Frontier Town is a defunct old west theme park built in 1951. Its creator Art Benson wanted to bring the old west to the rural mountains of east coast. He didn’t have any construction skills, income or business plan when he founded the faux village; however, the enterprise was successful none the less. The theme park contained a town square, rodeo arena, grain mill, animal pens, train station, Native American Village, chapel and a fort. It also had a motel and a McDonalds on site. Benson wanted Frontier Town to be immersive. To achieve this goal there were interactive experiences, as well as western themed events. The park provided people opportunities to ride in a stagecoach, steam powered train, canoes and on horses. Events included a stagecoach robbery show complete with a shootout and a Pony Express exhibition.
Benson sold Frontier Land in 1983. The new owners closed the park until 1989 when they reopened it with new attractions including a mini-golf course. The theme park closed for good in 1998 and was seized by the county for unpaid taxes totaling $318,000 in 2004. Many components of the park including, stagecoaches, trains, tracks, buggies and covered wagons have since been auctioned off.
The park was once a place where memories were created. Thousands of people would visit each year. Many of whom can be found in comments sections of older blog posts about the site. For employees, many friendships and romantic relationships began here, during their seasonal employment. It was a special place but alas, today, all that is left is a haunting reminder of what used to be.
Exploring the Site
There is a public right-of-way through a portion of the property allowing legal access to part of the ghost town, although, entering the buildings adjacent to the road is prohibited, and for good reason. In addition to being private property most of the buildings are in various states of structural failure. The coolest part of the park, the town square, is a little more difficult to find. To access the square I drove my tiny car past a no trespassing sign down a claustrophobic, rutted path through the trees and weeds. As the path gave way to a clearing I could see the mock commercial district and chapel looking like an abandoned set from an old west movie shrouded in pine trees and brush. The row of store-fronts that are along the square are slowly decaying but the chapel looks almost untouched by anything but moss and weeds. It provided the money shot of this exploration.
The county owns most of the property now and while there are plans for further demolition, local officials are holding out hope that some investors will give the place a new lease on life. The neighboring town could use an increase of tourist dollars and a revived attraction would help bring people to the area. In addition, the property is adjacent to the Boreas Ponds tract of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and there have been efforts to link the tract to a trail network across the river which could bring more outdoor recreation enthusiasts to the area. However, plans to build a bridge and cut additional trails for hikers, snow mobiles, horse back riding and mountain biking have stalled due to an ongoing debate over environmental concerns.
- Maciag, Mike “How Closure of ‘Frontier Town’ Theme Park Devastated a Tiny New York Town” Governing.com
- “Frontier Town” Project Absurd
- Nye, Phil “Abandoned Amusement Park” Lite987.com 8 June, 2012
- Liquori, Donna “A Western Theme Park Turns Into a Ghost Town” New York Times 15 October, 2004
- Hagerty, Meg “Two Women Work to Save Legacy of Frontier Town” The Post Star 5 October, 2014