North Hudson, NY
Part 1 of 2 - June 27, 2009 (part 2 is included on this same page)
Frontier Town was a Wild West Theme Park in the Adirondack region of Upstate New York (North Hudson, to be exact - north of Lake George). It opened on July 4, 1952 and, except for a few years in the 1980s, remained open until 1998. Click here to see Steve Gross' great Frontier Town tribute site, which includes many photos and a more detailed history of the park.
Frontier Town has remained abandoned since 1998 and, except for some of the more valuable items which were sold at an auction in 2004, we learned online that it still contains most of its original structures. So, in the summer of 2009 we decided to take a trip to the ole' Town to see what we would find...
by Ham and Kelly
Before posting what we found, I'd like to share some photos of my family and me when we visited Frontier Town in 1977.
These are two pictures that nearly every person had taken when they visited Frontier Town - the "Pillory" and the "Jail". Now, since this post is likely going to be more on the informative side than the humorous side, I figured I'd post this photo of myself at Frontier Town in 1977 just to add a little of the "absurd" to the page.
Yes, I was a bit confused - wearing both an Indian Headdress and a Sheriff's badge. Also, I don't believe any Indians or Sheriffs wore plaid pants with enormous belts. Plus, I seem to be playing that pipe like I think it's an instrument. At least I seem to be inadvertently giving the "metal" sign with my left hand.
I recently found the actual Sheriff's badge that I'm wearing in the picture:
Just to prove to you all how old Frontier Town really is (was), here are some classic photos from my father's collection. I don't know for certain when these were taken, but judging by the age of my father and his sister in the photos, it would have to be around 1953 or 1954.
I left these large to better show the detail. Photography has come a long way, baby!
Next is the aforementioned obligatory picture at the Pillory. My family - such trendsetters! I have covered their faces with leaves to protect The Innocent. Judging by other old photos I've seen, back then you could choose the sign for which offense your criminal was being punished. You can see what my father and aunt chose for Grandpa!
A couple more oldies. I didn't know what the second one was until Ham explained to me how they'd "dunk" the criminal in the Frontier Town show.
Ok, on to the new photos.
On June 27, 2009 we drove up Route 87 to North Hudson. After turning off of Exit 29, we saw the Frontier Town sign and large A-frame building shown in the picture at the top of this page. We turned into the parking lot and started exploring. Along with the sign and A-frame building, we found a couple of small office-style buildings, a train station, and a large stage. Oh, and just to add to the atmosphere, it was pouring rain that day.
Since there are so many pictures, I decided to make them small thumbnails. You can click on any of these photos to view them full size in a new window.
Here is a video clip of footage we shot that day:
We also saw an abandoned gas station across the street that had some Frontier Town signs visible inside its windows. I don't know what the Canadian flag is about as this is definitely still NY state and not really close to the border. Maybe they took Canadian money or something.
Traveling down the road a little bit, we saw Gokey's Trading Post, which held the Frontier Town auction in 2004 and also contained some items from the park displayed on its walls.
We thought that we had seen all that was left of the former Frontier Town. Well, once we got back home and did some investigating we found out that we had completely missed most of the park. So, that is why there is a Part 2 to this post. We revisited the area in September 2009 and, with a little help from some other explorers that we ran into, discovered the ruins of the main area of this Wild West Town...
Part 2 of 2 - September 4, 2009
As I stated in Part 1, we did some research and found out that we had missed the majority of what remained of Frontier Town on our first trip to the area in June, so in September we went back to try and find what we missed. While driving down Route 9 in North Hudson, NY we saw this:
Hmmm, seemed promising. Made us think we weren't too far away from our destination. We then drove into a parking lot and found a familiar-looking billboard and an old, run down building.
You can clearly see that the billboard used to say "Frontier Town" and "Rodeo". So, we knew we must be really close but still had no idea where to go. Luckily, we saw a group of people wandering around the area, taking pictures and even carrying a tripod. So, we asked if they were there to explore Frontier Town and, if so, could they tell us how to get there. It turns out they had just gotten done exploring Frontier Town, and had been there "several times". They told us we just had to walk through the door in the aforementioned old, run down building, then walk down a path to find what was left of the park. They also warned us to cover ourselves with bug spray. Well, we didn't have any and, since North Hudson was a bit of a ghost town itself, we didn't know anywhere close by where we could get some. So, we took our chances and headed into the building. At least we had hoodies to cover ourselves!
What we saw when we got down to the main area of Frontier Town was quite shocking. I had seen pictures of the area recently, but there is nothing like seeing it in person. What had been a popular tourist attraction for over 40 years is now a collection of run-down, sometimes collapsing buildings in the middle of a field with trees, overgrown grass, and, yes, a LOT of bugs. It was quite depressing to see that no one had even bothered to take care of these buildings or even mow the grass in several years. Everything was literally just left to rot. Now, apparently some company based in Westchester County owns the property. They obviously don't know (or care about) the history of the place, and will most likely continue to let it rot or completely tear everything down so they can re-sell the property and make a profit.
I want to add that I never went to Frontier Town myself as a child, and I still found what we saw shocking, deplorable and quite sad. There is so much history there and so many memories for so many people, you really can feel it the moment you feast your eyes on the ruins.
Again, we took a lot of pictures on our trip. So, I've made these into small thumbnails. You can click on any of them to view them full size in a new window.
We also took a lot of video footage on our trip. Here are two video clips:
While exploring the area around Lake George, we found some things that used to be a part of Frontier Town.
This "Davy Crockett" statue used to stand outside Frontier Town's "new entrance", just off of Route 87. It is now in front of Adirondack Animal Land in Gloversville.
Adirondack Animal Land also has what I believe to be one of the old trains from Frontier Town:
Back in Lake George we found a gift shop called Frontier Town that appears to use the letters removed from the old billboard (pictured near the top of this page) for their sign.
Right next to this gift shop we saw a couple more familiar items.
Now, I don't know if that teepee is from Frontier Town, but I'm pretty sure that is the same pillory from the park - just painted white.
The three pictures above of the gift shop were taken in 2008. We went back to this gift shop in 2009 and the pillory was nowhere to be found. We asked the woman who worked there about it and she didn't know what we were talking about (but she said she hadn't been working there long). Hmmmm. I have to wonder if they actually bought the pillory at the Frontier Town auction or if they perhaps "found" it in the old park. This looks to be the Pillory from Ham's childhood photo on page 1. The one in my father's family photo on that page appears to be a different one and I have no idea whatever happened to it. Perhaps it's the same one, but was refurbished later and that's why it looks different in Ham's photo.
We bought some old Frontier Town merchandise that was for sale in this store. It looked like original merchandise to me. Plus, they didn't have very much of it left, so I do believe this is legitimate stuff.
If anyone has any old photos or memories of Frontier Town, or if you have any other information about the park, please send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Originally posted 9/2009)
2022 update - Most of the former Frontier Town has been turned into campgrounds. I'm not sure if any of the buildings remain.