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The crumbling remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland – The rise and fall of the Borscht Belt

November 2018 (Updated April 2022, July 2022, April 2023 & August 2023)

The Borscht Belt was 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, Borscht Belt resorts were popular for family vacations before cheap airfare allowed families to travel to distant locations.  Offering kosher food, recreational and entertainment facilities, these resorts became an annual pilgrimage for many families and inspired several Hollywood movies including “Dirty Dancing” and “Sweet Loraine”, both released in 1987.

From a high of over 500 different hotels and thousands of bungalow colonies to just a handful today, the Borscht Belt represents a by-gone time.  Some hotels were renovated and have held on with a smaller clientele, while others were given a second life as religious schools and retreats.  However, most were abandoned and left to deteriorate or were outright demolished.

Well known resorts in the area included The Concord, Grossinger’s Resort and Country Club, Brickman’s, Brown’s Hotel, Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club, The Nevele, Friar Tuck Inn, Gibbers, Gilbert’s, The Granit (which later became the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa), Woodbine Hotel, Heiden Hotel, Hotel Irvington, Lastman’s, the Laurel Hotel and Country Club, The Pines Resort, Raleigh, Silverman’s Riverview Hotel, Stevensville, Stiers, the Tamarack Lodge, the Olympic, Shawanga Lodge, the Overlook and the Windsor Regency.

Many efforts were been made over the past four plus decades to revitalize the area with casino gambling, to little result.  In February 2018, the $1.2 billion Resorts World Catskills opened in Kiamesha Lake, featuring 150 table games, an entertainment village, an indoor water-park lodge and an 18-hole golf course.

In October 2018, I decided I would personally go and check out as many of the other current and former Borscht Belt resorts as I could, having previously visited Grossinger’s in Liberty, New York, the previous May.  What started out as well-planned trip nearly turned into a disaster.

I had decided to get the full “Borscht Belt experience” by staying at one of the few original resorts still operating.  After looking at a few, I chose the Hudson Valley Resort (formerly the Granit), booking it in mid-August.

Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the Hudson Valley two months later, no one from Hudson bothered to tell me that the hotel closed permanently on October 1st.  I arrived at 9pm to find signs at the main entrance and on the lobby door saying “Closed for the season.”  I have since seen some articles about the hotel on-line quoting some of the employees as saying they don’t believe it will re-open.

Luckily, I have a GPS and picked a hotel in nearby New Paltz but when I got there, I found that all hotels were booked up (actually, it seems most hotels in eastern New York State were booked up that night).

The night clerk at the last hotel I went to called all the local hotels that she could think of, but they were all booked.  Fortunately, she was able to find a cancellation at her hotel and immediately booked me a room, otherwise I was facing a drive to Albany at best and the long overnight drive back home at worst.  I was pretty much ready to give up my Borscht Belt tour.  Even if I’d been able to find a hotel in Albany, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have just driven home from there.

With my trip salvaged, I officially started my Borscht Belt tour the following morning.  I returned to the Hudson Valley Resort so I could take some pictures of the hotel.  I was approached by one of the few remaining employees who was basically acting as a security guard and proceeded to tell him my story.  He too was of the opinion that it was unlikely that the hotel would reopen and advised me that there had been others who had shown up at the hotel only to find it closed.

Another one bites the dust.

Here are the resorts I was able to visit on this trip; one which I hope is only part one of my Borscht Belt touring.

Note:  Trespassing is illegal and permission should be sought from the owner, if possible, before entering on to private property.


Hudson Valley Resort & Spa

Opened in Kerhonkson in the 1950s as the Granit Hotel and Country Club, it was once one of the grand resorts of the Catskills, along with the Nevele in Wawarsing, and Grossinger’s, Kutsher’s and the Concord, all in Sullivan County.

In 1998, The Granit underwent a major renovation in an attempt to revitalize the hotel, including changing the name to the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa.

The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa found itself struggling in the face of the economic downturn in 2008, and in 2010, filed for bankruptcy protection while owner Eliot Spitzer sought out ways to save the hotel.  When a plan to put in video lottery terminals fell through, Spitzer was forced to sell the resort at an almost $5 million loss to the HNA Group, a Chinese aviation company, who bought the resort in 2015 for $13.8 million.

HNA immediately announced plans to spend millions to upgrade the resort although reviews of the resort on the Trip Advisor web site seem to indicate that no upgrades were commenced.

The Hudson Valley Resort abruptly ceased operations on 1 October 2018, taking even the employees by surprise as they were given no advance notice.  Those employees living at the resort were given until 20 October to vacate their accommodations.

