8 Popular Tourist Attractions That No Longer Exist
Being popular isn't everything. After 20 years of housing chewed-up gum, the beloved Seattle’s Gum Wall got a thorough cleaning in November. The colorful gum was deemed destructive to the structure of the brick Pike Place wall and wiped away. And while officials are resigned to the fact that the future visitors have already begun to revive the tradition, for now the iconic wall is a relatively blank slate.
But the Gum Wall wasn’t the first tourist attraction to be closed, demolished, or undone despite its popularity. Take a look at eight other places you used to be able to visit.
1. SUTRO BATHS // SAN FRANCISCO
The world’s largest indoor swimming complex, the Sutro Baths, opened to the public on March 14, 1896. Built by millionaire and then mayor of San Francisco Adolph Sutro, the structure boasted fine art and natural history exhibits as well as seven seawater pools—all heated to different temperatures— that had space for up to 10,000 swimmers at once. Sutro designed the baths to be a weekend destination for the average San Franciscan, keeping prices low and even building an affordable railroad to transport patrons to Lands End. But even those accommodations failed to make the Baths financially viable.
After his death, Sutro’s descendants turned part of the Baths into an ice rink and other amenities hoping to entice additional visitors to no avail. With the Great Depression, reduction in public transportation, and stricter health codes all at play, the baths stayed in the red. Sutro’s grandson sold the property out of the family for $250,000 in 1952 and the new owners were no more successful in turning a profit—despite adding a waterfall and an arcade. The Sutro Baths were shuttered for good in 1966 and soon burned down in what was deemed a suspicious fire. Although the Baths themselves are no longer standing, the seaside ruins have become a popular destination.
2. LOVE LOCKS ON PONT DES ARTS // PARIS
In just a few years, the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris amassed about 700,000 locks from sentimental couples looking to be part of a short-lived tradition tied to everlasting love. The practice of carving the couple’s initials into a padlock, fastening it to the bridge, and throwing the key into the river below has been traced to a 2006 Italian book and movie. However, it really took off on this particular bridge in Paris starting in 2008.
In 2012, critics started to complain that the literal weight of all this sentiment was too much for the bridge. It was estimated that the locks amounted to 45 tons and one giant eyesore. This past summer, the lock-laden metal grills were removed from the the bridge and replaced with temporary panels. They are currently being upgraded to plexiglass in order to provide a better view of the river—with nowhere to affix padlocks.
3. VIDÁMPARK // BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
Vidámpark, also known as the Amusement Park of Budapest, occupied the same grounds for 175 years. In that time, the park survived fires, WWII bombings, communism, and multiple redesigns. But waning attendance in recent years left the park economically crippled. Season attendance had dropped from 2.7 million at its peak in the 1970s to fewer than 300,000 in 2012. News of a permanent closure started swirling in 2010, but the park lasted until 2013, when it finally shuttered for good in early October. The nearby zoo will likely absorb the land, but some of the rides will be protected for their historic value: a Hullámvasút wooden roller coaster built in1922, a carousel from 1906, and a cave railway from 1912.
4. GUAÍRA FALLS // BORDER BETWEEN PARAGUAY AND BRAZIL
Although sometimes known as “Seven Falls,” Guaíra Falls was located on the Paraná River that divides Paraguay and Brazil and was actually a series of 18 waterfalls. While not the tallest in the world at 114 meters high, it was one of the most powerful. The volume of water per second was twice that of Niagara Falls and the deafening sound could be heard from up to 30 kilometers away. The natural wonder attracted hordes of tourists each year, but that wasn’t enough to save it from demolition by the Brazilian army in 1982 in order to create the Itaipu Dam, still the largest operating hydroelectric plant by annual electricity production.
Tourists flocked to the Falls in the final months, eager for a last look, and in January 1982, this popularity resulted in an unfortunate tragedy: A crowded bridge collapsed, killing 80 people. Still, the disaster didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering to participate in a 14-day ritual goodbye to the Falls.
5. HERITAGE U.S.A. // FORT MILL, SOUTH CAROLINA
In 1986, a park map billed the third most-visited amusement park in America as “A Special Place for God’s People.” Built in 1978 by Pentecostal televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the PTL Church, Heritage USA was a sprawling compound that combined conservative religion with earthly indulgences. At 2300 acres, it was larger than either Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom—by a factor of 25—and was far more than just rides. Campgrounds, hotels, and even condominiums encouraged visitors—six million a year by the mid-1980s—to stay for a while, or forever.
Things started to crumble in 1987 when news broke of Jim Bakker's sexual encounter with a woman seven years before, and his use of funds from his church to cover it up. From there, a federal investigation found him guilty of twenty-four charges related to mismanagement of the PTL’s financial dealings. Then, a hurricane in 1989 destroyed some of its buildings, prompting Heritage USA to close for good. Since then, other televangelists have attempted to revive the compound with no success.
6. WEDDING CAKE ROCK // NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA
Named for its striking white appearance, Wedding Cake Rock has long been a popular spot for dramatic photos—by pros and tourists alike. But this year, officials noticed a dramatic uptick in visitors. Roughly 2,000 visitors a month became 10,000 when daredevil shots of yogis and thrill-seekers started circulating on Instagram. By then, at least one person had died falling from the photogenic cliff. A temporary fence was installed in May, 2015 in an attempt to forestall any further disaster and the regulations are unlikely to be relaxed after a report this summer revealed that the perilous formation could collapse any time in the next decade.
7. THE ORIGINAL PENN STATION // NEW YORK CITY
The original Pennsylvania Station, completed in 1910, was more than just a bustling hub in the first half of the 20th century; it was also a magnificent Beaux-Arts landmark to rival Grand Central. Designed by McKim, Mead, & White, the architectural firm responsible for Theodore Roosevelt-era renovations to the White House, the above-ground portion of the terminal was inspired by the Acropolis, the Brandenburg Gate, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Baths, and the Bank of England. At the turn of the century, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest corporation in the world and its New York station was fittingly impressive—built to accommodate 200,000 passengers per day for up to 100 years. But the landmark didn’t last that long.
At the peak of train travel in the mid 1940s, Penn Station welcomed 109 million people a year into New York City, but soon after, automobile and air travel surged, railroad traffic suffered, and the company was left strapped for cash. They sold the airspace above the platforms to a local real estate firm in 1954. Concerned citizens protested the plans for a stadium, but to no avail. Demolition began on October 28, 1963, which the New York Times [PDF] called an "act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance."
8. CHACALTAYA GLACIER // CHACALTAYA, BOLIVIA
The altitude effects from being atop Chacaltaya mountain kept Bolivia’s only ski resort from ever becoming overly popular. But for serious thrill-seekers who didn't mind the remote location accessible only by a dirt road, the world’s highest ski resort was a bucket-list destination. Until it melted. Starting in the 1990s, scientists noticed that rising temperatures from climate change were causing the glacier atop Chacaltaya to melt at an alarming rate. Experts predicted that it would disappear by 2015—but even that was an underestimation. In 2009, the snow—and the superlative ski run—disappeared for good. This was bad news for more than just snow-sport enthusiasts: the glaciers of the Andes are the source of drinking water and hydroelectric power for more than 80 million people in the area.