Month: April 2014

The Virginia Renaissance Faire

To add even more adventure to our blog, this time we went a little far from our designated area; we went to the Virginia’s Abandoned Renaissance Faire.

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It is located Route 3, Fredericksburg, and VA US. Its location is also known as “Sherwood Forest” as the locals call it. The now abandoned Renaissance Faire was once one of the most successful renaissance fairs and people really liked it.

The land of Virginia Renaissance Faire was once owned by George Washington’s Mother, Mary Ball Washington, at the time where the Washingtons owned more than half of the DC!!

How it all started:

Renaissance Entertainment Corp purchased the land for 3 million dollars and started the faire. It started operation in 1996. And it attracted a lot of people and was very successful at the beginning. Here was how it looked like from the period 1996 – 1999:

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The Faire is not your typical costumed entertainers and fairgoers or English accent; it is much more than that. It has several tents, commercial and non-commercial booths and wide array of activities, all presented in order to “relive the 16th century” and feel the old era’s atmosphere/ environment. Among the several activities that were presented are: archery, dancing, live music, dancing, acrobats, a magic show and a puppet show for the children. As for the adults there were a vast selection of liquor, non-alcoholic drinks and food.

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After becoming one of the most successful renaissances, and a huge attraction for people to visit, it became abandoned ever since 1999. For example, they made front-page news in the paper city once they opened.

Back then, they reported their mission to be: “to provide the highest quality interactive, educational, entertainment ensuring all participants (patrons, cast, crew) not only to have fun but also to come away from each event with increased knowledge”.

However, this is not the case now.  Now it is an abandoned, neglected and deserted place.

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At first, when you arrive, you’ll find a forsaken, spooky ship sitting on trench, in the front of the area. There are several towers that are scattered all over the place, a bar with built in barrels, and a jousting arena. There is an old, decaying couch thrown between the towers.

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Also, it can be assumed that there was someone living there, because remains of a home was found (for example, a bed and sink and a mattress)

Of course, there is graffiti and vandalism everywhere.

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What actually happened after 1996?

After the first year and all the hype, the sales started declining, and it didn’t achieve the audience that the company aspired to achieve on a regular basis. Compared to the other faires, the Virginia Renaissance Faire had a lower audience volume; therefore they had low-ticket sales.

Furthermore, it was often closed because of inclement weather, which lowered ticket sales even more.

The Renaissance Entertainment Corporation was losing money, and according to the publishing of its financial statements, its biggest losses were at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

Therefore, they decided to close the Faire in 1999.

The Faire moved to another location, which the company thought would be better than Fredericksburg; they moved to a place near Lake Anna State Park.

It re-opened in Spring 2001, and it’s been running each year ever since.

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Since the relocation, it attracted more than 10,000 visitors. This is a good rise since the previous location, however, compared to other fairs, it still has a low amount of audience. For instance, the Texas Faire has more than half a million audience.

Furthermore, regarding the older location in Fredericksburg, it was sold to a company called Best Medical International of Springfield for 1.3 million.

Nevertheless, it was never used as the remains of the faire are still there.

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The Rosewood Center

The Rosewood Center, located in Owings Mills, Maryland, was established in 1888 as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble-Minded. From 1912 to 1961 it evolved into the Rosewood State Training School and in 1969 became merely the Rosewood Center. It became abandoned in 2009.

The Center began life as a special school for children between the ages of 7 and 17 but was woefully underfunded and at over-capacity. The school’s mandate was “the receiving, care, and education of all idiotic, imbecilic, and feeble-minded persons.” Boys were taught how to farm, garden, and do carpentry whilst girls were taught sewing, washing, milking, horticulture, and “domestic service.” The school was to be self-sufficient, where all the food is is grown or raised on the premises by the boys and the clothes and table linen woven by the girls. These children were also used to construct new buildings and expand the location in 1892 and 1900. The farms operated constantly until 1960.

The school suffered from even higher over-capacity when Maryland mandated all mentally ill patients at country almshouses be transferred to state institutions. The school unsuccessfully tried to expand to accommodate non-white students and epileptics. At its height in 1968, the school houses 2,700 patients.

