A Real Life Westworld: Frontier Town

This western-themed amusement park abandoned for 20 years strikes a similarity with the fictional Westworld. The only piece missing is robots.



Established in 1952 by Arthur Bensen, a man from Staten Island fulfilling his life long dream of building a theme park, Frontier Town was built. Mr. Bensen searched the Northeast of New York and settled on a 267-acre plot of land at Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks.


The Remains of Prairie Village

The original plan for the park was a Pioneer's Village (like a colonial town) but when an order of the first costumes were delayed, improvisations were made and Mr.Bensen picked up what he could from New York City which turned out to be cowboy costumes. From there the western theme grew to the strength of its heyday equipped with a rodeo, stagecoaches, a saloon, Indian Village, and a train to be robbed countless times until financial collapse in 1998.


A Day at Frontier Town (Then and Now)


Guests of Frontier Town would begin their days waking up to cool summer air from the motels and cabins that now stand in decay around Schroon Lake. Only a short drive away stood the gates with the words Frontier Town sprawled across and the silhouettes of two cowboys riding off into the sunset. Once within the park, the world around was transformed and an olden train would arrive to take the guests into the town. Employees playing western bandits robbed every train coming in and shoot outs transpired around the park until Sheriffs temporarily restored order. Bandits that were caught would be subject to getting dunked in the near pond publicly by order of the Judge.

Entrance of the Rodeo from the Stables

Other activities that ensued were exploring the different sections of the park including Pioneer's Village, Prairie Village, Indian Village, and the Rodeo Arena with trick riders and stagecoach rides. Kids were given sheriff badges etched with their names and other costume pieces to create a full western-style culture within the park.


The Wooden Chapel Overgrown with Pine Trees






After a run of more than four decades the cowboy Indian buzz had worn off and with years of shrinking attendance and financial difficulties, the park closed for good in 1998. In October of 2004, the final pieces of the park were sold off at auction serving as a memorial service to the town and those who dedicated their teenage summers and lives each year running the park.





Getting There and Important Site Information


The coordinates on the map below will place you at the parking lot which the photo of the Frontier Town sign above is taken, it's across the street from the Sunoco Station. This is the most ideal starting point to take in the whole park. From the parking lot walk south along the old dirt and gravel path and after a quarter-mile, the path will bend left and then lead to the main buildings of Prairie Village, the Wooden Chapel, and the Rodeo.


I advise staying primarily on the paths which are easy to follow. These lead around the entire park and will give you the best access and viewing to all buildings that remain on the site. The Town of North Hudson has declared all buildings hazardous and illegal for entry however nothing states that the property is private nor entering the area is considered to be trespassing so keep a low profile and staying on the paths should be considered completely legal (see sign below).


Enjoy the adventure, this is a unique and one of a kind spot which may not be around much longer with construction already starting on the exterior buildings as part of a New York State economic recovery plan to the area. If you do go please support local businesses and shops in the area which has been troubled since the closure of Frontier Town.



Photos From Now - Self Taken September, 2020


Photos From Then - Uploaded to a dedicated Facebook Group


Additional Links and Sources of Information:

Facebook Group - Frontier Town Then and Now

New York Times Article - A Western Theme Park Turns Into a Ghost Town

Atlas Obscura - Abandoned Frontier Town


 

©Copyright 2020 Dan Oliver


Photography exclusively by Dan Oliver unless otherwise stated and cited. Embedded maps are provided by Embed Google Map (embedgooglemap.net) and map images shown are provided as stated and cited.

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