carpeted walls, mirrored ceilings, crazy couches, lamps on chains, and sink tops in the shape of hearts. But in the '80s these resorts began to look dated. Business dropped off, perhaps as a result of shorter vacations and a switch to suburban development. By the '90s, many of the resorts were closing.
Mom Enjoyed Her Honeymoon at Pocono Gardens
My mother had spent her honeymoon with my stepdad at the Pocono Gardens Lodge. It was a host to villas, personal pools, heart shaped tubs, a lake, an indoor pool and outdoor pool. This resort was razed a few years ago. I was sad to see it go.
Garment Workers Needed Fun Too
One interesting place in the Pocono Mountains was Unity House (called White Pines by some). The International Ladies Garment Workers Union owned this 655-acre resort, which offered union members a great summer getaway for about 70 years.
Many of the workers came from New York, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Unity House had a state-of-the-art theater, cabins, and a little disco and bar on the lake. Factory closures led to serious declines in the number of union vacationers, and the resort had to close its doors around 1990.
Recently someone wrote a comment saying they would love to go and tag Unity House. Well, Mr. Tagger, let me inform you that this place has security and a caretaker, and the road is blocked. If you're reading my articles with the intent of going and destroying these places, well, then, you have issues. I am simply sharing histories of places that have been forgotten.
A Playground to Explore—While It Lasts
The Poconos have seen a number of great resorts come and go. Some honeymoon havens remain. More resorts are being built, and there is also now a casino.
I have had so much fun exploring the abandoned resorts of the Poconos. There is always some awesome surprise of crazy tackiness. For explorers like myself, the region is like a playground where we can see old resorts before they are torn down.
But be warned; don’t go traipsing around Buck Hill. It has security, they don’t mess around, and the fine isn’t cheap!
Champagne-Glass Jacuzzi (Not Abandoned)
Lori M. on February 12, 2020:
My husband and I spent our honeymoon at Poconos Gardens Lodge in May, 1991. At that time business was not doing so good. But we still had lots of fun. Horseback, the indoor pool was great. It was a beautiful place. We did a lot of fun activities. Sad to see it go.
Rin on April 14, 2019:
I lived in the Poconos from 1966 to 1978, worked my way through college mainly at Pocono Manor Inn. My whole family worked there at one time or another- my brothers caddied, my dad did carpentry work, my mother was a hostess in the dining room that dined 600 guests. I worked in different departments such as the Golf Club Restaurant, the Ski Lodge,the Carriage House, the main dining room, Manor Grille, in the direct mail department, the Cocktail Lounge and hostess at coffee hour. I have such fond memories of those days- we lived up the road from the Manor. We did not need to lock our doors, the neighbors were good folks and life was laid back- we worked hard but we also relaxed too. I went to college with the son of Pocono Gardens Lodge which at that time was still inviting couples to honeymoon. I also worked part time at Buck Hill Inn and feel sad when I compare the Inn in its heyday and now in its abandoned state. The wonderful memories of the Poconos will always remain with me.
Jerry on April 16, 2018:
Destroying unity house?...impossible, it’s one big ball of stinky mold
Hunter jones on December 02, 2017:
How would one go about getting to one od these places?
Cindy in NYC on November 18, 2017:
My old friends Jim and Diana married, and went on their honeymoon in the Poconos in the late 1970's. They actually had the bellboy take a Polaroid (!!) of them, in one of those kitschy champagne glass bathtubs. Their marriage, troubled from the start (it may have had something to do with that tub?) ended a few years later. Oh, how I'd love to have kept that foto of them!! LOL
Kathleen on January 22, 2017:
Thank you for your article about the Abandon honeymoon resorts, I love reading about the past and seeing the pictures of what once was, thank you
Dawncap on January 12, 2017:
Does anyone know how to legally get into the Birchwood for exploring? My daughter is studying to be a photographer and would love to explore and take pictures for a portfolio. Please let me know if anyone knows of how to contact someone might be able to get us into the place legally
Bill mcfadden on January 03, 2017:
I used to go to Starlet Lodge in Canadenses in the 60's & would sneak into Buck Hill . I drove thru there about 8 years ago to reminisce. I also bought a house in Tobyhanna but sold it a couple years ago.