By 1943 the school changed from housing and teaching children to accommodating physically handicapped individuals of all ages and interning people for life. By 1950 the school changed its mandate from caring and nurturing the infirm to simply housing them away from society.  The conditions at the Center sharply deteriorated from constant over-crowding and a lack of staff. In 1949, the Baltimore Sun described the Center as “Maryland’s Shame.” Thankfully by 1960 the Center’s population dropped as the focus of institutionalization shifted to rehabilitation of patients. Despite this, in 1981, the US Justice Department declared that residents at Rosewood “failed to receive minimally adequate care” and report of malpractice, neglect, and abuse were rampant. In 1989 the Center was condemned and new facilities were built across the field from the old. These new facilities housed over half of Maryland’s disabled until they, too, were closed in 2009 for good.

Because of numerous cases of arson the premises are actively patrolled by security. Be cautious if you visit as our friends got fined $50 for trespassing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aqueduct Bridge: What Remains

Georgetown: a charmingly historic, brick laden neighborhood contrasted with a pepper of contemporary retailers, restaurants, and bars. On any given day, you’ll find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder on its amber tinged sidewalks with visitors and locals alike. But if you dare to venture past the commercialized pull of M Street, you can still catch a glimpse of Georgetown’s humble beginnings as a central shipping hub and one of its key participants: The Aqueduct Bridge.

 

The surviving structure of the Aqueduct Bridge.

The surviving structure of the Aqueduct Bridge.

 

When the Chesapeake Canal was engineered in the 1820s, its developers had originally planned for the canal to span the expanse of the Midwest to the Ohio Valley, which lent a promising trade opportunity for Georgetown. Across the Potomac, Alexandria merchants insisted on a share of the commerce; this urging gave rise to the construction of the Aqueduct Bridge. Cargo-carrying boats would reach Georgetown via canal, and then be transported to Alexandria by way of the bridge.

 

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The Aqueduct Bridge, circa 1865

 

However, development of the Canal took longer than expected, and plans for further expansion were halted not far from Georgetown. Subsequently, demand for the Aqueduct Bridge, especially after the construction of its successor, the Key Bridge, was abysmal. After 80 years of sporadic use, the bridge was finally demolished. It is now survived by its solitary jutting remains overlooking the Potomac.

 

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A walk beyond 33rd and M will lead you to Georgetown’s “no-man’s land” (yes, the neighborhood does in fact exist beyond the confines of the boundary line that is Georgetown Cupcakes). Continue on 33rd Street towards the waterfront to intersect Capital Crescent Trail, a somewhat obscure off-road trail stretching from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Maryland. Follow the trail to the right for about a third of a mile and a set of stairs will mark your arrival to the bridge remains.

 

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The remaining abutment currently stands as an impromptu riverside park, its concrete structure wholly claimed by a capricious display of graffiti. A site that once bridged two trading towns now bridges a gap of an entirely different kind: one between friends, lovers, and strangers alike.

 

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The Aqueduct Bridge (or rather its remains) as it stands today.

 

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I visited the Aqueduct Bridge on a Tuesday afternoon. A middle aged man, whom I later came to know as Matthew, was perched precariously close to the edge of the abutment, occasionally glancing at the water and scribbling in a journal as thick as one of my textbooks. We chatted briefly before I asked if he frequented this particular area often. He replied:

How couldn’t you? Best view of the Potomac I’ve ever seen.. hell I’ve been here 30 years. I come here a couple days a week to write but mostly just come to watch the world go by. The people change. There’s new graffiti every time I come back. But the spot? The Potomac? Always here, man.

When I inquired about the nature of other visitors to the bridge remains, Matthew told me:

Yeah this place definitely has some regulars. The good ones, though, are the ones that see it the first time, you know? You can always tell the first timers… Georgetown’s got some uppity folks. This place cuts through the bullsh*t.

Eloquently stated. Can’t help but agree with you there, Matthew.