Monsey Memories: “When Rockland was New York City’s Resort”
By: Yitzy Fried
The story of Monsey’s metamorphosis from a hamlet into a burgeoning metropolis is well-known. Half a century ago, the Journal new was already looking back to the time when the area was a resort town, with a number of hotels serving the escaping city dwellers.
Following are excerpts from those who looked back to that time from inside the hotel scene:
“Before the Thruway, the mass migration from the city and the resulting urban-like congestion of cars and people, Rockland County was a quiet, sedate place inhabited by a small fraction of its present population. Many of these old-time residents were hotel keepers who catered to a brisk summer trade. Just about all of the county’s resorts were located in the Spring Valley area. At its peak there were 32 hotels in the area.
"Now there is just Bader’s, Singer’s and the Monsey Park Hotel,” remembers Irving Bauman, whose family owned the resort on Pascack Road.
“My father bought a house on Pascack Road in 1925 and opened it to boarders in the summer. That’s how we got into the hotel business. My mother was in charge of the kitchen, while the rest of the family acted as staff. Our guests swam in nearby Mendelsohn’s Lake. We added a main building, modernized several times during the years and even added a swimming pool and air conditioning.”
"Families wanted to move to the country, but you had to make a living. Some might choose to open a chicken farm or others, like us, chose to go into the hotel business,” said Dorothy Aronoff. Her father, the late Harry Epstein, bought a large home on 26 acres located on Viola Road. A competent builder, he added more buildings around the original house. “The resort business was different in those years,” Mrs. Aronoff pointed out. "We lived in the hotel as a home. Our guests became friends.”
Called the Spring Valley Pine Villa, the hotel was run by the Epstein family until its sale in 1945. People came from the hot concrete of the city to spend weeks at a time lounging on the country’s cool grass. Before air conditioning, the only relief from the city’s heat was found on the tarred tops of the tenements. The relative coolness of Rockland County, real and imagined, served as an advertisement. Many guests were immigrants who had migrated to city life from rural beginnings. They longed to spend their vacations in the open spaces of the local hotels.
All in all, though, the heyday of the resort industry in Spring Valley has passed.
Shopping centers and private homes are on the sites once graced by charming hotels. Recent residents probably never knew of their existence. To old timers, the hotels are just a memory, part of another era when Spring Valley had wooden sidewalks and when saying “Spring Valley -973. please” to the telephone operator connected you with Hotel Bauman.
Fifty years have passed since the publication of this piece in the Journal, and the Rockland area has only moved further away from the peaceful oasis that it once was.