The Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains was once one of the New York’s premiere holiday destinations. Named after the Eastern European soup, during its heyday the Borscht Belt boasted around 500 hundred hotels. Catering to mostly Jewish holiday makers, the so-called ‘Jewish Alps’ were filled with everything from grand hotels and resorts, to more modest bungalow parks and lakeside camp sites.
Last year, we went to explore one of the grandest of them all – Grossinger’s. Today, the once swish resort is a haunting ruin. The advent of cheap air fares during the 1970s, spelled the end of the Borscht Belt, with families and couples choosing to spend their summer dollars in more exotic locations, like the Florida Keys, Bermuda and Europe. Almost all of the old resorts went bankrupt, and were either torn down, or simply left to gradually fall into ruin. This winter, we went to go explore another abandoned Borscht Belt relic; the ill-fated Pines Resort Hotel…
The Pines was located on the outskirts of South Fallsburg, NY. It might not have had the cache and glitz of Grossinger’s, but thrived for sixty years in the upper-middle echelons of the Borscht Belt.
It had originally opened in the 1930s as a modest hotel, but under the ownership of Harry Cohen and May Schweid, the Pines grew and flourished after World War Two.
In its heyday, the Pines could offer over 400 rooms spread throughout lush, verdant grounds. Holiday makers could enjoy numerous tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and ice rinks in winter. At night, revelers could step into the plush silk and velvet confines of the Persian Room, a nightclub that could seat 1,300.
Today, it all sadly lies in ruins…
A half hour walk from the coach stop on South Fallsburg’s Main Street, you soon reach the outskirts of the Pines, marked by small, wooden summer cottages. Some have had their roofs stoved in by falling trees, whilst others have subsided to impossible angles. All are empty.
Like other doomed Borscht Belt resorts, the Pines suffered from steadily decreasing visitors, until it was finally forced to close in 1998. In the two decades since, the once fun filled resort has fared terribly. A combination of vandals, fires, and looters stripping out anything of scrap value has taken its toll, and has left the Pines a shell of its former self.
The Pines just sits there in the forest, unguarded and left to fall apart. What trespassers haven’t destroyed, nature has steadily taken care of the rest. The entrance of the main hotel building soon looms large, a giant P for Pines peering out over the tree tops. There was once a curved driveway, that would have swept you into the lobby and the beginning of your summer holiday…
The centre piece of the Pines was its out-door swimming pool. Kidney shaped, and with a futuristic looking curved walkway across the middle, archival photos show bathers and merry makers enjoying the summer sun, all Brylcream and bikinis. Today, sun loungers no longer used have been thrown into the pool where they lie, frozen in the the winter ice.
There is another pool a stone’s throw away; old photographs show that this was once an indoor pool. At some point the walls and roof were torn town, but the once beautiful yellow and teal tile work is still there…
The Pines doesn’t have the striking abandoned architecture of say, the Grossinger’s indoor pool for example. But walking amongst the charred remains and tumbled down ruins, it is easy to sense that this modest priced resort, was a fun filled way to spend your holidays.
Today, it is almost entirely covered with weeds and small trees, with stubborn lamp posts reminding you of what was once here.
Many of the ceilings have fallen in, and almost all of the windows of the once modestly-priced hotel rooms are smashed. In January, the ground was covered with an eerie mist rising off the snow.
The yellow checkered hotel exteriors and pastel hued pools have the air of a 1950s summer camp, but the Pines has deteriorated so badly over recent years, that it is hard to imagine anyone saving it. The Pines is simply another casualty of the Borscht Belt, one that will in all likelihood, soon disappear for good, so see it whilst you can.