Summer In The Catskills

From New York Times - July 4, 1881




IN THE CATSKILLS, July 2.—More than half a century ago old Amo Blaiksie each Summer had his rough story and a half stone farm-house filled with guests but he would have resented being called the keeper of a tavern. His visitors made known the beauty of the Catskills, and the time soon came when it was deemed a safe investment to erect a small house for a score or so of guests, high up on a front ledge. It flourished, and its first sign. the "Pine Orchard Hotel," soon gave way to the Catskill Mountain House, which, a few days ago, opened upon its fifty-eighth season, with accommodations for 400 guests. Its site was wisely selected, when ail the mountains were free for choice, its location being 2,500 feet above tide-water, and commanding superb views, not merely of the Cats kills themselves, but also of all the Hudson. Valley, from the highlands to the Adirondacks.. The river runs eight miles to the east, and the old village of Catskill is 12 miles distant. Its success prompted the erection of the Overlook Mountain House, within easy view of the pioneer site, though over the line in Ulster County. It ran for a few seasons with all else than brilliant results, when it caught fire from a defective flue, and saved its proprietor from continued loss. In 1878 the venture was again made, and, rebuilt, the Overlook at once secured an excellent patronage. On an eminence higher than any house in the Catskills - 3,000 feet above tide-water - it commands an incomparable view of more than 100 miles about, a charming panorama, including seven States, and this landscape has been extended recently by the erection of a tower upon a peak near by.

Hotels of pretty architecture kept springing up on romantic peaks here and there, until now commodious establishments for the special accommodation of Summer visitors are almost beyond enumeration. There are a dozen hotels, with capacity ties for from 200 to 500 guests. Every farm-house of any size is every Summer converted into a rustic hotel. Though frequently crowded closely, these cozy homes are full of comfort.

By far the most costly and complete hotel in the mountains is the Kaaterskill, projected within the last 12 months by George Harding, of Philadelphia. It is designed to accommodate 1,000 guests, but will not be entirely finished this year. Not more than 500 can yet find room within its doors. In fact, the conception of the hotel is said to have been quite sudden, and involves a not uninteresting story. Mr. Harding has been a regular Summer visitor to the Catskills for years, expending his money without stint at the hotel where he always was a guest. Last season, upon requesting the preparation of a special dish for a sick child, he was met with the somewhat tart remark that his wants being so numerous he had better build a hotel for his personal accommodation. The millionaire quietly replied: " Ah, well, I'll think about it." The result of his cogitations will soon be revealed in one of the finest Summer hotels in America - the largest mountain house in the world. Like the Pioneer Hotel of the Catskills and distant less than a mile and a half there from. the Hotel Kaaterskill is upon the Greene County side of the range, elevated nearly 3,000 feet above tide-water, and commanding a very extensive view. Its grounds embrace several points of more than average interest in the cliffs, not least among which is the famous Sunset Rock, to which every evening there are excursions from all surrounding points, the sunset viewed from this eminence being the finest in the Catskills, and magnificent beyond conception. The hotel is perfect in its appointments, lighted by gas throughout and furnished with steam heaters, elevators, electric bells, telegraph offices, and every convenience known to modern art, though in these particular it is scarcely more noteworthy than many of it's less commodious rivals. A feature, however, that is to a great degree peculiar to the Kaaterskill is its immense livery stables, from which guests are to be provided with means of conveyance when so ever it shall be their pleasure to ride: and the more certainly to insure the utilization ,of this privilege, new and charming drives have been opened toward the river and to neighboring points the most interesting and picturesque in the mountains. Other thoroughfares which only two or three years ago were almost impassable have been greatly improved, and if serious imperfections yet exist it is because they are absolutely irremediable. In addition to the Hotel Kaaterskill, the present season has been marked by the erection of another extensive Summer hotel, and one which compares favorably with the best. Nothing is so desirable for a mountain house as a perfect site and no hotel could be more fortunate in such respect than this new enterprise, a paragon of architectural beauty, standing almost at the very crest of Summit Mountain, and having good claim the title of the Grand Hotel of the Catskills. It is located 2,300 feet above the tide, upon an almost level plateau, against whose gently sloping sides forest grows luxuriantly; and close around hill after hill rises one above another, culminating in Slide Mountain, the noblest of the whole range, 4,220 feet high. From the piazzas of the hotel beautiful panoramic view bursts upon the vision and it is not to be wondered that, with the season scarcely opened, almost every accommodation which it provides for 400 guests has been long engaged in advance. One of the prominent projectors of this hotel is the Hon. William. H. Homey, the veteran Republican editor, who recently retired from journalism, after 40 successive years of service. Below the Grand Hotel at Pine Hill, two miles distant, and less elevated by 700 feet, is the Guigou House, accommodating 200 guests, and seldom having an unengaged room or a vacant seat at its tables. Of hotels which have been some time established, and which enjoy the approval of a large patronage, bestowed with yearly regularity, there is a long list. All of them this season are improved in many regards and ail compare favorably with the best houses of similar character elsewhere. Upon the Greene County side of the Catskills, aside from the old Pioneer House at Pine Orchard, the most prominent is the Prospect Park Hotel, directly on the banks of the Hudson, ana immediately above the Catskill landing. For over 10 years it has been popular and the demands of patrons have been so great as to call for enlargements, until now it is prepared to accommodate 400 guests. The Grant House, a mile and a half west from the village of Catskill.also holds high rank. It affords accommodations for 300 guests. At the celebrated Kaaterskill Falls, nearly two miles west of the Catskill Mountain House and about half that distance north-west of the new Hotel Kaaterskill, is the Laurel House. Its location gives it a surfeit of guests every season. At Hunter, 20 miles from Catskill, the Breeze Lawn House, Hunter House, and Hunter Mountain Prospect House will each accommodate over 100. The O'Hara House, at Lexington, 25 miles from Catskill, has room for 125. The Stony Brook House and the Maple Grove House, at Palenville, 10 miles from Catskill, provide for 100 each. Aaron Roggents Mountain Home, at Tannersville, 15 miles from Catskill, will not be overcrowded by 150, while the Mountain Summit House, at the same place, is scarcely less commodious. And surrounding all these larger hotels are pleasant village homes, farm-houses, and lesser hotels, where the Summer visitor is welcome.

