From the Catskill Daily Mail, October 1997, by Johnathan Ment, long time journalist for the paper.
“When the Mountain House burned, the region suffered a loss that set a tone for much that has followed. As the flames engulfed the rotting structure, the community wept. There is no “social security” for old and tired hotels.”
The Catskill Mountain House
Mr. Jack Fromer (father to MTHS Board member Lynn Fromer Carlson) was a local man whose family name dates back to at least 1846. “One of the things we liked to do was walk out around the mountains,” recounts Jack Fromer. My wife and I came down on a weekend or holiday, it must have been 1952 or 1953, and we had another couple with us. At that time, the old building was there and falling down, and we walked around and looked inside the building, and there was an old piano in the ballroom, in bad condition. My wife’s friend played the piano and tried to play it. The keys were stuck, but she played what was supposed to be a waltz, and my wife (Rita) and I danced the waltz in the ballroom.”
Maybe someone came along and did the same thing, but I often say to my wife, “I think we were the last ones that danced the waltz in the old mountain house.”
Another article in the Catskill Daily Mail tells of one writer, T. Addison Richards, who described the Mountain House in Harper’s Magazine in 1854. Richards said it was “a famous cloud-capped palace, a noble edifice, lifting its grand façade above a rocky cliff, 3,000 feet in the air.”
Interesting tidbit: Before electric lights, guests and staff alike, on the way to their rooms, each picked up an iron candlestick from the main hall and lighted the way to their room. Incredibly, it was the slow deterioration of time rather than the swift destruction of fire that put an end to the house.
Catskill Daily Mail: Early morning, January 23, 1963, the State of New York Conservation Department, aided by the mountaintop fire companies, the Catskill Mountain House, was put to rest by fire in the wee hours of a bitterly cold morning. It died hard, too lovely, and too proud to fall.
Her passing was noted as far away as Catskill, where one man saw a blaze that he thought was the sun rising in the west.
Tidbit; Advert to Farmers; “Any farmer within 50 miles of Catskill, having comfortable Stable Room, and about 100 or 125 tons of Good Hay, desirous of Wintering 25 or 30 horses will please address me by letter, before the 1st of October, stating terms, etc. Also, the price per week for the board of a man to take care of horses. There must be an abundance of water (a running stream preferred) and a large field for the horse to run in during the day.”
Following is a short article, “A visit to the Mountain House,” from the Boston Recorder and Telegraph October 6, 1826.
“A view with a radius of 50 miles-it is indeed magnificent-and he who could look upon such a scene and not turn from it a better man must truly have forgotten his better elements. An area-wide enough for the territory of a nation lies beneath you like a picture, with the Hudson winding through like an inlaid vein of silver.”
To learn all about the Catskill Mountain House, read Roland Van Zandt’s “The Catskill Mountain House” or Alf Evers’ “The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock” … They give all the details, written so beautifully.
“The Catskill Mountain House” is the story of a love affair at first sight. Mr. Van Zandt follows the great days of the famous hostelry with pride and the days of its decay with heartbreak.
How blessed I feel that I can remember the CMH, not in its prime, as it was severely decayed by the time I visited. I do remember her looking over the mountain into the valley. She is missed.