Decay and fading glamour define the forgotten resorts of New York’s Catskill Mountains
From the Roaring Twenties through the Summer of Love, the Catskill Mountains of Northern New York represented an upscale tourist destination that attracted stars, moguls and icons from throughout America and as far as Europe. Well-to-do tourists flocked to the area popularly known as the “Borscht Belt,” (the nickname references the area’s popularity among New York’s elite Jewish and European immigrant communities) for the sunbathing, swimming, dining, dancing and more.
Poolside at the Grossinger Resort circa 1967.
The wealthy stayed in bungalows and the big resort hotels, places like Kutsher’s, Grossinger’s, and the Concord. The entertainment was legendary. Generations of Jewish comedians cut their teeth performing in the Borscht Belt: Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, and Jackie Mason all played the circuit. So did Sid Caesar and Rodney Dangerfield. Joan Rivers memorably bombed there; Lenny Bruce demoed his racy material – and even a young Jerry Seinfeld graced the Catskill stages.
However, by the late 1970s, the Borscht Belt was brought to its knees by a double whammy of changing economic conditions and the availability of cheap, short flights to warm southern locales. Business dried up, and one by one, the hotels shuttered their doors. Lacking an economic reason for reinvestment or redevelopment, the properties have sat vacant for half a century, and these pictures demonstrate both the former glory of these faded properties – as well as the weight of 50 years of decay.
Formerly the place to see a nee seen, the Grossinger’s outdoor pool deck has been reclaimed by nature and decay.
In 1914, Selig Grossinger, a Jewish immigrant living in New York, moved his family to the Catskills in an attempt to cure his health issues caused by urban life. He bought a farm for $750, and quickly realized there was more money in renting rooms to summer boarders than there was in tilling the land.
Grossinger’s Grand Lobby circa 1973.
After a fruitful year (earning $81 total) he expanded his enterprise. Within five years, Grossinger’s soon became a grand destination large enough for its own air strip and zip code. The resort featured swimming, dancing, tennis, ice skating, and skiing – pioneering the use of “artificial snow” on its slopes in 1952. Frequented by athletes, entertainers, and wealthy businessmen, this resort fittingly adopted the slogan “Grossinger’s Has Everything for the Kind of Person Who Likes to Come to Grossinger’s.”
However, the resort today lays in ruin, with its indoor swimming pool, which has transformed into a lush greenhouse over the years, as a destination for adventurers.
NEXT: Known for its 27-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course and its pristine lakes fed by a 35-foot natural waterfall – this revered property now sits in silent decay.