These days, when one thinks of the most innovative of the old Sullivan County hotels, lots of places are likely to come to mind, including some of the most renowned names in our resort …
These days, when one thinks of the most innovative of the old Sullivan County hotels, lots of places are likely to come to mind, including some of the most renowned names in our resort history—Grossinger's, the Concord, the Flagler and the Youngs Gap, for example.
On the other hand, the Hillside Inn, located for many years on Route 97 in Narrowsburg, would probably not make many lists, but it should.
Tiny by Sullivan County hotel standards, the Hillside Inn would never be mistaken for the Concord or Grossinger's, or even Gibber's or the Hotel Furst, other county hotels open during the winter months, but for more than twenty years it featured a robust winter sports schedule that included a ski area with a snow making operation.
For years, the Hillside Inn was popular with bow and rifle hunters, who kept the place busy after most other Narrowsburg area resorts—places like Dellwood Acres, the Homestead, and the Silver Lake Farm House—had closed for the season. The Hillside also became known among sportsmen from the metropolitan New York area as the place to come for the very best ice fishing in the mountains. As one New York City paper noted, whenever things got a little too dull, Hillside Inn proprietor Nat Feagles would organize another ice fishing tournament.
By the mid-1950s, the winter sports activities at the hotel had expanded considerably beyond hunting and fishing.
“This year, February finds the Sullivan County resort hotels preparing special programs and rate packages for the two long week-end holidays, Lincoln's birthday, February 11 to 14, and Washington's birthday, February 18 through the 22,” the Liberty Register newspaper reported in a front page story in its January 27, 1955 edition. The article then mentions the Avon Lodge, Hotel Furst, the Concord, Grossinger's, Youngs Gap, the Laurels and the Pines as “the big resort hotels which will be offering all winter sports topped off by evenings of big name Broadway and Hollywood entertainment.”
The Register further noted that “along the Delaware Valley region of Sullivan County, the Hillside Inn is preparing special activities for many New Yorkers who prefer the country inn atmosphere. There, ice skating, skiing. and tobogganing will prevail and for the sportsman ice fishing parties are the special attraction. During the evenings, special horse-drawn sleigh parties will be organized and there will be square and round dancing in the warm fireside atmosphere of the Hillside Inn's lounge.”
The Hillside Inn featured four slopes with rope tows. It was one of eight Sullivan County hotels with ski areas listed in the Times Herald-Record in a September 5, 1970 article previewing winter sports in the area.
“A number of fine skiing areas, all but one of which has equipment for making snow, makes Sullivan County the ideal winter play spot for those who enjoy zipping down snowy slopes,” the Record noted. “Local ski areas have gone through many stages, now reaching the point where they are popular with the vacationing skier because they offer a combination of sport and accommodations.
“It was in Sullivan County that man-made snow was shown to be practical and the resultant publicity gave the process of its manufacture its greatest impetus. The Concord Hotel manufactured snow in color and a descriptive article and color photos in the now defunct Colliers Magazine publicized the fact throughout the nation.”
The article highlighted nine Sullivan County slopes, including Holiday Mountain Ski Area in Bridgeville, “the only one owned and operated solely as a recreational facility.” Others listed were Big Vanilla, the Concord, Grossinger's, the Homowack, Kutsher's, the Laurels, the Pines, and Hillside Inn.
Tusten Town Historian Art Hawker says that in addition to skiing, the Hillside Inn featured “a wooden toboggan run across the lake. It ran down the hill from just below the shoulder of State Route 97 to the lake.”
Hawker says the hotel's snow making operation “used water from Feagles' Lake, which has since been re-named Lake William.”
He also remembers that “one of the primary issues with the ski slopes was that they were facing South and therefore got a lot of sun, which worked to the detriment of the operation.”
Nat Feagles sold the Hillside Inn in 1969. He died in 1974, and the hotel suffered a devastating fire in 1976, with the ski hill closing shortly thereafter.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at email@example.com.
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