I've been back in Brooklyn for a year now. While still living in Baton Rouge, I began researching Kutcher's resort. It's the last operational resort in the Catskills' Borscht Belt, and I was pitching a story about it (no one bit, and I'm still very interested in writing this and similar). From there, I found a wealth of information and photos online covering numerous abandoned resorts in the region. I envied the people who could explore those places and dreamed of doing it myself. Well my dear friends and readers, that dream came true last weekend.
Leah, her German Shorthaired Pointer, Otto, and I set off Friday night to Parksville, NY, settling at a campground occupied by 85% seasonal campers from Long Island who tool around the property on golf carts (I caught a ride with one such fellow named Louie, who decorated the front of his cart in gold and black mailbox letters reading B DA BING BADA BOOM). For the first time, camping wasn't just about sitting around the fire BS-ing and telling funny stories. It was like the night before Christmas, with thoughts on tomorrow's exploration of ruins.
The next stop was less certain, no thanks to my nonexistent iPhone service from AT&T (one of these days I'll learn that the iPhone does not count as a planning device if you're somewhere with unreliable cell signal-- which, for my phone, is EVERYWHERE).
I was supposed to print out addresses for these places on Friday but was too busy. Leah remembered from her research that the former Grossinger's resort, which closed in the late 80s, looked like amazing starting point, and it was nearby, so we began pestering my husband and her boyfriend via phone to help us find it using their home Interwebs.
If you know where to look for it, Grossinger's is quite easy to find. If not, you bumble around a bit like we did. At one intersection, we realized the next day, all we had to do was go straight at the light. You know, past the sign that said Grossinger's?
...and we would've driven right up to the former main entrance. But that would've been too easy.
So we may or may not have parked, walked up a hill, and smooshed through a gate. We were in! Up an overgrown road, and there she was. This late-60s Grossinger's building was called the Jenny G.
It showed the effects of two decades of ravaging by malicious vandals and weather and neglect. We entered with caution into chilly heavy air, on spongy wet carpeting that came apart with each step. Otto's first action was to take a dump, and the place was such a wreck that this was almost an improvement.
The first floor rooms were probably once intended for guests, with two Murphy beds each, but by the end they were likely used for offices or storage. Files, cards, publications, and receipts were strewn everywhere.
In a storage closet, I found a stack of cards all bearing the same disturbing handwritten message.
I assume these are records of extermination of pests, but..."guts thrown away"?
One flight up, this scene.
We still had a lot of ground to cover, so we moved on. Here's the other side of the Jenny G. At the lower right corner you can see where a breezeway once connected it to the main lobby.
Next we wandered into what was meant to be the grand new entrance of the new and improved Grossinger's.
This would have been where guests were dropped off and luggage was unloaded. (Where were guests' cars then taken? We never found out.)
Inside the new lobby, frozen in progress:
A word on the styles of this resort. Grossinger's earliest structures were a quaint Tudor style. As much as I love midcentury modern architecture, the midcentury buildings added at Grossinger's were already a departure from the original style, not a seamless match. So if I may opine, it seems in these final aborted additions, the architects were applying a 1990s mall-style scale where it just didn't fit, on the type of vacation destination that was no longer wanted in the 90s.
View of lobby from atop the steps:
Beyond that, we found one of the iconic scenes of abandoned Grossinger's, an eerie row of counter-less stools at what used to be the coffee shop.
Also in this area was the Mon Ami Shop, which sold pool accessories and souvenirs, and the Grossinger's post office.
I'll have to investigate this further, but I believe the area seen behind the ghostly stools might have been the Terrace Lounge, as seen in this postcard for sale on CardCow.com. The half-wall you can see in the photo above toward the window is similar to the one below on the right.
It looked like this on the other side of that half-wall:
Exiting to outside, we found some of the older Tudor buildings, not in good shape. I believe I read that this one used to be staff quarters.
Although my first impression was that it was laundry facilities.
Don't forget your towel!
As we peeked into the peeling, rusted bathrooms of that building, which bore a strong resemblance to the public restroom building of Cabrini Green featured in the film Candyman, we heard cars approaching and ran for cover. We later learned that we were next to a road leading to the still-operational Grossinger's golf course.
Back inside, amazing views silently awaited our arrival. These pool lounge chairs, which I recognized from photos online, were a precursor to what was ahead.
And then we finally stumbled onto the jackpot: Grossinger's indoor pool.
It was breathtaking.
Birds chirping in the nearby trees were the only soundtrack to the ruin of this midcentury modern marvel. I'd admired it online before, not realizing we would see it in real life today. For me, as someone enthralled by midcentury culture and design and fascinated with apocalyptica and urban decay, it was a cathedral. We spoke in reverent, hushed tones.
Although the power has been off for years, this pool atrium is still dramatically lit from above, due to its marvelous design. (Looking back at the ceiling in the first photo of the new lobby above, they were likely attempting to echo this effect.)
Also extremely worthy of note (for me) are these starburst-style chandeliers.
This is one of my favorite shots from the visit.
This pool might not seem to blend in with the rest of the place. But while the woodwork pattern of the windows strikes me as reminiscent of the 30s/40s work of the De Stijl artist Mondrian (if unfamiliar, just picture the graphics of Studio Line from L'Oreal) or Craftsman architecture, its horizontal narrow panes are also a nod to the narrow window strips in Grossinger's earlier Tudor buildings, seen above.