Update, July 2019:  The new owner, Hudson Valley NY Holding Company, re-opened the hotel, with plans to renovate and restore the aging buildings.  Work includes several areas of the resort complex that were declared “structurally unsound and unsafe” by a Town of Rochester building inspector, along with mold issues, deterioration that has been exacerbated by the heat and hydro having been shut off for over the winter.

Update, December 2020:  Reviews on the Trip Advisor web site seem to indicate that little has been done to renovate and restore the run-down hotel.

Update, July 2023:  The hotel has been re-branded as Vacation Valley Resort.

Source: https://www.dailyfreeman.com/news/local-news/hudson-valley-resort-buyer-envisions-return-to-borscht-belt-glory/article_31919310-888a-11e9-bcc6-7b8db8584762.html, https://thekosherguru.com/the-catskills-comeback, https://wpdh.com/hudson-valley-resort-sold, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g47994-d99005-Reviews-Hudson_Valley_Resort_and_Spa-Kerhonkson_Catskill_Region_New_York.html#REVIEWS.


Homowack Lodge

Opened near Wurtsboro, The Homowack Lodge was another resort that thrived in the heyday of the Borscht Belt from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Sam Meyerson, the first Jewish resident in the area, established the hotel in 1920, growing out of the Spring Glen Synagogue, a small white clapboard bungalow with blue trim used for worship.

Over the decades, the lodge would eventually grow to include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a redesigned nine-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, an outdoor playground, an outdoor and indoor pool, four Brunswick bowling alleys, a skating rink, a live theatre, a live music and disco lounge and a social lounge.

An indoor sports complex opened in 1977, with tennis, squash, handball, paddle ball and racquetball courts, a pro shop, and lounges for the guests.

Like many of the Borscht Belt resorts, the Homowack Lodge suffered from its fair share of fires, including in 1959 and 1964 respectively, causing around $150, 000 damage.

The Homowack Lodge fell victim to the declining fortunes of the Borscht Belt in 2006, and the lodge was sold to Machne Bnos Square, a Jewish Hasidic sect, who re-named the hotel Spring Mountain Resort, the largest strictly Kosher hotel in the world and a Hasidic girl’s day camp. 

Machne Bnos planned on upgrading the derelict hotel, but by 9 July 2009, the state Department of Health cited the sect for numerous health code violations, including leaking roofs, water on or in electrical boxes, exposed wiring, plumbing issues, a submerged and possibly contaminated drinking water well, mold throughout the complex, violations with the water and sewer plants and inoperable fire alarm and sprinkler systems.  The state gave the owners until 13 July to correct the problems.

The issues weren’t corrected and after several attempts to keep the facility open, it was vacated by mid-August 2009. 

In June 2014, the abandoned lodge was purchased by Brooklyn-based Beautiful Earth Group, with plans to restore the hotel section of the property for private use and the remainder of the property for public recreational use.

As of 2018, these plans have not come to fruition, and the abandoned hotel remains empty and crumbling; severely deteriorated in some parts of the complex.

Update July 2023:  On the evening of 11 July 2023, parts of the abandoned hotel burned in a multi-alarm fire, with fire fighters from Ellenville, Circleville, Napanoch and others, finally extinguishing it the next morning.


Nevele Grande Hotel and Country Club

The Nevele Hotel, simply known as “Nevele” (eleven spelled backwards), was opened in 1901 in Ellenville by Charles Slutsky on land he was farming, a farm that he also ran up to 1938.

In 1906, Charles had the land divided, giving the land the Nevele stood on to his son Joseph and taking for himself the other half, on which he built the Fallsview Hotel.

The Nevele Grande, known for its impressive 18-hole course, had the usual amenities including an indoor and two outdoor pools, a children’s activity centre and playground, gym, tennis, racquetball, a ski hill, skating rink, live entertainment, indoor mini golf and a Hawaiian-themed nightclub.

Other amenities included two magnificent ballrooms and several conference halls, which were excessive, even by Catskills standards.  Those who wished to experience the natural beauty of the property could visit its two natural lakes, which are fed by a 35-foot waterfall.

One very distinct feature of the Nevele was the circular guest tower, built in 1966, along with the standard rectangular shaped towers.

The Nevele Grande also had the distinction of hosting then-President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, when he came to dedicate a hospital in Ellensville.

At its peak, it had 430 guest rooms and employed a staff of 800. 

The decline of the Borscht Belt hit the Nevele and Fallsview and by 1997, the Slutsky family sold both the Nevele and Fallsview to Mitchell Wolff and Joel Hoffman.

