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A new marker for old falls

John Conway
Posted 10/13/23

The long defunct Flagler Hotel in Fallsburg had a rich tradition as one of Sullivan County’s premier resorts, and for decades was a trendsetter in the industry.

After operating for decades …

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A new marker for old falls


The long defunct Flagler Hotel in Fallsburg had a rich tradition as one of Sullivan County’s premier resorts, and for decades was a trendsetter in the industry.

After operating for decades as a boardinghouse run by Carrie Flagler Angel, the daughter of the Fallsburg leather tanner, Nicholas Flagler, the 35-room hotel was purchased in 1908 by Asias Fleischer and Philip Morganstern, who immediately began to modernize and expand it.

Recognizing the prestige the Flagler name provided their business, Fleischer and Morganstern worked hard to encourage the notion that the hotel was associated with Henry Morrison Flagler, then one of the wealthiest men in America. It was not, but the partners realized that didn’t matter as long as people thought it was. They decided the new main building they were going to build should look like the hotels Henry Morrison Flagler had built in Florida.

So, in 1920, the Flagler introduced the distinctive stucco covered, parapet and Palladian window dominated architectural style which soon became known as Sullivan County Mission. Because the Flagler was arguably the most prominent hotel in the county at that time, it wasn’t long before almost every other hotel was mimicking the style, and virtually every hotel building constructed in Sullivan County between 1920 and 1935 was a Mission style building.

In 1929, the Flagler owners unveiled a state-of-the-art, 1500-seat theatre, and hired two young men, Moss Hart and Dore Schary to head up 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. Sullivan County resorts became synonymous with entertainment.

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 also 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.

And long after the Golden Age of tourism here had ended, the Flagler became part of yet another trend, the re-purposing of the county’s many closed hotels.

Although that trend probably started in 1966 when Pauls Hotel was reborn as part of the Daytop Village rehabilitation institute, The Flagler wasn’t far behind. By 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 hotel 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.

That also began the fading from memory of one of the region’s oldest and most innovative resorts. So much so that the Flagler is rarely mentioned these days when old-timers recall the great hotels of the past.

But after Sunday, October 15, the Flagler’s legacy will be secure, along with a number of its contemporary resorts that made up “Hotel Row” along Route 42 between South Fallsburg and Old Falls.

Although the designation is far from scientific, “Hotel Row” arguably started with the Alpine Hotel in South Fallsburg and included the Irvington, the Elm Shade, the River View, the Hotel Levitt, the Fallsburg Country Club, the Hotel Glass (later known as the Nassau, the Saxony and the Polonia), the Ambassador, Hotel Furst and the Murry Hill, among others. Around the corner were the Pine View and the Zeiger, later known as the Eldorado and then the Palms. 

Some of these hotels will be featured on the new marker, to be dedicated on Sunday as part of the Borscht Belt Historical Marker Project being underwritten by the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and spearheaded locally by photographer and author Marisa Scheinfeld, who grew up in Sullivan County. Others will be highlighted on a similar marker being prepared for placement in South Fallsburg, to be dedicated later this year. More than 20 markers will be erected throughout Sullivan County as part of the project.

The marker dedication on October 15 is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the scenic overlook by the Neversink River Bridge in Fallsburg. In addition to the unveiling of the marker, there will be a collection of speakers and a brief reception afterward.

The event is free and the public is invited.

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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