As you walk around here, the buckled tiles crunch and groan under your feet. In addition to the ferns, some sections of the pool-area flooring sport a 3-D stubble of fuzzy white mold.
Here's a self-portrait of the three of us explorers, in a mirrored part of the pillar that the vandals haven't gotten around to smashing yet.
This is what I looked like: whaaaaaaat
And then our dog alarm went off. Otto barked in urgent defense/ stranger attack messages. Someone was coming! But it was just two harmless dudes with cameras doing the same thing we were doing, only they had now probably lost one life each due to fear of mauling by a dog. (It's OK, we are totally Facebook friends now. And one of them contributes to the great Weird NJ!) We bummed around with those two guys most of the rest of the visit, which felt safer in numbers.
Together, we checked out the Joy Cottage.
This whole resort ruin is a crying shame, but as a city renter with house fever I am particularly dismayed this cool Brady Bunch style house has just been left to rot. I would've gladly lived there, even on the edge of abandoned stuff. Or why didn't they let a security guard live there in exchange for protecting the place? In any case, it's a waste. You can't go in, the floors are collapsed.
We headed over another overgrown road past more overgrown late-60s hotel structures. What's that beyond these supersized ornamental hedges?
The outdoor Olympic pool, built around 1948, is now well along nature's progression to becoming just a really big hole.
Beyond the pool, an outbuilding that looked to be a former tennis pro shop/ Raquetball building.
But mostly it was another space I would totally live in! The fieldstone floor! The wood ceiling beams! The fireplace! What the hell, people? Who leaves this to rot? I'm scandalized.
We bid adieu to our sometime companions in exploration and departed, rather exhausted from the scare factor of the day, and both of us humans feeling the effects of breahting in millions of mold, mildew, asbestos and various other particles. And it was awesome.
It was all we could talk about at the fire that night; how crazy it all was. We examined the day from every angle. It was exhausting. How had we thought we could hit multiple resorts in one day?
In fact, the next day, we went back to that Mexcellent eatery in Liberty, and then we went back to Grossinger's when we figured out we could drive right up to it. So without meaning to stop again, we found a little bit more.
First, this former tennis court.
Next, the greenhouse!
Finally, not thinking there was much else exciting to find, we stumbled onto a carnivalesque building; what we first took for a theater.
Don't miss the BARREL JUMPING sign.
Due to the rotting stripey whimsy, this managed to be one of the most astounding discoveries yet. Where was the zombie clown? The floors were rotted so we couldn't proceed in to the left where we would have presumed the stage to be. But we should have noted the room's orientation toward the large windows to the right.
I noticed once back outside that building, there was a large flat space that had managed to remain mostly plant-free. What was this?
Further investigation online revealed that this outdoor area was once the Grossinger's ice rink, famous for its barrel-jumping competitions. According to Jonathan Haeber, who released a book about the Grossinger's ruins last year, the building was designed by Morris Lapidus, known for his 1950s neo-baroque modern resort style in Miami (and elsewhere in the Catskills, and also a former Martin's department store I can see if I stick my head out my apartment window and look to the left).
So all of that basically gave us enough material for a legendary weekend. But then we passed about 400 other abandoned Hebrew and Jew-ish and maybe some secular camps and summer bungalow rentals, arriving not far away at Kutsher's in Monticello.
Kutsher's, where several of my uncles and one aunt worked back in the 60s/70s. Kutcher's, which is still hanging on by a string. Well...here's what some people who have stayed there have to say about the place.
We walked past various young Orthodox Jewish families loading luggage into shuttle vans, past a sign stating non-registered guests would be subject to a $50 fee, we were instantly greeted with a mold smell upon entry, and strolled past an unattended front desk.
We rolled through an empty piano lounge:
Then a dark hall. I would not be the first to make the comparison to The Shining, but for good reason.
I mean, we peeked into a room and it was all like
I kid, but only kind of.
Every door in that (hopefully) empty wing was ajar. We glanced in a room or two, and the first one had a bunch of dead leaves and some plaster crumbles, and a bucket to catch a leak. We hightailed it out of there. We stopped to use the restroom and found an open toilet tank haunted with black mold.
The pool area across from the main entrance had a large 50s/60s-ish vertical bow-tie motif on the right side. It was hopping with a few younguns, but we didn't want to be creeps by not only looking at kids but probably breaking additional rules we didn't even know about. To the right on the other side of the giant bow ties was the Starlight Club, closed. We continued on to another wing, stopping to gawk at the chrome and mirror counter for Justine Cosmetics ("Make Up Show Every Day").
About 8 metal folding chairs were set up to the left of the counter for viewers of this Make Up Show.
We encountered a few people over here, all but one apparently guests, but no one paid us any mind. Bigger gefilte fish to fry, probably. We passed what I believe was until fairly recently (according to my online snoopings) the gift shop, but is now a daycare center.
Off to the right, the ice rink, announced in the font I've named Vintage Budweiser.
And emptiness, leading to a foil-papered performance venue where my husband and other friends saw bands perform when the All Tomorrow's Parties festival landed here for two years, and a cafeteria or something.
We scrambled out of there before being discovered. Driving back to Brooklyn, before Leah headed off to an internship in D.C. for the summer, we were giddy, exhausted, and could not imagine a better weekend for weirdos like ourselves.
GO TO PART 2 OF ABANDONED BORSCHT BELT