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Abandoned Borscht Belt Series: The Pines Hotel

Ghost towns are fantastic, and I love to research and write about them, but there's something magical about the abandoned and time-worn Mid-Century Modern resort hotels that dot the landscape of the Catskill Mountain Region. They deserve some due attention to detail now that many of them are existing at the bleeding edge of demolition and land redevelopment.

To give some context to the area, the Catskill Mountains of Southeastern New York have a unique name which is translated definitively from Dutch and yet was inspired only by legend. The catamount, or mountain lion, is a large predatory animal (still argued to be extant in New York State by those with trail cameras and hunting skills) that would have been present during the time the area was settled by the Dutch in the 16 and 1700's. "Cat creek", as the direct Dutch translation goes, may have come from a reference to that animal. However, there is no historical record of which early settler to the land West the Hudson River it was, who named the area. This vintage greeting card is usually what people imagine when they first hear the word "Catskills" - outside of a Dutch historical understanding, it's rather hilarious and confusing. I'd have to assume half the fun of having this local region in our backyard in Upstate NY is explaining this word, and of course people's initial reactions to it.

Why the Catskill Region, and Why the Jewish Clientele:

With such picturesque landscape, and so near in proximity to bustling New York City, it is no surprise the region eventually became a desirable vacation destination. As the centuries progressed and travel to the area became more accessible by motorized vehicles and train lines, more city-dwellers escaped to the region for fresh air and incredible forested vistas over the Hudson Valley.

There are nearly one hundred hotels in the Catskill Mountains that have been shuttered and forgotten, gone up in flames, or been demolished in the last century. Some are entirely gone and the earth has reclaimed its former acreage again, and some are left semi-intact, surrounded by the heaps of rubble and building debris it sacrificed to time, decay, or flames. Many of these places were resorts catering to the Jewish clientele from New York City. The early 1900's saw the beginning of what became known as the "Borscht Belt". *Borscht is a popular sour soup of Ukrainian origin, common in Central and Eastern European countries and was brought by Ashkenazi Jewish and Slavic immigrants to the United States. This dish was on the menu of all of these Catskills hotels, without question.

The rise of