Wolfe and Hoffman attempted to revive the business by combining the two resorts into The Nevele Grande Hotel.  Despite their efforts, the Nevele Grande continued to suffer financially and by 2006, Wolfe and Hoffman sold off the Fallsview portion of the property and put all their efforts into the original Nevele, but they could not stop the inevitable.

In the end, Wolfe, now without Hoffman just couldn’t keep the aging hotel operating.  Declining guest volumes created a serious problem for cash flow, which meant that needed repairs and maintenance went undone, while Hoffman attempted to sell the hotel.

In addition to a growing list of health code violations and overdue accounts payable, including utilities, vendors and Nevele employees, the hotel was hit with a fine of over $4000 for unpaid worker’s compensation insurance and a lawsuit by Wolff against his former business partner Hoffman for unpaid business obligations.

During a cold snap in January 2009, the hotel ran out of heating oil, forcing guests to stay elsewhere.  The Golden Gate building had its pipes freeze, causing them to burst and flood the lobby.  In the end, the building was condemned, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come.

Without notice, the Nevele Grande abruptly shut down after the Fourth of July weekend in 2009, ceasing operations after 108 years.  In addition to the other debts, the hotel was in arrears on their taxes to the tune of $342,687.

An auction was set up to sell the resort to pay off the tax debt, but was soon called off after a potential buyer expressed intent to seal the deal.  The deal fell though and the hotel remained empty

The Nevele was purchased in May 2012 by an investment company, Nevele Investors LLC, who announced a $500 million redevelopment plan that included a casino. At the time, the original lobby, the circular tower, skating rink and golf course were to be incorporated into the new resort, to be named the Nevele Resort, Casino & Spa.

When Nevele Investors LLC failed to secure permission for a casino, plans were announced in September 2017 to turn the hotel into a mega sports complex, with an opening date that was expected to be March 2020.

However, Nevele Investors LLC’s plans seem to have fallen apart as the Nevele was put up for sale again in October 2019.  Meanwhile, the buildings continue to deteriorate, perhaps beyond saving at this point.

Update, September 2023:  On 29 September 2023, the Nevele was sold for $5 million to 1100 Arrow LLC.  Current plans by New York City-based developer Somerset Partners involve the demolition of the existing buildings and construction of a new hotel and a 126-unit housing development.

The Fallsview is still in operation today, but as Honor’s Haven Resort & Spa.

You can read about Honor’s Haven in Part 2:  A second helping of Borscht – The (crumbling) remains of America’s Jewish vacationland, Part 2 – Canadian Military History (militarybruce.com)

Cousin Brucie Room/Games Area/Mini-Golf

The Iconic Circular Tower & Penthouse

Nevele Ski Lodge and Skating Rink

See and read more about Honor’s Haven in Part 2 of my Borscht Belt series – https://militarybruce.com/a-second-helping-of-borscht-the-crumbling-remains-of-americas-jewish-vacationland-part-2.


Hotel Gibber

Opened in the early 1900s near Kiamesha Lake by Rose & Abraham (Abe) Gibber along with Abe’s brother Charlie and his wife Mary, as Hotel Gibber.  Like many hotels of the era, Hotel Gibber began as a farm owned by Abe and Charlie’s parents, who later began taking in summer guests, later transforming into a proper hotel.

With the Borscht Belt declining in popularity, the Gibber family closed the hotel in 1987 and sold it two years later.  Tragically, the day the sale was finalized to a Hasidic organization, there was a fire which heavily damaged the buildings.

In 1987, it was suggested by New York City Mayor Ed Koch that the repaired hotel be repurposed as a homeless shelter, but this was rejected. 

Like many other former hotels, the former Hotel Gibber became the Viznitz Yeshiva for Boys, a Hasidic school.


The Pines Hotel

Opened in South Fallsburg in 1933, The Pines had its beginnings as Moneka Lodge, owned at the time by Morris and Nettie Karp.  Their granddaughter Dorothy “Dottie” would go on to marry Lawrence Stier, son of the owners of Stier’s Hotel in Ferndale, and would become the office and dining room manager.

The Moneka Lodge itself replaced an earlier hotel on the property, the Daisy View Hotel, a small tourist facility that offered showers and baths with cold and hot water, which was an amenity in the 1920s.  It was destroyed by a forest fire.

The Karps sold the hotel in the mid-1940s, and the new owners re-named it The Pines.

The Pines Hotel would grow into a popular four-season hotel with ice skating rink, fully equipped theater, golf course, baseball field, conference center, and both indoor and outdoor pools.

The Pines ballroom, bars, and a nightclub featured performances by the up and coming Jewish comedians of the day making the rounds of the Borscht Belt hotels.

Like all Borscht Belt hotels, crowds at The Pines Hotel decreased over the decades leading up to the 1980s and 90s.

The Pines Hotel closed its doors in 1998 when the Ehrlich family sold the property to The Fallsburg Estates LLC, who planned to redevelop the property into a 300 to 400 home residential development.  However, those plans were abruptly halted when The Fallsburg Estates filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002.

Most of the buildings were still standing in 2023, rotting and crumbling to the ground.  On 17 June 2023, a massive fire destroyed Building 9 and parts of the main building.  The cause was not immediately known, but the absence of electrical power can rule that out as the source.  

‘Eerie,’ Haunted Upstate New York Hotel Destroyed By Fire (hudsonvalleypost.com)

CATSKILLS: Abandoned Pines Hotel Destroyed in Massive Blaze – The Yeshiva World


The Concord

Originally opened by Arthur Winarick in 1937 as the 500-bed Concord Plaza, it was expanded after World War II to include amenities such as a golf course and a ski slope.

An indoor pool was added in 1951 and new 10 story guest wings replaced the original hotel in the 1950s, along with a new lobby, dining spaces and the 1500 seat Cordillion Room, Night Owl Lounge and the 3000 seat Imperial Room night club, which was possibly the largest nightclub in the Catskills.

Frequent performers at The Concord included Buddy Hackett, Jackie Mason, Tony Bennett, Milton Berle, Tony Martin, Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland.

Arthur Winarick’s died in 1964 and his son-in-law Ray Parker took over running the resort.

The Concord Resort Hotel outlived some of the other Borscht Belt hotels, including its rival Grossinger’s, but it was finally forced to close in 1998 after 61 years of operation, all of it with the Winarick family at the helm.  At the time, The Concord was the largest Borscht Belt hotel with over 1500 guest rooms and a dining room that accommodated 3000 guests.

Manhattan real estate developer Joseph Murphy bought the Concord at a bankruptcy auction in January 1999, with plans to invest $52 million in renovations and upgrades to the hotel, but his plans soon fell apart and he was bought out by Louis Cappelli, who had an even grander vision for the Concord property.

Cappelli unveiled a $500 million redevelopment plan in March 2000 for The Concord Resort at Kiamesha Lake, which was to feature a brand new luxury hotel to replace the current structure, along with Time-share housing, year-round recreation and entertainment facilities, a new golf resort, conference centre, and a Spa Ranch.  It was to be one of the most significant economic development efforts ever undertaken in New York State.

The new hotel was designed in an architectural style reminiscent of a traditional mountain lodge, with construction to begin in late 2000.  This too failed to come to fruition.

Cappelli who would eventually go on to buy the abandoned Grossinger’s property.  

All buildings were demolished in April 2008, leaving only scattered concrete foundations. Plans to transform the property into a casino-resort, Resorts World Catskills, were announced in May 2017 by new owners Empire Resorts.

Unlike the previous attempts at building a new hotel on the former Concord property, Resorts World Casino did indeed open in 2018, although not on the site of the original hotel.  Instead, the new hotel was built to the south of the golf course.

The Concord Golf Clubhouse


Raleigh Hotel Resort

The Raleigh featured many recreational activities including shuffleboard, basketball, volleyball, horseshoes, outdoor and indoor pools, a playground for kids, a day camp, exercise room and an auditorium, The Starlight Room, which hosted the usual roster of performers.

Guests could also stay in one of the many cottage rentals available on the property.

The Raleigh’s long-time owner Mannie Halbert died in 2004. The Raleigh closed in December 2005 and then reopened the following year under new ownership, as a retreat for mainly Orthodox Jews, which it remains today.

The remainder of the Raleigh and Heiden property is currently being re-developed into the Venetian Villas, a condominium community with a variety of detached and semi-detached homes.

Facilities at Venetian Villas includes a community building with the Shul, the day camp and the Cheder, two outdoor pools, basketball, handball and volleyball courts and playground equipment for children.


Heiden Hotel

Opened in 1908 by David Heiden in South Fallsurg. Like many of the Borscht Belt hotels, it was originally as a boarding house.

As a hotel, The Heiden Hotel operated only in the summer. The guests had access to some of the amenities and leisure activities found at the Borscht Belt hotels, including live entertainment in the indoor casino room and an outdoor bandstand, a large porch where guests could play board games and an outdoor pool. Absent was a golf course and ski hill.

The Heiden Hotel closed in 1986, its final demise captured in the Hollywood film, “Sweet Lorraine,” Starring Maureen Stapleton as the owner of The Lorraine, an aging family run-hotel struggling to stay open amidst the decline of the Borscht Belt.

While “Sweet Lorraine” didn’t do as well commercially as another Borscht Belt themed movie released around the same time, “Dirty Dancing,” starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, it was considered by many critics as a more authentic film about the Borscht Belt as it was actually filmed at an authentic Borscht Belt hotel, unlike “Dirty Dancing,” which was filmed in North Carolina.

The hotel stood abandoned and crumbling until it was destroyed by a fire in May 2008. All that remains today are the tennis courts and the outdoor pool.

Update August 2023:  The land is being cleared for re-development.  The pool remain and the tennis courts remain, but likely not for long.


Stevensville Resort and Country Club

The Stevensville Resort and Country Club originally opened in the late 1920s in Swan Lake.

The hotel was built on the former estate of Alden Swan, a man who bought the lake and much of the surrounding land, in what was then know as Stevensville. By 1927, the name had been changed to Swan Lake.

After Swan died, his land was bought by Sol Siegel and Kretchmer.  The Siegels built the Commodore and the Stevensville, and while they operated the Commodore, the Dinnerstein family purchased the Stevensville.

The Stevensville closed in the late 1980s, but reopened 1999 as the Swan Lake Golf and Tennis Resort Center, after having been boarded up for six years. Although the Swan Lake resort did offer kosher food, the menu included a wider variety of food, including Korean and Japanese cuisine, owing to Korean-born co-owner Songcha Gallo, who owned the hotel with her husband, Victor Gallo.

The renovated hotel brought back to life the night club, conference rooms, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools and fitness club, but this new incarnation also failed.

In 2015, after sitting vacant for several years, the old Stevensville hotel property was sold to Congregation Iched Anash from Monticello, who operated it as a summer camp, Machne Rav Tov Satmar for Boys.

As of 2018, the camp closed and it’s unknown what will become of the former hotel.

Update August 2023:  The Stevensville Hotel has re-opened as an Orthodox retreat.


Commodore Hotel and Country Club

The Commodore Hotel and Country Club was opened next to the Stevensville Hotel, and was owned by the Siegel family. 

Over the years, several new buildings were added to the resort, including smaller cabins, a large barracks-style building, the Doll’s House (four-room cottages), the Art Deco-style nightclub and a horse stable.

The Commodore closed in the late 1960s, and became a Christian resort, but this too soon closed.

The dilapidated hotel was leveled by a controlled fire by the local fire department in 1971.  

The only remnants of the 198-room hotel are the Black Magic Showroom building, the outdoor pool and changerooms and the stone wall that lined the main entrance to the property along Briscoe Road.

Also remaining is the Stone Castle, built by Joe Moshini, an Italian stone mason, at the request of the Siegels as the focal point of a sunken garden between the Commodore and the Stevensville.  The Stone Castle sat neglected for many years, but has been restored and serves as a unique roadside attraction.


Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club

Kutsher’s Hotel in Monticello was opened by Max and Louis Kutsher in 1907 as the Kutsher Brother’s Farmhouse, and later expanded into a hotel in the 1920s.

The hotel’s real expansion began in the 1950s, when it became one of the premiere destinations of the Borscht Belt complete with 400 resort rooms, an 18-hole golf course, and views of Kiamesha Lake.

The Stardust Room played host to early performances by many comedic talents such as Jerry Seinfeld and Joan Rivers.

In the 1950s and 60s, the hotel also hosted basketball tournaments, including the annual Maurice Stokes Benefit basketball game. 

NBA great Wilt Chamberlain once worked as a bellhop there.  At 7-feet-tall, Chamberlain was known to pass luggage through the second storey windows for guests staying on that floor.

At its peak, Kutsher’s also featured amenities such as two bungalow colonies, condos for executive guests, indoor ice skating, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, racquetball, swimming, snow tubing, skiing, theatre, nightclub, two summer camps on-site and a lakefront.

With declining business in the early 2000s, Kutsher’s welcomed the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festivals, which staged concerts in the the Stardust Room in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Like many of the Borscht Belt hotels, owner Mark Kutcher, son of Milton and Helen, had hoped that casino gambling could serve to revitalize the area.

With little hope that gambling would be coming any time soon and a desire to retire from the business, Mark Kutsher contracted out the running of the resort in 2010 to Yossi Zablock, an enthusiastic businessman and former employee who spent summers growing up at Kutsher’s.

Zablock came in with ideas he hoped would revitalize the aging resort but in the end, the inevitable finally came in 2013, when the Kutcher family sold the hotel after operating it for 106 years, making it truly the last of the original Borscht Belt hotels.  While there were still other hotels still in operation, Kutsher’s was the last one to be operated by the original family and under its original name.

