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The Borscht Belt: Revisiting The Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland, by Marisa Scheinfeld.

The Borscht Belt Resort, located in the Catskills in New York, was once a major vacation destination from the 1920s to the 1960s. Looking for respite from city life, New Yorkers would head to Borscht Belt to sunbathe, swim, dance, and dine during the summer months, and the resort soon became known as a Jewish vacationland. By the 1980s, however, the once-bustling resort, home to numerous hotels, bungalows, tennis courts, and swimming pools, became desolate as New Yorkers began to favor different destinations. People lost interest in Borscht Belt for a number of reasons, namely because of the airline industry boom, as the possibility of exotic getaways lessened their desire to return to the Catskills for vacation.

Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld’s book The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland, takes advantage of the availability of the abandoned resorts and looks at the remains of the Borscht Belt. Noted also in this book is the resort’s importance in American Jewish history, as for many Jewish New Yorkers Borscht Belt served as a haven when they were banned from many of the city’s hotels in the 1920s.

Here’s a look at 10 abandoned resorts from The Borscht Belt:

10. Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel

The site of the abandoned Grossinger’s Catskills Resort Hotel

Though comedians such as Mel Brooks once provided entertainment at the resort, Borscht Belt’s true claim to fame was its inspiration for the setting of 1987’s Dirty Dancing, whose fictional locale “Kellerman’s” was based on former resort Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel. However, the film’s success was unable to influence tourists as the resort closed its doors in 1986, a year before the film’s release.

The Grossingers were Austrian immigrants who opened a farmhouse in 1914 and quickly gained a reputation for their cooking and hospitality. They then purchased the land for what would become Grossinger’s, a resort which thrived thanks to the leadership of the couple’s daughter, Jennie. Grossinger’s soon flourished to a grand destination so large it had its own air strip and zip code, with arenas for tennis, ice skating, and skiing (it was the first resort to use artificial snow in 1952).

Frequented by athletes, entertainers, and wealthy business, this resort’s 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, is a destination for adventurers.

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One Response
  1. Simon DelMonte Reply

    Such an incredible melancholy to see these hotels just sitting there. Surely someone out there wants the land, if nothing else. But as much the weather up there is still cooler in the summer and the scenery is still lush, it seems that no one wants to go to a resort in the Catskills for any reason now.

    I was at the Homowack for a singles event in 1992, and around the same time my future wife went there for a family get-together, so it was not that long ago that the place was getting business. But by 1992, the grounds were leaning toward decrepit, the rooms were antiquated, and the overall effect was enough to make me never go there again (though I did get to see the late, great comedian Dennis Wolfberg, who lamented having an agent who booked him there for July 4th).

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