A great and much needed inn:movement has recently been made in the bills of fare at the mountain houses. A few years ago meals were badly cooked and clumsily served, but now better entertainment in this regard is not provided by the stewards of standard Metropolitan hotels. This year nearly all of the larger Catskill houses have secured managers with established City reputations. The cuisine may consequently be ranked among the attractions. The food provided, more particularly in the way of fish and game, vegetables, butter, milk, and eggs, will have the merit of a freshness not always to be claimed in the City. Terms are not extortionate, and compare most favorably with the demands made at other Summer resorts. The maximum rates at the largest and best managed hotels (including room) seldom exceeds $4 per day, or $25 per week, with half prices for children and nurses. The number of houses having these rates is not large. The ruling prices at the smaller but first-class hotels does not, save in exceptional cases, exceed $2 a day and $10 a week; while at the innumerable farmhouses scattered in picturesque profusion through all the range the terms are even yet more decidedly moderate. The Ulster and Delaware Railroad (Rondout) has issued a pamphlet, for free distribution, giving the addresses or hundreds of farm-houses and good hotels where Summer board may be secured, with accommodations and rates. A similar circular has also been published by the Albany Day Boat Line. To persons who propose spending their time in the immediate vicinity of Catskill village, or who, by way or that place, choose to take the stage lines up the hills to the Greene County mountain houses, the quickest means of travel from New York is by the Hudson River Railroad to Catskill Station, a ride of about three and a half hours. Six trains run each way daily; fare, $2.18. The trip by the day boats, the Albany and the Chauncey Vibbard, or by the night boats, the Escort and the City of Catskill, requires twice that time. The day boats leave Vestry street every morning, except Sunday, at 8:35 o'clock, taking on passengers at Twenty-second-street at 9. The fare to Catskill is $1.50. The night boats leave the foot of Harrison street at 7 o'clock in the evening. On Saturday an extra trip is made, the Escort leaving at the regular hour, while the City of Catskill starts on the special trip at 1:39 P.M.The programme, new with this season, will enable patrons to reach Catskill before dark, and safely ensconce themselves in their Summer resort early in the evening. The regular time for the night boats to leave Catskill for New-York is 6 o'clock, but on Sundays an extra trip two hours later is to be made in the interest of the many who, by Saturday's special trip, take occasion to spend the Sabbath in the mountains and must be in the Metropolis for business on Monday.

In the Ulster Catskills, more recently developed, there is a less number of large hotels than over in Greene, but there is a far greater proportion of smaller homes where city guests are gladly received. Excepting the patrons of the Overlook Mountain House and one or two smaller hotels in the trouting localities. there were, until within the last few years, exceedingly few Summer visitors who ventured over into Ulster. The region round about Catskill village held a monopoly, and the people who came for recreation were jostled up into the mountains by the great lumbering coaches; an experience that no sane person ever was ambitious to incur twice .for mere enjoyment's sake. But there has come a decided change. The Ulster and Delaware Railroad has been established from Rondout-on-the-Hudson through the very heart of the mountains, and numberless attractions of the Catskills, hitherto practically inaccessible, not to say unknown, have been brought within easy reach. The owner of this road is the Hon. Thomas Cornell. To him, more than to any other man or influence, is due the sudden and substantial popularity of the mountains as a Summer resort. The result of his efforts was seen last year, when over 50,000 people summered here: double the number of the preceding year, and nearly four times as many as came in 1878. The Ulster and Delaware Railroad extends 74 miles from Rondout, its terminus being at Stamford, Delaware County, the prettiest village in all the mountains, where Mr. Jay Gould spent a portion of his boyhood's days as a printer's devil. At Stamford the popular house is Churchill Hall, within five minutes' walk of the depot. Four express trains run each way daily. The morning train leaves Rondout at 8 o'clock, being followed by others at 12:15. 2:55. and 6:45 P. M. The first station on the road is West Hurley, 9 miles from Rondout, 530 feet above tide-water. From this point passengers take the stage up the mountain side to the Overlook House. The stage fare is $1 50. The other stopping-places are: Olive Branch, 12 miles, elevation 511 feet; Brown's
Station, 15 miles, elevation 525 feat; Broadhead's Bridge, 17 miles, elevation 500 feet; Shokan, 18 miles, elevation 533 feet; Boiceville, 21 miles, elevation 615 feet; Mount Pleasant, 24 miles, elevation 700 feet; Phoenicia, (Tremper House), 27 miles, elevation 798 feet; Shandaken, 33 miles, elevation 1,000 feet; Big Indian, 36 miles, elevation 1,209 feet; Pine Hill. (Guigou's), 39 miles, elevation 1,660 feet; Summit, (the Grand Hotel), 41 miles, elevation 1,886 feet; Griffin's Corners, 44 miles, elevation. 1,516 feet; Arkville and Margaretville, 48 miles, elevation 1,344 feet; Roxbury. (Jay Gould's birthplace), 59 miles, elevation, 1,497 feet; Grand Gorge, 65 miles, elevation 1,570 feet; Stamford, 74 miles, elevation 1,767 feet. Prattsville and Gilboa, attractive and popular villages, are reached from Grand Gorge by a short and pleasant stage ride.

