Abandoned Borscht Belt Series: The Nevele Grande
Ghost towns are fantastic, and I love to research and write about them, but there's something magical about the abandoned and time-worn Mid-Century Modern resort hotels that dot the landscape of the Catskill Mountain Region. They deserve some due attention to detail now that many of them are existing at the bleeding edge of demolition and land redevelopment.
One of the most famous jewels of the Mid-Century Catskills, NY resorts was so uniquely named, it leaves many people now wondering the exact pronunciation. The Nevele Grande, or, NEV-uh-lee, is located in a quiet valley near Ellenville, NY, with picturesque views of the surrounding mountains. The lore behind the name is that it's the word "eleven" spelled backwards in honor of the 11 schoolteachers who discovered the nearby falls of the same name. Nevele Falls is a location worth hiking to and visiting as well, and holds its own mystique. The Nevele Hotel is not alone in the Shawangunk Range of the Catskills, though; just next door is the fully operational Fallsview Hotel, once owned by the same family. The Nevele Grande now stands silent and decaying, watching activity and life bustle next door which used to fill its own halls and acreage.
The resort's long, luxurious life began in as a country club 1901, created by a man named Charles Slutsky. The architecture originally reflected the popular Mission Revival style, and as the property grew and such styles changed, it came to include some gorgeous 1950's and 60's Modern style structures.
The pièce de résistance is doubtless the Nevele Tower, a dodecaheronal, 10-story design of sea foam green tile and sharp, jutting angles. It's visibility on the horizon creates an allure of mystery. As one draws closer, the sun-bleached curtains billowing in the wind through broken windows only adds to the wonder of this monolith of guest rooms. A surprise on the 9th floor, and a testament to the extravagance of the Borscht Belt era is the almost completely furnished suite. A full vintage kitchen is still installed, sporting a pale yellow color and "modern" appliances. The retro color pallet looks especially gorgeous in afternoon winter sunlight.
The grand entryways and guest registration area are as grand as the name implies, with wide sweeping staircases and at one time, massive chandeliers and Art-Deco lighting along the ceilings and walls. The Vacationer Wing and the Waikiki Indoor Pool, built in the 1950's, are other areas of note to see now as they fade from glory. The Catskills aesthetics, incredibly popular at the time but so kitsch and passé in popularity now, carry a nostalgia of charm and feeling from a bygone time. Boasting 430 guest rooms at its height, the Nevele hosted skiing, skating, multiple pools and recreational activities for every season. The draw for many of the Borscht Belt hotels was the availability for safe and welcoming accommodations for a primarily Jewish clientele.
The Nevele Grande and its sister the Fallsview Hotel were once joined as one massive complex for several decades, but became two separate hotels again after the endeavor failed. They remain connected now through a tunnel system. Of course, no hotel in the Catskill Mountains would be complete without a theater for the variety of shows, concerts and performances that made the experience of a high-end hotel all the more rich. The Stardust Lounge is on the ground floor of the main hotel building, down a wide, carpeted stairway which now acts as an indoor waterfall due to ceiling destruction. While intact, the remnants of the theater are just pieces of what once stood elaborately decorated, and full of tables and chairs. The curtains are still hanging, shut forever or until they fall.
The Nevele Grande finally shuttered its doors in 2009, long after most of the other Borscht Belt hotels had begun their descent into abandonment and ruin. The ability to keep this hotel in business for so long after the popular vacation spot declined in popularity is a testament to both solid management and local tradition. The draw of the Catskills finally wore off just before the turn of the millennium, and became instead to an epicenter of camping and hiking. No longer needing 4 star accommodation, vacationers of all sorts began to go to the woods, and endeavor toward the preservation of the environment they'd turned to so many golf courses in the previous century. Jewish clientele dwindled back to the local farming communities and traditional sects of Jewish faith that peacefully dot the landscape still living among the mountains and waterfalls, just as their earlier, pioneering relatives did.
The excitement of a luxury resort and the traditions of long-gone vacations can still be seen in the slow, organic decay of the Nevele Grande Hotel. It is a somewhat somber experience walking along the empty corridors and climbing the echoing tower. It's almost as if one can faintly hear echoes of past guests who dressed in the season's finery and went about enjoying themselves surrounded by fine food, comfort, and every amenity possible.
Thanks for reading,
Enjoy some current, and very old photos of the Nevele Grande Hotel: