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"...the Catskills' hotels were splendid castles in the sky." -- Jaye Bellingham
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Hotel Postcards
Fleischmann Hotel
Fleischmann Park House
Fleischmanns Mansion
Grand Hotel
Griffin Corners Hotel
Highmount Hotel
Hotel Lorraine
Hotel Mathes
Hotel Todd
Lasher Farm
Manhattan Hotel
Maple Grove Hotel -- Halcott Center NY
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Morrisons Maple Grove House -- Halcott Valley
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Sunny View Hotel
Takanassee Hotel
Untitled Document
Hotel Life Flourishes with the U&D Line
 
When the Ulster Delaware Railroad traversed the summit of Highmount in 1870, it opened a corridor to Delaware County, and in 1881, the Grand Hotel welcomed its first guests, billing itself as the most modern-equipped hotel in the Catskills.



The Grand was all that its name implied, and its majestic presence on the summit of Highmount lured the rich and famous to the village of Pine Hill, a stone’s throw from present-day Fleischmanns.

In its early days, the Grand attracted large numbers of bible-toting clergy who cultivated an atmosphere of proper Christian piety among its mostly Protestant clientele. But as the U&D Railroad transported crowds of working-class immigrants to the Catskills, the increasing numbers of Russian and Eastern-European Jews raised some eyebrows, especially on Sunday when these newcomers failed to observe the Christian Sabbath and were even seen playing cards.

A period followed when many of New York's great resort hotels required references and posted their right to refuse "undesirables." Anti-Semitic feeling was rife among the "old money" aristocracy, not only in the Catskills but at Saratoga, Coney Island and Atlantic City.

However, as the summer of 1889 came to a close, the proprietors of the Grand realized that times were changing, and if the hotel were to survive, they would have to drop their exclusionary tactics and admit any guest who could afford to pay. Charles F. Fleischmann had other ideas of grandeur.

Charles F. Fleischmann Builds Family Estate
 
When Charles Fleischmann purchased his 60 acres near the Griffin Corners Station in 1883, he set out to create his own retreat, a park with everything the location had to offer: fresh air, pure water, glorious scenery, nature at its best. Born near Budapest, Hungary, educated in Vienna and Prague, the yeast and distillery magnate had risen to become an Ohio-State Senator. His respiratory problems led him to the area, where he had first boarded with a wealthy family.

Fleischmann transformed the mercantile village of Griffin Corners into a monument of gracious living, outfitting the Griffin Corners band with new uniforms and instruments so the family could be met in style when their private railroad car pulled into the train station.

While the Fleischmanns' summer homes graced the hillside overlooking the village, a row of stately Victorian houses made their appearance in the heart of town (now Wagner Avenue). Attorney Eugene Howe, who aspired to become governor, had a balcony built on the second floor of his home, the Whitehall, so he could deliver speeches.

The town benefited not only from the fame it realized through the Fleischmann family but also from the religious tolerance of the local people. Protestant settlers had lived amicably alongside Jewish farmers and merchants, who incorporated their congregation in 1918 and established a synagogue.

Cheap Tickets and Choice Lodgings
 
The railroads continued to promote tourism to the Catskills by advertising cheap tickets from New York City and distributing free directories of lodgings with a wide variety of accommodations.

By 1910, the village counted eighteen hotels and by the Roaring Twenties, a building boom was in full swing.

A railroad brochure of the period proclaimed: "Fleischmanns has come into prominence among the Catskill Mountain resorts for the many fine summer hotels in the village and surrounding territory. The combined capacity of its hostelries probably exceeds any other town in this mountain region. Its remarkable growth is shown in the 700 percent increase in real estate valuation in the past ten years. It has an active Chamber of Commerce, two banks, and its shops, markets, and stores are hardly equaled outside the large cities…".

A large hotel of that era typically offered 250 rooms with or without private bath, hot and cold water, electric lights, a ballroom, concerts and dining. Outdoor sports facilities included tennis courts, a private lake or lake access. Some even boasted bridle paths.

Most every hotel ad stated "Dietary laws observed" with the word "strict" sometimes added, and many advertised "Hungarian Cuisine."

