Shawanga Lodge was a Catskill hotel which opened in 1921 and closed in 1972. Abraham Dan (aka Danashevski), who previously owned the Morningside Hotel in Hurleyville, now a park next to Morningside lake in Hurleyville NY, purchased the hotel from DG Carpenter in 1920. DG Carpenter excluded Jewish patrons as shown in his 1920 brochure. In 1921 Abraham Dan and Barnet Coopersmith reopened the hotel as a Kosher style hotel.
Abraham Dan (his grandson had the same name) was born in Russia in 1875. He married Lena, also from Russia, in 1888 and in 1890 immigrated to the United States and lived in Rutherford NJ. His occupation is listed as a plumber. On Friday, September 30 1921, the same year he bought Shawanga, he hung himself after breakfast in a closet in the playhouse. His wife Lena found him. It is not known who on the Dan side ran the hotel after he died. Abraham had three children with Mae being the oldest, then Julius and Sam, who was born in 1901. Julius never was active in the hotel, Mae was the cashier and Sam went to NYU law and for some time had a law practice and the hotel. He shortly gave up law and focused on the hotel.
Ed Atlass and Sam Dan had not modernized the hotel during the 40's and 50's and it had catered to a singles crowd. Though some work was done in the early 50's; an amphitheater was built, the playhouse was expanded and Holiday Inn was built (we had the name first), it was not enough. In the winter of 1957, the hotel was in need of modernization. Other hotels had indoor pools, modern rooms and proper nightclubs. The lobby was expanded, the space below, was dug out to make a lower lobby, air conditioning added, a day camp was built, a new external building called Panorama was added and the lake was expanded. The main building's rooms unfortunately remained the same. In the early 1960's Ed and Sam died, Abby Dan (the grandson) and Alvin Atlass took over operation of the hotel and Mae Dan remained working as the head cashier and bookkeeper until the hotel closed.
Post 1957, the hotel operated as a family resort. The main building needed a lot of work and could only operate during the summer. The cottages were built on cinder blocks above ground and had above ground piping and received chlorinated water from the lake. The main building still had bathrooms on the floor and shared (semi-private) rooms. Only public spaces were heated and the walls above the lobby were not insulated. The 1957 renovation was needed but not enough and should have been done sooner, dad used to tell me that they had a big problem and that in even though a lot of work was done in 1958, they were too far behind. The rooms in Panorama and Holiday Inn had air conditioning/cooling and heat but were not connected to the main building. The rooms in the main building were mostly small and most had air conditioning (window AC). There were three types of rooms in the main building, private baths, semi-private where two rooms shared a bath and rooms with bath on the floor (mostly 3rd floor). The corner rooms were the largesti and all were dated.
In 1972 Alvin Atlass decided to leave the hotel business. They tried to sell the hotel and had a buyer with a deposit who ended up backing out. It was too much risk for Abby Dan to run the hotel alone. At the start of each season, they needed to take a bank loan in order to open the hotel. This loan would be paid off over the summer season. This meant that one really bad summer would bankrupt the hotel. In Sept of 1972 with no buyer, the hotel went bankrupt. It was sold at auction. Abby Dan tried to help the new owner open for the 1973 season but the new owner started too late and the hotel did not open for the '73 summer season. In September of 1973 the hotel burned in a suspicious fire. It was noted that the water tower which operated the sprinkler system was drained.
In 1973 Abby started working at the DeVille, that hotel, which though behind the times still had a wing with modern rooms an indoor pool and a beautifull nightclub. But the DeVille, formally the Nemerson, was an uninspiring Hotel. The new wing was in the back of the hotel with rooms facing the maintenance building or ugly cottages, no view. The dining room and nightclub were separate buildings connected by quickly fabricated walkways. I recall looking out the window as we passed the Raleigh headed to the DeVille for the first time, wow what a hotel! The Raleigh was an impressive hotel in 1973 with all modern rooms, ice rink, a beautiful nightclub and an amazing indoor pool. Little did I know that dad and I would both work there, he was there for 30 years, me, just for summers until '84.
Such a shame, there was so much history lost in that building, I only realized later on the meaning of the loss. The architecture, the memories... A small example is the piano and wooden pinball machine sitting in the basement between the lower lobby and the workshop. The piano is in a picture on the front porch in the 30's, I wonder where the pinball machine was. A horse drawn sled under the nightclub that was used in the 20's. All gone. Perhaps this web site can preserve some history.
Overview of grounds: The hotel was on about 350 (some brochures say 250 and later ones say 350) acres and had about 230 rooms in 1972. In 1972, there was the main buidling which housed the office, kitchen, dining room, lobby, lower lobby, canteen (snacks), staff/children’s dining room. To the right was a guest house called Holiday Inn, then were rows of guest cottages. In front of Holiday Inn and the cottages was the outdoor pool, paddle ball, shuffle board and baketball/volleyball courts and then 6 clay tennis courts. Past the tennis courts was the adult softball field. Behind the guest cottages were cottages for family and some staff. My grandmother, aunt and my family had three cottages with one connected porch. My Uncle Elliot had a mobile home up the hill behind ours. There was a cottage to our right and then the Atlas’ had a a very small house. Further along the dirt road, there was woods on the left and guest cottages way on the right. At the end of the dirt road and slightly to the right was the adult sofball field. On the left, tucked into the woods, was Aunt May’s house. Her place was very nice. Continuing to the left and up the dirt road took you to the kids camp pool on the left at the crest of the hill. Just below was a large open flat area with the big and little kids camp houses. There was a kids softball field, swings, sandboxes and the two camper buildings. The big kids camp building had an arts and craft room on the left, bathrooms in the middle and an open area with a broken piano and cubbies on the right. Below the camp was the lake.
To the left of the main building was the guest house Panorama, built in 1958. Behind Panorama was a stone garage built sometime before 1910. To the left of Panorama and down the Hill (we used to sled on that hill in the winter) was the amphitheater and playhouse (aka casino). This is where the shows were.
Behind the main building and to the left were the staff houses, called West Point and Brooklyn. They were named after colleges. Directly behind the main building was a liquor storage, which looked like a medieval door to a cave into the mountain. It was a big bulky door with bars on the small window. Also behind the main building was the water tower and Clarence 'the caretakers' cottage underneath the tower. During the winter, Clarance watched over the hotel. To the left of Clarence’s cottage was a pump house that we called sleeping beauty. No idea why, the older kids just told us the name. You could climb the ladder and look through the opening and barely see in the darkness the water swishing. You could hear and feel the movements of the water and pump. The pump house pumped water into the tower and I think also into pipes heading towards the main building. The pipes from the pump house to the main building would ‘jump’ with each turn of the reciprocating pump. We used to stand on the pipes.