Mary Martin on January 01, 2017:
who had the heart shaped bathtubs first, Mount Airy or ceasers
Debi on November 26, 2016:
We stayed at Fernwood, October 1975. Little cabin, great club with a comedian..singer Red something.
Kevin f ryan on November 03, 2016:
My wife and i went therr for our honeymoon may 27th 1973. , we had a little cottage with a round bed and a shower stall.
Susan Kulick on October 30, 2016:
The Buck Hill Inn is days away from being demolished. It is currently totally fenced in and there is construction equipment on scene. It's very sad, but the building is in deplorable condition and a real eyesore for the folks that live by it. Very sad.
Cathy Vaughan on October 28, 2016:
As I was saying it was a blast hanging out at these resorts with all the people I met on vacation in the poconos. Although these places are a thing of the past it was a part of my life I will never forget.
Cathy Vaughan on October 28, 2016:
I went on vacation in the pocono every year in the 60's. It was the kind of fun you use to have. At 15 years old a bunch of us would visit pocono gardens to hang out and we even had the nerve to use the pool at my airy lodge and sneak into the nightclub even though we weren't staying at these pl
Traci on October 21, 2016:
This is awesome! I've have to each and everyone of these places and growing up in the Poconos was able to see all of them in their prime. When I was younger, my friends and I all thought Birchwood was haunted, especially when it was foggy and you had to drive down that road by the lake. Definitely some awesome photography. If you've never been, Bushkill falls is another absolutely amazing site and even though the hotel isn't in use anymore it would be awesome to photograph. Probably about ten years ago, they did a haunted house there but I don't think that is still going on. Good luck on your jouneys!
Paul on October 07, 2016:
We stayed at Brookdale for our honeymoon in '94. Heard that it closed a while ago. Always was curious if anything ever happened to that place or if it was just left and abandoned. Anyone know?
laurel138 on September 15, 2016:
@local explorer I would absolutely love to photograph Birchwood!! I was there in the spring and took photos from the road, we spoke to the caretaker (I assume he was that, anyway) and he seemed pretty nice. If you read this post I'd love to contact you for access to these places!!
joyce nierman on July 18, 2016:
AH.......Birchwood in the Poconos!!! I will never forget this Resort. My husband Bob and I spent our Honeymoon in 1986 and every New Years and, at least, one week in the Summer, in Chalet # 1. My husband passed in 1989, however, but the memories we collected in Birchwood will last for as long as I shall live. It does sadden me to know that Birchwood, as we knew it, no longer exists. At the same time, I feel that we were lucky to have experienced such wonderful unforgettable moments and to have pictures to prove it.
marylu22 on June 25, 2016:
Birchwood, now under C. Castle Group has owned the property since 2008 and they are proposing to replace the old resort with the new Spa Castle Grand Resort. It would include a 150 room hotel, nearly 300 unit condominium, spa, meeting center, and a private water park.
Iceman 44 on May 08, 2016:
Local explorer can you e-mail me my email is, firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to get into birchwood legally.
Martha on February 14, 2016:
My hubby and I honeymooned at Honeymoon Haven in 1967 and so wanted to go back for our 50th anniversary next year, but since it's no longer there, that's not possible. Darn, it would have been great to relive 50 years ago.
Local explorer on February 12, 2016:
If anyone still watches this video & read the comments, I want to update you about Birchwood & Penn Hills. Friends of my son are security for Birchwood. I can update any photos or videos for you I have access to the place. It makes me sick to see how people have destroyed these abandon places of history. Exploring and trying to save a piece of history on video is one thing, spray painting wall and smashing things is down right disrespectful. Birchwood is being set up to be demolished. In the last 5+ the buildings have been crumbling at an exceeding rate. Penn Hill's is being negotiated right now at being rebuilt as close as possible to the original state. I also have access to this property as well. As far as Buck Hill goes, it is true that security does not play games. I am currently working on a contact to get access to this building to get photos. I have also been in and worked at the old Pocono Palace & Strickland/Mt Airy Lodge back in the 80's. All of which are gone. Maybe I should gather old acquiescence for photos and stories. I do have pics of other old resorts to share somewhere. Happy Exploring ! Don't Leave a Footprint :)
Beverly Ann and Ray on December 22, 2015:
We spent our honeymoon at Birchwood's in August 1966. I surprised my husband and booked the same cottage for our 25th in 1991 ! I was hoping to go back for just a weekend to celebrate our 50th this year (2016), but sadly it is gone. When we went in 1991, I couldn't believe the changes. It just wasn't the same, but I did take pictures of the exact poses in the same places we had taken photos in '66. They offered horse back riding, bow and arrow lessons, everyone had a picture taken on the covered bridge kissing. The friends we met lasted for years, although many of the marriages did not. We're still in touch with one of the gals (divorced) that we made good friends with and visited each other and vacationed a couple of times together. Do you all remember the entire group photo that was taken outside the red building where the ice cream shop was, the candle making and bowling alley was? The dressing up in old swimming costumes and walking a greased log across the pool? I still have all the photos and the ones taken 25 yrs later. That was a very special place, during a very special era. Wouldn't swap it for anything. I do miss the innocence of those days. And here we are nearly 50 years later. August 13, 1966 Ahh, memories!
Doug and Gail on October 30, 2015:
As a 1967 honeymooner at Birchwood Resort, could you please tell me if the place is still intact or has C.Castle begun bull dozing it yet?
Frank and Terry on September 10, 2015:
my (Frank) in laws (Terrys parents) honeymooned there in 64. We sent them back on their 25th anniv in 89. It closed 2 years later.
Margie Truman on May 29, 2015:
My husband and I started going to Birchwood in December 1991 for our 20th anniversary and looked forward to going back each year in December. The resort was decorated for Christmas and when we walked to the dining room for dinner it was absolutely beautiful the resort put me in the mood for the holidays. The accomadations included private Chalet with fireplace queen size 4 poster bed a hot tub and some of the rooms had a sauna in them breakfast and dinner was included and if you walked away hungry it was your problem. If you did not show up for a meal they would call the room to check if you were okay to see if you were coming to the dining room. The dining room was absolutely beautiful they had a piano player and the atmosphere was beyond words. They had a photographer come in and you could have a picture taken to remember for all time. We had a wonderful waitress that we became friends with her name was Vicki and I will always remember her as long as I live. The staff at Birchwood was outstanding you felt like you were home. We have wonderful memories from our stay there till they closed in 2001.
Sue Kulick on November 11, 2014:
Some photos from yesterday at Birchwood.
Bonnie J Putney on November 10, 2014:
We just had our 41st anniversary this November and we spent a week at Birchwood also. It is so sad to think of the buildings in ruin. I remember also the candlemaking, the little paddle boats on the lake, a canopy bed, a show with a hypnotist, and of course, lots of good food. We played basketball. I also remember the archery and taking a ride in an airplane. It was a small plane that bounced around a lot in the air pockets. My husband had lots of fun taking pictures of me screaming all the way. Funny thing was the film was not loaded correctly in the camera - so he did not get to show off the pictures of me screaming. Happy memories, I do not think I want to see the ruins of Birchwood, maybe other resorts, but not Birchwood. I want to remember it as it was.
Debbie Carroll on October 31, 2014:
Seeing Birchwood in the news tonight reminded me of our honeymoon there 37 years ago. It was so nice. We had a cabin (Chalet they called it). I don't remember it having a kitchen, but it had a big 4 poster canoly bed, fireplace open from living room to bedroom, but I don't think there was a heart shaped tub. There was an art sale, candle making, water skiing and evening entertainment and games. We won a bottle of win in the Newlywed Game. I also remember something about lots of food. My husband had a banana split with something like 20+ scoops of different ice creams. Nice memories of it. Sad to see it in the current condition Would have loved to go back for our 40th anniversary.
Carol L Henderson from New Florence, Pennsylvania on October 31, 2014:
The Birchwood resort is where “alleged” state police murderer Eric Frien was captured last night. He murdered one state trooper and severely wounded another and has been hiding as a fugitive in the woods and abandon resorts for nearly two months. He was spotted crossing the field at the resort by Federal Marshals on a routine sweep of the resort and arrested without incident. Law enforcement found his guns and supplies in the abandon airplane hangar of the resort. Thank you to Pennsylvania and Federal law enforcement for finding this killer.
work at birchwood on October 30, 2014:
I worked at Birchwood when I was in high school with my mother I was 15 at that time was in 1975 my first paycheck for 2 weeks was about $ 90.00 worked week-end and holidays love working there I helped clean rooms nice a place...
sharontompkins on October 02, 2014:
I have been searching for Birchwood. I was hoping my husband and I would be able to return for our 50th wedding anniversary in 2 years! We had a wonderful time there.
Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on September 10, 2014:
It's always sad to see the old places get demolished. There is no coming back from that. Each time I see one gone I hope someone took the time to get photographs of it.
15 year anniversary on May 28, 2014:
My husband and I honeymooned there in 1999.
abandoned tamiment on May 01, 2014:
Sugar bowl on April 29, 2014:
I use to drive around birchwood looking for deer and bear and I use to see a strange looking man lurking around there right before dark I think he was a ghost he wore coveralls and an old baseball hat and he had a long beard and I would see him all the time after birchwood closed down so I would stay away from there
Bruce-Lisa on April 27, 2014:
My husband and I honeymooned at Birchwood almost forty years ago come this May. We had our own two-story unit for our stay. The unit had the sitting area downstairs with a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom and bath. We used the paddle boats on the pond; practiced our archery at the range; sat in the Red Baron lounge and listened to live music; took a plane ride from the attached airfield; purchased a "Cantrell" oil painting at a live auction that was held for the honeymooners; played mini golf, and bowled in the on site lanes. We had a great time starting out our lives together there, and we're enjoying reminiscing now.
Terri Wolf on April 23, 2014:
My friends and I love to visit old abandoned properties. Is there anyone to contact for permission to take pictures at Unity House or the other resorts. If you ever get a chance to go to Louisville Ky go to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. They have ghost hunting lots of history! Check out the web site! We are a group of RN's and love old hospitals!
Rodger Stroud on March 30, 2014:
Sue Kulick, My wife honeymooned at Birchwood in late March 1968 and stayed in one of the 2 story units around the lake. It did have a heart shaped tub but as I remember only some units offered the heart shaped tubs, the bedroom was upstairs but I can't recall if the tub was up or down. Both the bedroom and living room had sliding glass doors that looked out over the lake. They also had a covered bridge that was part of the path that we would take walks around the lake. I do remember the pool and the dining room and the food was like eating at home. It's a shame that if had to end up the way it has many fond memories of that week.
Kim Ten Broeck on March 26, 2014:
Came to the poconos back in 1975 and stayed at Stricklands it was beautiful and homey till it was sold to mt airy lodge. we then would come on a regular basis and fell in love with Birchwood It was wonderful and cozy,food was wonderful We looked forward to seeing Ingrid and Aldo who always made our stay special. Today we drove thru Birchwood and it made me so sad to see the resort decaying and abandoned. I can't believe it is just sitting there and decaying ! Would love to hear from people who loved birchwood as much as we did.
katrina0604 on March 21, 2014:
Wow, you were quick to reply to my post. Yep, sounds like you have hit the nail on the head. I am going to check out your FB Page. Sad that so many places, which people have fond memories of, just fade away. Will let you know if the Lake House looks like it. I hope you can get into Birchwood, especially if it pans out to be the place. When you do and if it is so, it would be great if I could get some pics of it. Please keep me posted.
