Hidden away in upstate New York, about two hours north of Manhattan, lies a forgotten holiday resort. Fifty years ago, it would have been the height of luxury for well heeled New Yorkers to come here, escaping from the Metropolis to the seclusion of the Catskill Mountains, to a place called Grossinger’s.
It had opened in 1917 as a modest, family run hotel located in the hills overlooking the small town of Liberty, New York, by a married immigrant couple from Austria, Asher Selig and Malka Grossinger. But by the 1950s, overseen by their elegantly dressed, socialite daughter Jennie, Grossinger’s had grown into one of the most luxurious holiday destinations imaginable.
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With three swimming pools, tennis courts, grand ballrooms, night clubs and hotel rooms, Grossinger’s welcomed over 150,000 pleasure seekers every year to a resort twice the size of Monaco.
Grossinger’s was part of what was known as the ‘Borscht Belt’, a collection of summer resorts in the Catskills for affluent, mostly Jewish New Yorkers. Holiday makers flocked to resorts such as the Overlook, the Laurels Hotel and Country Club, and the Shawanga Lodge. But the grandest of them all was Grossinger’s.
Guests could enjoy a dining room large enough to seat 1,700, before adjourning to the opulent Terrace Room night club, or the glitzy Pink Elephant bar, to be entertained by the likes of Mel Brooks, Milton Berle or Jack Benny. Grossinger’s was so exclusive that Eddie Fisher chose to marry Elizabeth Taylor here, and vast enough, that it had its own airfield.
It was the first place in the United States to offer artificial snow to summer skiers. The name of Grossinger’s might have faded from memory, but in the 1950s, it was the height of New York glamour; it was described in one review from 1954 as “to resort hotels as Bergdorf Goodman is to department stores, Cadillac to cars, and mink to furs.”
But by the 1980s, Grossinger’s was virtually bankrupt. Cheaper airfares made summer holidays to Florida and other more exotic locations further afield possible, and the Borscht Belt became all but forgotten. Losing nearly $1.8 million in 1985, the grand old resort finally closed its doors for good a year later.
Ever since, the abandoned holiday resort has gradually fallen apart. The hotel rooms lie empty, the tennis courts are covered with weeds.
The outdoor swimming pool with its cabana bars are slowly crumbling away, whilst the indoor pool has been reclaimed by nature so much, as to resemble a vast green house.
Of all the abandoned locations visited by your New York correspondent, there is something especially poignant about the ruins of places that were built for pleasure and entertainment alone.
Archival photographs show Grossinger’s in it’s heyday of the 1950s, filled with holiday makers enjoying the sunshine by the outdoor swimming pool, having their hair set in the beauty salons, before sipping cocktails in the many bars and nightclubs, but now lies empty, silent and forgotten.