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Friday, June 23, 2017

The Concord Hotel at Lake Kiamesha, NY

The Wikipedia article about the Concord Resort Hotel includes the following passages:
The Concord Resort Hotel was a resort in the Borscht Belt part of the Catskills, known for its large resort industry in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Located in Kiamesha Lake, New York, the Concord was the largest resort in the region until its closing in 1998. There were over 1,500 guest rooms and a dining room that sat 3,000; the resort encompassed some 2,000 acres (8.1 km2). Although the resort was a kosher establishment, catering primarily to Jewish vacationers from the New York City area, it was more lavish in decor and activities than comparable large Catskill resorts.

.... Arthur Winarick acquired the property after a default and rebuilt it in 1937 as the 500-bed Concord Plaza. .... Following World War II, the then-renamed New Concord Hotel rapidly expanded and added ... a ski slope and golf course. The Tropical Indoor Pool opened in 1951, accelerating the race. Expansion continued in the 1950s ....

The Concord was known for its impressive entertainment venues. The original Cordillion Room opened in the 1950s with 1500 seats, along with the Constellation Room with its distinctive undulating bar. Winarick felt that more was needed and the Lapidus-designed Imperial Room seated 3000 in a nearly circular space, perhaps the largest in the Catskills, and a popular venue for major entertainers. ....
The Concord attracted major entertainers who could fill the Imperial Room to standing room-only. Buddy Hackett was a frequently featured performer, as were Tony Bennett, Milton Berle and Tony Martin. Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland also played the Concord. Martin Luther King received an award at the Concord in 1963. ....

The website Barbara Streisand Archives includes a webpage titled Concord Hotel, because Streisand performed there in August 1963. The webpage includes the following photograph of the hotel's theater.
The Concord Hotel's Theater
(Click on the image to enlarge it.)
The Streisand webpage explains:
The Concord Resort Hotel was a world-famous destination for visitors to the Borscht Belt part of the Catskills, known for its large resort industry in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

Comedian Norm Crosby played The Concord and remembered it fondly: “The Concord was huge. The stage was enormous and the people that came up there were mostly New Yorkers that just came up for the weekend. They were a great audience once they got to know you. You'd walk out to an ovation. The same clientele summer after summer, year after year.”

In the book It Happened in the Catskills: An Oral History in the Words of Busboys, Bellhops, Guests, Proprietors, Comedians, Agents, and Other Who Lived It, Robert Towers wrote: “Streisand came up on a Friday night before she made Funny Girl. The William Morris Agency said, ‘Look, you're getting her for $500. Later on you won't be able to buy her for anything.’ She came up — a little girl in a gunnysack dress with a big voice. She tore the place apart.”

Comedienne Marilyn Michaels agreed “it was like you made it if you headlined The Concord. Big place. At the time they had these knockers to applaud with. They didn't use their hands, they used these wooden sticks with wooden balls at the end of them. If they really liked you then they used their hands.”
The following photograph on the Streisand webpage shows the lobby of the Imperial Room.

The Imperial Room's Lobby at the Concord Hotel
(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The Concord Hotel's music directors were prominent Yiddish musicians. An article about the Concord Hotel's first musical director, Alexander Olshanetsky, includes the following passage:
Olshanetsky immigrated [from Russia] to the U.S. in 1922 .... In short order he became a sought-after figure on the Yiddish theater scene. His shows played in virtually every theater on Second Avenue and his musical prowess was much recognized. .... Some of the most sophisticated cantors of the time considered him one of the best choirmasters and lauded his ability to write for the idiosyncracies of the cantorial voice. ... Veteran performer Freydele Oysher said in reference to Olshanetsky’s conducting: “He had a fire; he had a soul. He was the kind of man I like to have in the [orchestra] pit.”

Olshanetsky also became the first musical director at the famed Concord Hotel in the Catskills Mountains north of New York City, a post he held for only one year due to his untimely death in 1946.
An article about the Concord Hotel's second music director, Sholom Secunda, includes the following passage:
If there's one place that the theater and the synagogue flowed into one another it was the Catskills mountains north of New York City, where Secunda served as musical director at the most prominent resort — the Concord Hotel — for 28 years. Catskills events featured high-profile figures and, as Neil Levin points out, “catered to a clientele hungry for bits of cantorial, liturgical, and even Second Avenue Yiddish theatrical nostalgia.” At the Concord, Secunda conducted an orchestra and chorus for Passover and the High Holy Days, as well as for weekly concerts during the summer months, in the hotel's Cordillion Room, which seated 4,000 and accommodated a 65-piece orchestra.

So popular and successful were events at the Concord that Secunda was able to secure the participation of the singer he'd helped make the transition from cantor to opera singer — Richard Tucker — who would become one of the 20th century's greatest tenors. Their collaboration produced the Passover Seder Festival, which was performed at the Concord annually with Tucker as cantor through 1961, when he demanded more money than the management was willing to pay.


In 1997 the Concord Hotel declared bankruptcy.

A website title Catskills Memories has a webpage with photographs showing its ruined interior in 2005. For example, the following photograph shows the Imperial Room's lobby (the same lobby shown in the above photograph from Barbara Streisand's website).

The Imperial Room's lobby in 2005
The hotel was demolished in 2008. The following two photographs show the former hotel's now empty location.
Ruins of the former Concord Hotel
A view of the of the location of the former Concord Hotel

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