Sue Kulick on March 17, 2014:
Hi Katrina! Could it have been Birchwood Resort? Birchwood was like a small village and was definitely family owned. The cabins were in a semi-circle around the lake, and the country dining room sounds a lot like Birchwood. It had an airstrip attached to it if that is any help. The other possibility is Mountain Lake House, but the cabins were not around the lake. Both resorts are closed. Birchwood was sold to a foreign company that wanted to make a religious retreat but they couldn't/wouldn't secure the proper permits. So it currently sits vacant and decaying. I have a photography site on FB called "Echo Lake Photography" which highlights some of the old resorts of the Poconos. I haven't accessed Birchwood yet, though...but Mountain Lake House is on there if you's like to take a look! :)
Katrina on March 15, 2014:
Back in 1974 my husband and I honeymoon in the Poconos. It, or at least I believe, not your typical honeymoon resort. We had a cabin with canopy beds and a fireplace that looked out at at lake. Lake filled with swans and geese. I remember having breakfast in a country type dining room. The whole place was like a small village. No heart shape tubs so my guess it was a family type place. The place was off a mountainous road and remember we went down the road to an old country store. I wish I could remember the name of the place but if anyone knows of such a place, probably closed down or converted to some summer camp for kids, but still it remains in my mind and heart as my honeymoon place to start our married life out at.
If anyone knows of this place, sorry about not much more info, and also has pictures (did not take pics back then). It would be great.
simon keuler on February 19, 2014:
My grandparents owned the famous buck hill in from the 70s to the 80s I remember them being so happy there until we went bankrupt in 1991 and closed our doors and latter sold to some guy and is doing absolutely nothing with it
email@example.com on January 20, 2014:
Anyone remember a small hotel named "Golden" something? Probably around 35 or so years ago?? Thanks.
Robo on January 16, 2014:
Who do you speak with to get permission to access this place? I would like to take photographs.
John Fisher from Easton, Pennsylvania on December 22, 2013:
@Wndisomo-The heart shaped bathtub was a popular attraction at Penn Hills Resort back in the day. The more recent champagne glass bath tubs are a main attraction at the three Ceaser's Resorts that are in the Poconos. I grew up in the Poconos, so am familiar with that about which you write. I spent a considerable amount of time at Birchwood when I was in high school, as I was dating a girl whose father worked there in the late '60's. Interesting Hub. Voted up!!!
chuck on December 03, 2013:
my wife and I stayed at the Birchwood 40 yrs ago this month. Would enjoy seeing pictures of it now. Great article. Thanks
Sue Kulick on November 04, 2013:
Hi Wendy! Are you local to the Poconos? I've been photographing some of the abandoned resorts of the Poconos. I'm on Facebook as Echo Lake Photography if you'd like to see the ones I've already done. I'm trying to get to the Buck Hill Inn but I understand there is pretty heavy security around it. It's a sad state that these once iconic resorts have come to.
Ada on October 18, 2013:
I was just at the Penn Hills Resort. There is no security there but it is in very bad shape. It is very interesting to explore...
Kimberley` on September 06, 2013:
So awesome! I actually live in the Poconos and there are two abandoned resorts near my home (Penn Hills and Birchwood) . I've been dying to explore!
Jennifer on August 02, 2013:
Not sure what the status of it today is, or if it's truly "abandoned" and open to be explored, but Brookdale on the Lake in Scotrun, PA had those champagne glass tubs. I know that Brookdale closed a few years back, and I don't THINK anything every became of it.
Wendy Holler (author) from Central PA on January 19, 2013:
Thank you! I would lug it home in a big truck :)
Christen Roberts from Harrisburg, PA on January 18, 2013:
Love this! Did you find any mirrors on the ceiling? And how would you lug a heart-shaped tub home?? AWESOME HUB!
Wendy Holler (author) from Central PA on January 18, 2013:
I think you're right! Thanks for commenting!
John C Thomas from Chicago, Illinois, USA on January 18, 2013:
I worked at an album rock radio station in Washington DC in 1981-82, and we used to play commercials for the Poconos, with a big emphasis on skiing. And wasn't the International Ladies Garment Workers Union the one that did the commercials singing "Look for the Union label?"