What Remains of Grossinger's Resort, Catskills, NY

October 12, 2015

In the early to mid 20th Century, there were many families rising up the financial ladder in New York City, but finding that the local clubs and vacation spots were only interested in extending their hospitality to the establishing gentile elite. The relatively nearby Catskill Mountains was a lush reprieve from fast paced urban life, and hotels began opening at the dawn of the 20th century, but evolved into mega resorts in the 1940s. So many vacation resorts populated the Catskill region that the area was informally dubbed the Borscht Belt, a play on the Bible Belt region, and an obvious commentary of the ethnicity of the area. Due to widespread anti-Semitism of the era, Jewish families were often even denied occupancy at hotels, not to mention resorts, and private country clubs.

One of the most established resorts in the area was Grossinger’s, and as they liked to put it, “Grossinger's has everything for the type of person who likes to come to Grossinger's!” Founders Asher and Malke were Austrian immigrants, who originally planned on farming. However, their land proved infertile and they converted their farmhouse into a boarding house. Through their hard work, notable cooking, and legendary hospitality, the Grossinger’s were able to purchase the land that would soon become their lavish resort.

 The Grossinger’s daughter, Jennie began to advocate for a large expansion, and under her direction, a golf course, ski slope, swimming pools (extra large indoor, and olympic size outdoor), and theatre would be added in the early '40s & '50s. They even boasted their own municipal designation, post office, AND air strip. Guests passed their days lounging poolside, playing tennis, golf, jumping barrels, watching comedy or Broadway-style reviews. Jackie Mason, Buddy Hacket, Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis all played Grossinger's. Rocky Marciano trained there, Jackie Robinson vacationed there, and Elizabeth Taylor wed there.

 The decline of the Borscht Belt coincided with the decline of blatant racial discrimination, and the democratization of air travel, once only reserved for the wealthiest Americans. Now exotic and distant destinations were only a flight away, and a lavish local resort looked old fashioned in comparison. In 1986, Grossinger’s was sold by descendants of the family, but the new firm never finished development, and today it sits as a fascinating relic for explorers and graffiti artists alike.

Photos below are a selection from a post by Colleen Keen, writer and photographer.

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