Elka Park: The Garden Spot of Rip Van Winkle Land

Contributed photo

“The Garden Spot of Rip Van Winkle Land.” A Summer Resort for Refined People.

The public opening of the Elka Park Club occurred on August 9, 1890, when all proprietors of the Tannersville resorts were invited to Elka to enjoy the festivities. (New York Times).

Below are a few early news articles found on Elka Park.

Early in 1889, seven German-born New Yorkers traveled up the Hudson in search of summer homes. Attorney Paul Goepel brought the men to Catskill by boat, then by the Otis Incline cable train to the 66-year-old Catskill Mountain House. They proceeded by narrow-gauge railroad and horse-drawn carriages to a tract of 195 acres. The founders, all members of the Liederkranz Club of New York, named the land “Elka” German letters for L (El) and K (Ka). Elka Park Association incorporated on August 6, 1889, “purchasing, taking, holding and possessing real estate and buildings, and selling, leasing and improving the same.” (1906 Elka claimed 500 acres, presently it has 1,100 acres).

The first board of directors met on August 15, 1889, when Goepel was elected president. Architect Hugo Kafka was elected secretary. The original 1889 minutes still exist, although they were written in German from 1889 to 1912. (Found in a news article provided by Patrick J. Gibbons, Jr., and Mrs. Christine McKay, his daughter).

April 2, 1889, Brooklyn Standard Union told - Elka Park is on the eastern slope of Spruce Top, one of the spurs of Plateau Mountain. It is about three miles from Tannersville, with an elevation of 2,300’. Elka commands a most magnificent panoramic view of the mountains.

“It faces the morning sun, is free from dampness, fog or dew, and malaria and mosquitoes are entirely unknown.” (The mosquitoes are questionable!) Elka Park has good roads and flagged sidewalks. It has 20 elegant, Victorian homes, most built between 1890-1896. Plans in 1915 regrettably failed for the building of a golf course but by 1950 a pool was constructed.

June 15, 1890, New York Times: Forty men are engaged at road grading at Elka Park.

There are three modes of summer existence in the Catskills — in a hotel, a boarding house, in a private cottage, and lastly, in a cottage or community of friends or friendly acquaintances. There is privacy as well as the community. Park life is simple living, with “plenty of outdoors” in it, and a refreshing absence of “starch.”

June 6, 1903, New York Sun’s headlines — Forest fires raging in the Catskill Mountains. Everything is as dry as tinder, and the fire runs over the woods with the speed of a racehorse. Elka and Onteora Park are in danger of burning. Many of the smaller streams are dry, and the firefighters are forced to depend entirely upon branches of evergreen trees as weapons with which to beat out the flames.

June 4, 1916, Brooklyn Daily Eagle told how the management of the Forest Inn is, formerly the Poggenberg, will be conducted by M. E. Curran.

Any comments, ideas, or concerns, please call 518-589-4130 or email hunterhistorian@gmail.com

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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