Mark Lamster | Essays

Barrington Fair


There's something romantic, eerie, and pathetic all at once about any work of abandoned architecture. Fairgrounds are especially ghostly and melancholic; in their crumbling, weedy decrepitude there's an almost palpable aura of busier, festive days. Before its demolition in 2000, I liked to sneak around the shuttered Thunderbolt rollercoaster in Coney Island, snapping pictures. You could almost feel the wooden rumble that so distressed a youthful Alvy Singer. The abandoned but still extant Barrington Fairgrounds, hidden in plain sight on the road into Great Barrington, in Western Massachussetts, is another favorite. After a season of heavy rains, it is now overgrown with especially lush vegetation. I shot the pictures here through a swarm of mosquitos on a recent visit. Its future is in limbo, and has been for some time. Across the road is a large, busy shopping center, recently opened. Its customers by and large ignore the mouldering relic, some on purpose, others simply blind to its camouflaged presence. In America, shopping is the new entertainment — I guess that's nothing new. Still, it's strange to see the center's parking lot packed while the fairgrounds, a literal stone's throw away, is devoid of any traffic.


The overgrown entry booths look ready for business that isn't likely to come anytime soon. Everyone's at the Big Y supermarket across the street.

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The doublewide staircase leads to the racetrack grandstand. Underneath are concession areas.


The one-room schoolhouse was used as a counting house for the track. These days, there's no one doing any counting.

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