Inside Grossinger’s Resort (above) from 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 the Borscht Belt to sunbathe, swim, dance, and dine during the summer months, and the resort area soon became known as a Jewish vacationland. By the 1980s, however, the once-bustling region, home to numerous hotels, bungalows, tennis courts, and swimming pools, became desolate as New Yorkers began to favor different destinations. People lost interest in the Borscht Belt for a number of reasons, but the decline was due in large part to the boom in airline industry, as the possibility of exotic getaways lessened visitor’s desire to return to the Catskills for vacation.

Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld’s book The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationlandtakes a look at the remains of the Borscht Belt. Noted also in this book is the resort area’s importance within American Jewish history.  For many Jewish New Yorkers, the 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

Borcht Belt-Abandoned Jewish Vacation-Catskills-Upstate New York-Marisa Scheinfeld- Stefan Kanfer and Jenna Weissman-001Indoor pool, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Liberty New York. Photo by Marisa Scheinfeld from The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland.

Grossinger’s Catskills Resort Hotel‘s claim to fame is as an inspiration for the setting of the 1987 film Dirty Dancingwhose fictional locale “Kellerman’s” was based on former resortHowever, 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 into 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. Its indoor swimming pool, which has transformed into a lush greenhouse over the years, is a destination for adventurers.

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4 Responses
  1. MArk Levine Reply

    My first job was at the Brickmans Hotel I was 15 yrs old and ran the softball games The owner was MURRAY POSNER My 2nd job was at the PINES HOTEL i was the Athletic Directer under HANK LEEDS and did the spotlights for rhe shows under the MATRE D NORMAN I was in the Catskills since i was 5 yrs old

  2. Alan I Fleischmann Reply

    Fond memories of the Grossinger’s and other Catskills resorts. I spent 2 years (1971-1973) attending Sullivan County Community College. Originally at the old South Fallsburg, then at their brand new campus in Loch Sheldrake in 1973.
    As a Jewish kid from Long Island (of course born in Brooklyn) I always felt at home the resort area, working weekends at many of the resorts. I was a bus boy, car hop, bell hop, and staff photographer for Earl “the Pearl” Tunick. As one of Earl’s army of photographers, I took photos at dinner and cocktail parties at The Concord, the Pines, The Raleigh, The Brickman, The Gibber, The Granit 2, the Nevele, the Fallsview, The Flagler (whose owner, Milt Brizel, was my Math professor) The Gilbert, Kutschers, Grossingers, and many others. I lived for a semester at the Olympic, the Evans, and in an apartment in nearby Hurlyville. These were among the most memorable two years of my life. My parents and grandparents always had stories of their childhoods in the Catskills, from the old Summit House in South Fallsburg, to Finkelsteins Foibles (between Hurleyville and Loch Sheldrake. While at Sullivan Community College, I had Manny Wakefield (author of “To The Mountains By Rail-History of the O&W) as one of my professors. Crazy and memorable characters like Morty Cherlin (the Evans), Bob Rosenburg (The Olympic), Max Kahn, Lebel Wirschinsky, Dave Tractenburg, and many others will forever have a place in my memories….. Truly fond memories. I had the opportunity to tour the county on a recent road trip, and came away truly depressed at the dilapidated condition of the county. I DO have the memories!

  3. 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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