The property was bought by Veria Lifestyle, who planned to demolish the old hotel and build a new resort offering yoga, golf, tennis and other healthy activities.  Most of the buildings were demolished in 2014, but during the demolition, it was discovered that the ground was contaminated and no new building could be constructed until the land was remediated.  As a result, the new resort, named YO1 Longevity & Health Resort, was built south of the original site, just past the Rav Tov “Satmar Boy’s Camp, formerly the site of the Kutsher’s Sports Academy.  Situated beside Baileys Lake at 420 Anawana Lake Road, it was deemed to be a more picturesque location for the now resort, which opened in June 2018.

At the original Kutsher’s site, three buildings remain standing:  the seven-storey Marquis guest tower, the nightclub building and the racquetball building, which were reportedly going to be refurbished and incorporated into the new YO1 Longevity & Health Resort.

Kutsher’s golf course remained open until the end of the summer of 2018.  Plans to rebuild the golf course were scrapped in the spring of 2019, when YO1 Wellness Center announced it was withdrawing an application to the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency for nearly $128,000 in tax breaks to rebuild the golf course.   The golf course is now overgrown and it’s unknown if it will ever re-open.

Kutsher’s Sports Academy

In 1968, Milton Kutsher bought the closed Harmony Country Club, around the corner on Anawana Lake Road, and turned it into the Kutsher’s Sports Academy.  The academy was held in such high regard that athletes like Joe DiMaggio and Wilt Chamberlain trained there in the off-season.  It also became the home of the annual Maurice Stokes Game, which had been held at Kutsher’s since 1958. 

The Stokes Game was an annual fundraising event to assist Stokes, a former Cincinnati Royals basketball player, with medical bills resulting from an on-court injury that eventually led to a seizure and permanent paralysis.  It continued to be held after Stokes died in April 1970, remaining an annual tradition until 1999 when it was discontinued, two months after the death of Chamberlain himself.

Mark Kutsher had previously leased the Kutsher Sports Academy in 2005 to Marc White, the longtime Executive Director.  In 2008, it was re-located to the Berkshires and later to the Lake Buel area, just outside Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  The property is now the Rav Tov “Satmar Boy’s Camp.


Camp Anawana/Kutsher’s Camp Anawana

Originally opened in 1921 as a summer sleepaway camp beside Lake Anawana, owned by Anna Kahn.

In 1955, Camp Anawana partnered with nearby Kutsher’s and basketball coach Clair Bee to host Kutsher’s National All-Sports Camp.

After Milton Kutsher bought the closed nearby Harmony Country Club in 1968 to create Kutsher’s Sports Academy, he also bought Camp Anawana.  The camp also featured sports and dramatic arts programs.

After the summer camp program ended in 1992, the camp continued to be used by Kutsher’s Hotel as Club Anawana, offering water sports and beach activities.

Camp Anawana was sold along with the main hotel.  The abandoned camp still has several crumbling buildings remaining.


The Laurels Hotel and Country Club

The Laurels Hotel and Country Club featured both indoor and outdoor pools, a 9-hole golf course, skating rinks, boat rentals, a nightclub and a ski hill.  The hotel also featured 35 summer-rental bungalows near the golf course.

Typical of Jewish humour, apparently one of the unofficial slogans that was attached to The Laurels was, “Lose your morals at The Laurels.”

The end of The Laurels Hotel came in July 1973, when it was Sullivan County Sheriff Joseph Waseer in a foreclosure action.  The 125 registered guests at the time (out of a capacity of 1200) were forced to find other accommodations.

The abandoned buildings stood for several years and were finally torn down in the late 1980s.  The property was seized by Sullivan County in 1995 for defaulting on their property taxes.

New Horizon Recreation of Clifton, New Jersey, bought the vacant 300-acre property in January 1999, with plans to build a Las Vegas-style hotel and entertainment complex.  The denial of legalized gambling for Sullivan County killed this plan and two decades later, the property remains vacant.


Brown’s Hotel

Brown’s Hotel had its beginnings in 1944, when hotel owner Charles Brown bought the Black Apple Inn in the Town of Fallsburg, a hotel that originally opened in 1922.  Renovating it into a 473-room hotel, the Charles and Lillian Brown’s Hotel and Country Club, the hotel became known for attracting wealthy patrons with fine food and big name entertainment. A seasonal operation, the hotel was open from April until late November each year.

By the 1950s, Brown’s Hotel would eventually become one of the largest and most elaborate hotel resorts in the Borscht Belt and one of the most popular, along with The Concord and Grossinger’s.

