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Schroon Lake, New York

Abandoned Frontier Town

This theme park in Upstate New York boomed in the heyday of the Western, but went bust like an old ghost town.  

Started in 1952, Frontier Town in the Adirondacks was a theme park built for kids, and for their folks who use to be kids. For more than four decades, with trick riders, bucking broncos, horses and buggies and stagecoach bandits, this rural entertainment destination scratched their cowboy itch.

Founded by Arthur Bensen, an enterprising phone technician from Staten Island, the park had a Pioneer Village (lots of calico dresses and butter churning), Prairie Junction (modeled after a Wild West main street), an Indian Village, a rodeo arena, and even a narrow gauge railroad. It drew steady crowds to the decidedly un-Western part of the world that is upstate New York, until a combination of factors led to financial troubles in the mid-1980s, including a waning interest in Westerns and easier access to bigger and grander theme parks in sunnier climates.

After a couple of dark years the park rebounded, refinanced and eventually reopened, managing to stay in business until 1998, but by then the crowds had thinned to a trickle. Frontier Town shut down for good, with the property eventually taken over by the county for unpaid taxes.

Since then it has sat dormant, overgrown and rotting under the burden of almost 20 years of decline and neglect. Recently there has been talk about removing the buildings and fencing off the land for health and safety reasons (with old buildings falling apart like this, there is always the question of asbestos and other hazardous materials). Or, if the county can find a buyer, simply selling the property with hopes of redevelopment. Any solution – other than the status quo – could mark the end of the end for Frontier Town.

Know Before You Go

It's hard to know on any given day what the status of the old Frontier Town will be, but for now when visiting the easiest access is by the main parking lot on Frontier Town Road off US 9. A road to the left of the parking lot was open and cars were able to drive in at the time we visited.The Schroon Lake-North Hudson area of the Adirondacks in Upstate New York runs along I-87 and NY Rt. 9, about half-way between Saratoga Springs and Plattsburgh.