Marisa Scheinfeld - Ruins of the Borscht Belt

A ghostly chaise at Grossinger’s, rubble at the Concord, and other photos of once-great Catskills resorts

I grew up in “the mountains” or, as others called it, “the country”—as if no other mountain or country existed. In fact, it was Sullivan County, N.Y., about 90 miles northwest of New York City and an area of the Catskills centered on the town of Monticello that from the 1920s through the 1970s represented a retreat for millions of city-dwellers, predominantly Jewish American. The locale was first developed in the late 1800s with tanneries, lumberyards, and farms that eventually became boarding houses and hotels. In large part this was a result of the emergence of sanitariums for fresh-air treatment of tuberculosis at the turn of the century. From these foundations, a tourist region was born that, by virtue of its proximity to New York, and its vast recreational opportunities—skiing, ice-skating, swimming in its lakes and countless pools—became the prime destination for hundreds of thousands of newly middle-class Jewish vacationers. The region peaked in the 1950s and ’60s and came to be known as the Borscht Belt. 

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