 

The luxury hotels included the Takanassee with its 145 x 275 foot swimming pool and 9-hole golf course, the Terrace Hall with an orchestra and social director, the Hillcrest, the New Orchard, the Palace, the Breezy Hill, and the Hotel Lorraine. On famous Fleischmann Hill stood the Fleischmann Mansion and Hotel Arlington and on Lake Switzerland, the St. Regis and the Hotel Washington.

The more moderately priced Todd Cottage accommodated 150 guests and offered a newly built casino and a jazz trio. An ad for Hotel Fleischmann offered rooms for a day, American Plan.

Boarding Houses Offer Home Cooking and Trout Fishing
 
Boarding houses played up their homey atmosphere. Maple Park House, with accommodations for 75 one-half mile from the village, advertised its home cooking and ideal location for rest and relaxation in a 100-acre park. Locos Farm, a mile from the village, touted its own dairy, radio concerts every night, trout fishing and hunting. The Roadside Farm House, two miles from Fleischmanns with accommodations for 35 guests made no mention of dietary laws but advertised "fowl and fresh vegetables from our own farm, private lake for fishing and swimming."

The Business Directory of the same brochure was chock full of services, including three barbers, two tailors, four meat markets, two bakeries, two drug stores, two purveyors of diary products and four fruits and vegetable vendors. Recreational facilities included two bowling alleys and the New Mountain Casino, which doubled as a theatre.

In 1928, Fleischmanns’ reputation as a popular resort village continued unabated. A brochure from that year reads: "This is a resort that stands among the highest in appeal to vacationers in the Catskills. Its streets are humming with activity, its excellent shops are doing a heavy business, and practically all the hotels, many of which are mammoth affairs, are crowded to capacity."

The brochure paints an entrancing picture of leisure activities: "...Lake Switzerland with scores of boats and canoes, beautiful casinos and brightly clad bathers on its shores…and one of the largest athletic fields in the Catskills, fringed with hundreds of parked cars and scene of continual baseball and other athletic rivalry.

"There is a large number of people of wealth and distinction who spend their summers in or near the town, among them Galli-Curci, whose estate, Sul Monte, overlooks the village.…With its naturally fine location, Fleischmanns makes a strong bid for the patronage of the discriminating."
 

The brochure romances the reader with a description of the countryside, where summer camps flourished.

"With our entrance into Fleischmanns, we have come into Delaware County. An immediate change in the scenery is noted. We find the steeps more gentle, we enjoy wider vistas, broad meadows sweeping along the banks of a small stream and up onto hillsides. But the mountains are there too, although in the background."

"There are large herds of cattle and sometimes sheep, all along the way…This is the county famous for its thoroughbred cows and products of the sapbush (maple syrup). It is truly a land flowing with milk and honey…The peaceful little stream you observe as you go along is the Bushkill, a tributary of the East Branch of the Delaware."

Year Round Resort
 
Park Terrace Hotel
In January, 1936, newspapers announced the first snow train to the Catskills, which delivered skiers to Simpson Ski Slope in Phoenicia. Headlines in January, 1946, noted "Fleischmanns Develops into Winter Resort, Hotels Filled." A year later, plans for Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort were announced.

A brochure from 1955 shows a year-round resort climate offering skiing, hunting, golfing, and summer fun. It states, "Modern Fleischmanns is the most cosmopolitan little town in the region where thousands gather every year to enjoy its varied attractions.

"This sleepy little village with a winter population of approximately a thousand hardy souls, blooms almost over night into a resort community of fifteen thousand or more, accommodated in hotels, motels, boarding houses, rooming houses, farm houses, bungalows, and rooms for tourists. Cars parked at these places show licenses from the whole U.S.A. and Canada. Express buses from New York City bring other hundreds and businessmen commute for week-ends."

The brochure mentions that the chair lift on Belleayre is operated not only for skiers but also in summer and fall to facilitate sightseeing.

The Grand Hotels Go Up in Flames
 
By the 1960s, the bloom was starting to fade on all the Catskill resorts, mostly because affordable air travel offered the glamour of more faraway places and the invention of air conditioning made even the hottest of summers bearable.

Joyce Wadler, a writer whose family owned the Maplewood House, recalls in her book: "The landscape was dotted with grand hotels with sagging porches and peeling paint...As for the family business, it was clear it was a style of life on the way out. Every fall, with the guests safely returned to the city and the insurance premiums paid, another hotel would go up in flames."

Fleischmanns' Future
 
To read about Fleischmanns' revitalization, click here.

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