Located 90 miles northwest of New York City, The Catskills, known to many as “the mountains” and to others as “the country,” embodied a retreat for millions of city-dwellers, predominantly Jewish Americans, between the 1920′s and the 1970′s. With the county’s beginnings vested in the lumber and tanning industry, the eventual fall of this commerce left in its wake a widespread clearing of the region’s tree-filled landscape. From these foundations, a tourist industry was born; a notorious vacationland known as the Borscht Belt, named after the cold beet soup served in many of its hotels. With its proximity to New York City, the area became a prime destination for vacationers. The Borscht Belt was a land of leisure, a sea of entertainment and for many, a place where the best of memories were made.
Dining Room, The Pines Hotel, South Fallsburg, NY, 2012

When I began this photographic series I was principally drawn to the region’s history and the concept of what had been. Driven by an intrigue for history and my own memories, it was quite obvious the Borscht Belt era had passed.

Lobby, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Liberty, NY, 2012

Growing up in the region there was always a family member, friend or local quick to conjure up a story about how booming the area once was. Tales of the Borscht Belt were practically unavoidable in car rides or dinner table conversations as a kid.

Showroom, The Commodore Hotel, Swan Lake, NY, 2012

While I primarily define myself as a photographer, within this series my actions are akin to those of an archaeologist, searching for clues and remnants of a former time.

Outdoor Pool, The Pines Hotel, South Fallsburg, NY, 2012
Outdoor Pool
One of my first jobs was as a lifeguard at The Concord, which closed a couple of years later, in the fall of 1998.
Youngs Gap Hotel, Parksville, NY, 2012
YoungsGap Hotel

I still can recall visiting the hotels on weekends with my grandparents, who met while my grandmother and her sister were hitch hiking the county’s windy roads.

Bathroom, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Grossinger, NY, 2012

Growing up in Sullivan County I hold an indelible connection to the region and as a photographer I felt inclined to document its history, decline and what of it remains.


Bingo Chips, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Grossinger, NY, 2012

My family and I would go to Kutsher’s or The Concord to visit my grandfather in card rooms infused with the scent of cigars and afterwards take a swim in one of the massive pools or play a game of bingo.


Tennis Courts, Laurels Hotel and Country Club, Sackett Lake, NY, 2012

Using my research into the past as a map, my expeditions led me to discover each site lying entangled within a resurgence of nature, with residuals from squatters, paint-ballers and scrappers fueling each encounter I had with a ruin.

Feathers, White Lake Mansion House, White Lake, NY, 2012

I find myself enamored of these leftovers, abandoned and forgotten within the mountainous landscape of their former pasts, lying in a state of exquisite and captivating entropy.


For more of Marisa’s photography, visit her site.