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8 Popular Tourist Attractions That No Longer Exist

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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.


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."


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.

This Just In
The Pope Just Officiated an Impromptu Inflight Wedding

Though he might be more famous for his tricked-out Popemobiles, when Pope Francis needs to get somewhere in a hurry, there’s always a papal plane. On Thursday, he made that Airbus 321 a vessel that one lucky couple will never forget when he officiated an impromptu marriage between Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, who have been together for more than 10 years and are both flight attendants for Chile's LATAM Airlines.

It started out innocently enough: on a flight from Santiago to Iquique, Chile, Crux reports, the flight crew was posing with the Pope for a group photo. When Papa Pancho asked the couple if they had had a church wedding, they explained that though they have been civilly married since 2010, the church that they were supposed to get married at was destroyed in an earthquake just a few days before their big day. Not one to let a little thing like being 35,000 feet in the air get in the way, Pope Francis suggested that he make up for their original plans and marry them right then and there.

“He held our hands, blessed the rings, and he married us in the name of God,” Ciuffardi told Crux.

His Holiness also made sure the happy couple knew how historic their nuptials would be. “Never has a pope married a couple on a plane,” he said.

Crew members Paula Podest (L) and Carlos Ciuffardi smile after being married by Pope Francis during the flight between Santiago and the northern city of Iquique on January 18, 2018
Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer

In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animals that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]


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