The hotel’s Brown Derby night club attracted entertainers like Bob Hope, Buddy Hacket, Jackie Mason, Woddy Allen, George Burns, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennet, Harry Belafonte and Liberace. Noted guests included Jayne Mansfield and boxer Jack Dempsey.

Charles Brown died in 1978, leaving Lillian to carry on, but as with other Borscht Belt hotels, Brown’s was in decline.

By 1985, in an attempt to revitalize their operations and provide new revenue streams, Brown’s Hotel, the Pines Hotel and Kutsher’s began building private residences on their properties as seasonal homes for families, allowing access to the athletic and entertainment facilities for an additional fee.

The end of Brown’s Hotel came in November 1988, when the hotel was sold in a foreclosure sale to Vista Environments of Brooklyn.

The hotel sat vacant until 1997, when it was converted into the 396-unit Grandview Palace Condominiums. Most of the facilities remained including the swimming pools, tennis courts, miniature golf, synagogue, the bar and even the Jerry Lewis Theatre.

Grandview operated until March 2012, when the City of Fallsburg threatened to condemn the complex due to numerous fire code violations. One month later, a fire broke out in a boiler room, resulting in 43 fire companies with 300 fire fighters responding to the resulting inferno, the largest in Catskills history. Flames were observed 20 to30 feet high.

By the time the fire was extinguished, seven of the nine buildings were destroyed and 20 acres of the surrounding pine forests.

The main tower remains, but most of the site has been reduced to rubble. The property remains embroiled in legal issues as a result of the fire.

The former Brown’s Hotel was reportedly the inspiration for the fictional “Sheldrake Hotel,” in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, where “Baby” Houseman and Johnny Castle perform their first dance show in the movie.  Many believe that the scene was shot at Brown’s, but the entire film was actually shot near Roanoke, Virginia, since the producers couldn’t find any suitable shooting locations in the real Catskills. 


The Delmar Hotel/La Minette Hotel

Opened in the summer of 1929 as The Jacob Inn.

After WWII, the hotel was run by Max and Claire Jacobs, son and daughter-in-law of the founder.

Claire Jacobs was responsible for the names of the buildings at the hotel — Biaritz, Capri, Deauville, Lido, and Riviera. The hotel could accommodate about 150 guests, but it was considered a small hotel.

In the late 1940s, Max and Claire re-named the hotel The Delmar.

Up to the 1960s, the Delmar was very much a family resort that included a day camp for children.

The day camp closed in 1965 and the main building used by the camp was converted to storage.

The hotel remained open for twenty more years, at La Minette Hotel, closing in 1985.


Bungalow Colonies

The bungalow colonies consisted of a collection of small, one-storey wood houses, sitting on wood pilings or cinder blocks, and without a basement. They were furnished, but otherwise no-frills houses, usually with a small eat-in kitchen, one or two bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower (some with a bathtub as well), decks or screened-in porches. None had air conditioning, but that, along with their small size, still provided an enjoyable summer vacation for New Yorkers used to living in small apartments in a sweltering city.

Facilities frequently included an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and a casino for nightly or weekly entertainment.

The popularity of the bungalow colonies declined like the rest of the Borscht Belt for the same reasons as the major hotel resorts, but they had the additional strike against them due to the fact that they no longer met state building codes. Their inexpensive construction meant that without expensive upgrades, most were subject to condemnation, and colony owners were unwilling or unable to make the required upgrades.

While some received the required upgrades and still operate in the same fashion as they have for over 100 years, many of the old bungalow colonies have been demolished or abandoned and left to rot.

In a bit of a revival, some have been replaced with developments filled with new year-round summer homes, townhouses and modular homes. Some are are co-ops or condominium developments, with the homes measuring around 1500 square feet each, built on proper foundations and featuring 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 bathrooms. Some even include upgrades like granite-top counters in the kitchen and an unfinished basement.

While a shadow of its former glory, the era of the bungalow colony is far from over in the Borscht Belt.


Brentwood Bungalow Colony


Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel

After sitting abandoned and crumbling since closing in 1986, demolition of the Grossinger’s buildings began in August 2018, as the new owners determined that they were all beyond saving. 

The Elaine Grossinger-Etess’ house, Artie Friedman’s house, the Rose cottage and never-completed condominiums were all that remained standing two months later.  Whatever comes of the Grossinger’s property, it won’t look anything like the photos of the past.

Whatever comes of the Grossinger’s property, it won’t look anything like the photos of the past.

Grossinger’s condos

When Muss Development bought Grossinger’s, they built three two-storey condominium buildings. Unfortunately, Muss had some issues with hooking up to city water and Sewer and the condos never had anyone living in them.  As of 2022, they remain amongst the few remaining structures standing on the Grossinger’s property.