Connecting with the Ulster and Delaware Railroad, the Albany Day boats, leaving New-York early, in the morning, stop at Rhinebeck at 2:10, from which point a ferry crosses the river to Rondout in time for the 2:55 train. The cost of a ticket to Rhinebeck is $1.25 and ferriage to Rondout is 13 cents extra. The Hudson River Railroad trains (fare $1.76) stop also at Rhinebeck for the same connection. The 8 A. M. train from the Grand Central Depot arrives in time for the noon mountain train, and the Chicago express leaving New-York at 10:30 A. M. connects with the 2:55 train. On Saturdays, when a special train runs into the mountains, leaving Rondout at 7:30 P. M., the Troy express, 4 o'clock, will connect. This Saturday special has been utilized by the Erie Railroad in a novel manner. The Ulster County express, which leaves New-York at 3:30 P. M., reaches Rondout at a little past 7, where the car containing its mountain passengers is switched upon the Ulster and Delaware track and attached to the regular train, thus affording a ride from Jersey City directly into the heart of the mountains without change of cars. The Erie train leaving New-York at 9 A.M. connects with the 2:55 train from Rondout. The regular rate by the Erie to Rondout is $1.88, the combination fare being $3 05 to the Summit, (Grand Hotel.) for which place excursion ticket's, good throughout the season, are issued at $5 85. This is the only excursion ticket sold to any point in the Catskills by any route. The Rondout steamers, the Thomas Cornell and James W. Baldwin, leave the foot of Harrison-street every afternoon at 4 o'clock, except on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays the Thomas Cornell leaves at 1 o'clock, arriving at Rondout about 7, connecting with the special Saturday night express over the Ulster and Delaware Rail road. On other occasions the steamers do not reach Rondout until 10 o'clock, comfortable berths and staterooms being furnished passengers until they are called next morning in time to catch the 8 o'clock mountain train. The steam-boat fare from New-York is $1. The steamer Mary Powell, popularly known as the "Queen of the Hudson," and the fastest boat on the river, leaves New-York daily, except Sunday. from the foot of Vestry-street. and West Twenty-second-street at 3:20 P.M. The same rate is charged as on the other Rondout boats. She arrives at Rondout early in the evening, and passengers desiring the morning mountain train are transferred to the Rondout hotels, where a good room for the night will cost not more than $1. By all the routes to Rondout-on-the-Hudson-River and Erie Railroads and the various lines of steam-boats — tickets are sold and baggage checked from New-York direct to any point on the Ulster and Delaware Railroad by the simple combining of the two fares.

A great event in the Catskills this year is the building of the Stony Clove and Catskill Mountain Railroad, a branch of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad, connecting at Phoenicia and running to Hunter, Greene County, through the famous Stony Clove notch, into many recesses of which sunshine has never penetrated and snow and ice are found during every day of the year. A branch of the new railroad already approaching completion will run through Tannersville and Haines's Falls to a point in the vicinity of the Laurel House, Hotel Kaaterskill, and the old Catskill Mountain House. By this route the attractive points in Greene County will be as accessible by rail as are those of Ulster, and patronage which of late years has drifted away from the older territory may be again secured. The Stony Clove has long ranked high as a popular resort. The temperature, which elsewhere in the mountains ranges from 15° to 20° below that of New-York. here falls a good 10° farther. At the entrance to the Clove is the Tremper House., one of the largest and best managed hotels in the Catskills. Its location attracts the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and the Brooklyn Congregational Association as visitors every year. Major Tremper announces that his house is already nearly filled for the season, many guests having filed application for entertainment months ago. A similar report comes from a majority of the standard houses. The real season here will open the coming week, though some of the hotels have been favored with a limited number of guests since the middle of June. The rush here begins about July 10, and it is estimated that there will be an increase of visitors this year over last to at least the extent of 10,000, a majority of the increase representing New-York families, who, for the most part, will remain through July, August, and September.

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