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Ghost town in the Borscht Belt – The rise and fall of Parksville, New York

August 2022

The Borscht Belt, the colloquial name of the Catskills area of eastern New York State that was once populated with resorts and bungalow communities for Jewish clients from New York City, in an era when Jewish people still faced discrimination elsewhere.  Cheap airfare, a decline in passenger rail service, more integration and a desire of the younger crowd to travel elsewhere are some of the factors that led to a decline in the popularity for the 500 hotel resorts and thousands of bungalow colonies that once populated the area,

Most of the hotels and bungalow colonies, while the cities and boroughs that once supported them tried to adjust to the economic collapse that resulted.

For the small Hamlet of Parksville, which once had several hotels and bungalow colonies, it wasn’t the closure of the these once-vibrant summer vacation havens for New York City Jews, that lead to the decimation of this once busy hamlet. While the loss of the summer crowds certainly hurt, what really killed Parksville was the construction of a New York State Route 17 (now known as Interstate 86) by-pass around the hamlet in 2011, leaving the businesses that once lined the main street without the steady stream of motorists that once sustained them.

It’s a familiar story to many small towns across North America.

Parksville came into being in the early 1800s, when Williams Parks built several mills and cultivated a community around them.

The New York, Ontario &  Western Railway (NYO&W) line was built through near Parksville in the 1880s, which greatly increased the number of people, mostly Jewish families seeking an escape from the summer heat in New York City. Hotels and bungalow colonies soon popped up throughout Sullivan and Ulster Counties, including in Parksville.

Hotels such as Young’s Gap, The Grand Hotel, Prospect Inn, Tanzville Hotel, Fleisher’s Hotel, Klein’s Hillside Hotel, the Paramount, Weinstein’s Bungalow Colony, and Breezy Hill were just some of the around 100 hotels and bungalow colonies that surrounded Parksville at the peak of the Borscht Belt’s popularity. Assorted businesses lined Main Street in Parksville, including restaurants and a pharmacy.

Train service through Parksville ended on 29 March 1957, with the bankruptcy of the NYO&W railway. The entire line was abandoned, with parts of it used to construct State Route 17 through Parksville. Called locally “The Quickway,” it was a four-lane, divided highway, that ran parallel to Main Street.

The 1960s saw an economic decline in the Parksville area, no doubt brought about in part by the decline in the popularity of the Borscht Belt, with hotels and bungalow colonies that helped sustain Sullivan and Ulster Counties began closing. The Grand Hotel closed in 1964; Prospect Inn closed around 1965; Young’s Gap Hotel closed in 1967; Tanzville Hotel closed in 1984. By the time Paramount Resort, the last holdout, closed in 2000, all the other hotels and bungalow colonies in Parksville were gone too.

Some like Grand Hotel and Klein’s Hillside Hotel have been re-purposed into Othodox Jewish schools and camps, while others like Paramount Resort are abandoned and crumbing. Most of them have long-since vanished, leaving only memories.

There was a brief revival of Parksville in the 1990s, when several business owners worked together to bring Parksville to life. Dead End Café, owned by Tom and Michele Caltabellotta, was opened in 1989 and helped to kickstart new growth on Main Street, along with other restaurants like Charlie’s Restaurant and Fiddle’s Dari-King, an antique shop, a coffee shop, a silk-screening studio, a tattoo parlor, a video store and a beauty salon, among others. That all ended with the aforementioned NY-17 by-pass in 2011. The old NY-17 highway was reduced to a two-lane .

Sadly, most of the businesses are gone today, with the gas station and Cabernet Franks, a restaurant and live entertainment venue, being the most prominent remaining.

Today, while Parksville is not quite abandoned, as a little under 1000 people live in Parksville, but all the vacant commercial buildings with their windows papered-over, it certainly can give the eerie impression of a town that time forgot.

One thing that visitors to Parksville can still find are the graves of William Parks and his family, who are buried in the Parksville United Methodist Church cemetery on Short Avenue.

Some of the former hotels and bungalow colonies around Parksville:


Read my Borscht Belt series starting here:


Sources: Parksville Ghost Town – ABANDONED EAST COAST (abandoned-eastcoast.com), Parksville, New York – Wikipedia, PARKSVILLE, NEW YORK (parksvilleny.org), New York State Route 17 – Wikipedia, Parksville – Parksville, New York – Atlas Obscura, New York, Ontario and Western Railway – Wikipedia, Back to the Catskills | New Jersey Jewish News (timesofisrael.com), Restaurant | United States | Cabernet Frank (cabernetfranks.com), Parksville, NY Household Income, Population & Demographics | Point2 (point2homes.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/ghost-town-in-the-borscht-belt-the-rise-and-fall-of-parksville-new-york/

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