See my article on my visit to Grossinger’s in May 2018 here:

Crumbling resort hotel a relic of a bygone era


For more of my Borscht Belt adventures, check out

A second helping of Borscht – The (crumbling) remains of America’s Jewish vacationland, Part 2

A third serving of borscht – The changed face of America’s Jewish Vacationland

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

And just like that, it was gone – The decline of America’s Jewish Vacationland

Check out this web site for the proposed Catskill Resort Museum:


Check out this web site for the Borscht Belt Historical Marker Project:



Sources: https://www.dailyfreeman.com/news/local-news/hudson-valley-resort-in-kerhonkson-has-shut-down/article_33df1f32-c753-11e8-8ed0-0f899fcb9dbe.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht_Belt, https://www.facebook.com/pg/hudsonvalleyresort/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1190905427616828, http://www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/May-2018/The-Borscht-Belt-History-Abandoned-Catskills/, https://www.messynessychic.com/2018/01/19/back-to-the-borscht-belt-exploring-the-ruins-of-another-doomed-pines-resort-hotel/, https://www.recordonline.com/article/20070830/news/708300318, https://www.scpartnership.com/project/veria-lifestyle-wellness-resort-project-underway/, https://www.dailyfreeman.com/news/kutsher-s-is-sold-will-become-healthy-living-resort/article_6e5b7397-2d86-5d95-a61e-4e7cb080c3b6.html, https://www.recordonline.com/article/20150621/news/150629924, https://www.news10.com/news/new-catskill-resort-rises-from-the-rubble_20180327035953640/1081377555, https://www.news10.com/news/new-catskill-resort-rises-from-the-rubble_20180327035953640/1081377555, https://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/Nevele%20Resort,%20Casino%20&%20Spa%20Executive%20Summary%20(redacted%20NA).pdf,  https://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/08/at-satmar-boys-camp-sports-are-almost-nonexistent-456.html, https://www.yo1.com, http://www.classiccatskills.com, http://raleighhotelny.com, http://thevenetianvillas.com, https://www.nytimes.com/1973/07/21/archives/laurels-hotel-in-catskills-is-seized-in-foreclosure.html, https://abandonedhudsonvalley.com/tamarack-lodge, https://whatisleftbehind.wordpress.com/tag/nevele/, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/22/nyregion/in-catskills-resort-s-death-darkens-the-view.html, https://www.brown.edu/Research/Catskills_Institute/news/rebuild.shtml, https://www.summercampculture.com/old-catskills-resort-being-leased-for-summer-camp, http://www.terrastories.com/bearings/abandoned-catskills-hotels, https://www.recordonline.com/news/20190320/300m-nevele-project-still-waiting-for-financing, https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/catskills-resort-that-inspired-emdirty-dancingem-burns-to-the-ground, https://sociology.sas.upenn.edu/sites/…sas…/Jerry_A_Jacobs_Catskill_Memoir_0.pdf, http://www.classiccatskills.com, http://vanishingcatskills.us, Urban Decay Photo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKnYnDtHevI, You Tube video of the demolition of Kutsher’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS-7r5kOwQI, https://www.jta.org/2010/07/01/culture/can-kutshers-the-catskills-last-kosher-resort-be-saved?_ga=2.53255019.2138042410.1554174502-192267098.1554174501, Shawangunk Journal, 31 October 2019, In the Catskills, New Hope for the Return of Tourism – The New York Times (nytimes.com), Groundbreaking set for wellness resort on old Kutsher’s property (recordonline.com)https://www.recordonline.com/article/20160929/OBITUARIES/309299996, http://marcstier.com/blog2/?p=626, https://www.facebook.com/pg/marisascheinfeld/photos/?tab=album&album_id=493814917393743%MCEPASTEBIN%m http://www.scdemocratonline.com/news/2013September/03/news2.htm%MCEPASTEBIN%http://www.welcometoliberty.com/pdf/page14.pdf%MCEPASTEBIN% & https://www.fulldarkpros.com/post/2019/06/05/abandoned-borscht-belt-series-nevele-grande, https://abandonedonline.net/location/spring-glen-resort, http://concordresort.com/pages/hotelinfo.htm, Hunter Travel Guides “The Catskills,” by Francine Silverman, Fire Rages at Old Homowack Lodge in Spring Glen – Hamodia.com.   Quote, “Lose your morals at The Laurels,” relayed by Marisa Scheinfeld.

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/the-crumbling-remains-of-americas-jewish-vacationland-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-borscht-belt/

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