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A new look for old hotels

John Conway
Posted 12/9/22

In December of 1975, the New Hope Community, a facility caring for people with developmental disabilities, opened its doors at the former site of the recently closed Green Acres Hotel in Loch …

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A new look for old hotels


In December of 1975, the New Hope Community, a facility caring for people with developmental disabilities, opened its doors at the former site of the recently closed Green Acres Hotel in Loch Sheldrake. 

The property had most notably been home to the New Roxy, once among Sullivan County’s more popular hotels, which had closed its doors just prior to Labor Day weekend in 1966. Interestingly, the conversion of the resort to the New Hope facility continued a trend started that very same summer of ‘66, when the former Pauls Resort in Swan Lake was re-purposed as Daytop Village. 

The trend of finding new uses for Sullivan County’s old hotels also eventually involved the Flagler Hotel in South Fallsburg, which had a rich tradition as one of the region’s premier resorts, and was no stranger to being in the vanguard of trends in the industry. 

In 1920, the Flagler introduced the distinctive stucco covered, parapet- and Palladium window-dominated architectural style now known as Sullivan County Mission. In 1929, Flagler owners Asias Fleischer and Philip Morganstern unveiled a state-of-the-art, 1500-seat theatre and hired two young men, Moss Hart and Dore Schary to head their social staff.  

Before long, every hotel of any size and stature in the area was hiring entertainers and developing some kind of shows for their guests. By the 1930s, the Flagler was operating during the winter as well as the summer, and another trend among larger Sullivan County hotels was born. 

On a sadder note, the once proud Flagler was in the forefront of the demise of the Sullivan County resort industry when, in 1966, it became one of the first of the major hotels to file for bankruptcy protection, with owner Jack Barsky citing debts incurred in building the hotel’s new Empire Room nightclub, a new indoor pool, and a new lobby for dooming his business. 

By the end of the 1970s, the concept of converting old hotels for other uses had become commonplace enough that the New York Times took note in an article that focused on the Flagler’s new life as the Crystal Run School. 

By that time, the Flagler had already been through a brief existence as the Fountains of Rome, a reincarnation sparked by the expectations of casino gambling which ended so suddenly after two years that the dishes from the last meal were left on the dining room tables. Then, in 1973, the property was purchased by Crystal Run and its re-purposing began. 

“On the grounds of the former Flagler Hotel in Fallsburg, N.Y., retarded adults till a garden where golfers once teed off,” reporter Jonathan Steinberg wrote in a May 27, 1979 feature story, using terminology that would be frowned upon today. “Guest rooms are now classrooms. The golf shop is an arts and crafts room and woodworking shop, and one of the bars is a home economics workshop.” 

And Steinberg noted that the Flagler was not the only former resort in the area to have taken on a new look. 

“A sign outside the former Windsor Hotel in South Fallsburg proclaims it ‘Capital of the Age of Enlightenment.’ Inside, disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi meditate in what has become a major center for transcendental meditation. Nearby, Swami Baba Muktananda took over the Gilbert’s Hotel two months ago for another meditation facility.” 

The Times article pointed out that “the more renowned hotels of the area—Grossinger’s, Kutsher’s, Concord—remain successful, but many of the smaller hotel operators, with less exhaustive facilities, are trying hard to make ends meet. 

“Their facilities are often marginal operations, and they, along with many of the region’s residents, await the hoped-for introduction of legalized gambling to revitalize the Sullivan County resort region, once characterized as the Borscht Belt. 

“Conversion and rehabilitation of Sullivan County’s most important manmade assets, its hotels, could radically alter the face of the Catskills by reducing dependence on the fortunes of the resort industry and by instituting a new economic base. But the present changes are not without drawbacks. 

“The area faces the social difficulties of absorbing a significantly different population, and the financial problem of dealing with declines in the tax base brought on by the tax-exempt status of these new institutions.” 

Mention was also made of New Hope, “another hotel converted to a home for the retarded a few miles from Crystal Run.”

“The recent hotel conversions have brought a mixed bag of benefits to Sullivan County,” Steinberg wrote. “Revitalizing old resorts removes a prominent source of blight from the environment. The new institutions buy from local merchants and businessmen, and the substantial number of handicapped and retarded people living in the area—more than 1.5 percent of the 65,000 population—has turned Sullivan County into a ‘major health care community’ according to Mark Brandt, director of the local Association for Retarded Children. 

“There are quite a number of people who are making a living off of this,” Mr. Brandt said.”

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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