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The Lovely Ruins of America’s Borscht Belt


Chairs sit in front of an abandoned theater in Hotel Adler. (Photo: Bryan Sansivero.)

In upstate New York, deep within the Catskill Mountains, exists a whole world of empty buildings. They are reminders of a time and place in American culture, when summer leisure and family vacations were the norm. The Borscht Belt, was an area consisting of hotels, resorts, bungalows, and summer camps where many Jewish American families vacationed from the 1920’s until the 1970’s. Post WWII, these getaways were filled with American Dream ideals, that would later dissolve, as American culture changed in the 1960’s.


From top: A vintage postcard during the heydays of Hotel Adler; Dishware and China lie all around in the Hotel Adler dining hall; Keys and safety deposit boxes at the front desk of the Homowack Lodge. (Photos: Bryan Sansivero.)


At a time there were over 600 operating resorts year round, and at its peak saw approximately 150,000 visitors annually. With an entertainment market featuring popular comedians and musicians performing daily, the appeal was great. It was a thriving getaway community that the Jewish American people could escape to. However, there was a decline in visitors in the 1960’s and various factors contributed to the downfall of these resorts. The breaking down of ethnic barriers, a loss of interest by younger members of the community, and cheap available air travel were all causes.


From top: A bedroom in The Empire Hotel; Stacked dishware in the Empire Hotel. (Photos: Bryan Sansivero.)

Some of the most notable abandoned Borscht Belt resorts include Grossinger’s, Hotel Adler, and Tamarack Lodge. The latter recently being destroyed in a fire. Stepping inside many of these hotels you’ll find rooms filled with furnishings, brochures, and other everyday items. It is a time capsule into a long bygone era. Below, photos from the abandoned Hotel Adler, Columbia Hotel, and The Empire Hotel in Sharon Springs, NY.


From top: A couch sits alone in the lounge of the Hotel Columbia; TVs stacked in a bedroom at Hotel Adler; Furniture left behind in a bedroom at Hotel Adler. (Photos: Bryan Sansivero.)