What The Resort In “Dirty Dancing” Might Look Like Today
INSIDE THE HAUNTING, ABANDONED HOTELS OF NEW YORK’S ONCE-GLAMOROUS BORSCHT BELT
From the 1920s to the 1970s, a strip of upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, known as the Borscht Belt, was home to a cluster of summer resorts frequented by Jewish families often unwelcome at other hotels.
If you’ve seen Dirty Dancing, you’ve seen a glimpse of the lively glamour that filled places like Grossinger’s, the Jerry Lewis Theater Club, the Palms Country Club, and more than 600 other hotels and 1,000 bungalows and summer camps.
But by the 1980s, after cultural barriers dissolved and air travel to warmer climates got cheaper and more convenient, the Borscht Belt hotels started to shut down. Now, as a new photo essay by Marisa Scheinfeld reveals, they’re eerie husks of their former selves. A new exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum showcases Scheinfeld’s large-scale color photographs of the now-abandoned Catskill resorts, overgrown and graffiti-tagged, with peeled paint and trash-strewn floors. Some have been colonized by animals; most appear haunted.
“What I have uncovered is the presence of a transformed Borscht Belt, a relic and ruin all at once; one in many ways that is alive,” Scheinfeld, who grew up near the Catskills in Sullivan County, writes in her artist’s statement. Many of the hotels in these photographs she visited regularly as a child with her family. She began documenting the deteriorating Borscht Belt in 2009, discovering abandoned hotels through research or conversations with locals.