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Livingston Manor’s Golden Age Hotels

John Conway
Posted 4/19/24

The summer of 1929 was a significant one in the history of Sullivan County’s resort industry.

In Fallsburg, the Flagler Hotel, perhaps the most prominent of the County’s hotels at …

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Livingston Manor’s Golden Age Hotels


The summer of 1929 was a significant one in the history of Sullivan County’s resort industry.

In Fallsburg, the Flagler Hotel, perhaps the most prominent of the County’s hotels at the time, was opening its new state of the art playhouse, and had hired Moss Hart and Dore Schary to produce their entertainment.

And in Livingston Manor, the White Roe was kicking off a new era, as well.

“The summer of 1929 was a gala one at White Roe. A new casino had just been christened, and it was as grand as any in the Catskills,” wrote Martin Gottfried in “Nobody’s Fool,” his 1994 biography of the actor Danny Kaye. “A casino was not a gambling room, but a hotel’s social center, and this one was an imposing edifice, a three-story, gabled affair with brown shingles and white trim. Porches swept entirely around on two levels, offering panoramic views of the Catskills, and there was a recreation hall on the main floor. There was also a nightclub below, but it would not fully function until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

“Inside, on the main floor, high, arched windows and French doors were spaced along the perimeter of the recreation hall. Above the fifty-foot wide stage, the proscenium arch rose twenty feet to the ceiling, facing an auditorium whose folding chairs could seat five hundred in a pinch. The facility was as well-equipped as any on Broadway, having wings and fly space, drops, dimmers and full lighting.”

The new entertainment hall was the design of the White Roe’s social director, Nat Lichtman, and it was also Lichtman who brought David Kaminsky to Livingston Manor and guided his rebirth as Danny Kaye.

Kaminsky and his partner Lou Eisen, better known in the Catskills in later years as Lou Reed, had been singing at parties, social affairs and street corners in Brooklyn for over a year when discovered by Lichtman, who was visiting his mother in Brooklyn one weekend when he caught their act.

He had stopped at a local candy store to use the telephone when he came across “Red and Blackie,” as Kaminsky and Eisen had dubbed themselves, singing duets on the street corner. He hired them on the spot to work for him that summer in Livingston Manor.

In his book on Kaye, Gottfried spends quite some time on the White Roe years. It was there, after all, that Danny Kaye was born. It was his tenure at White Roe, undeniably, that convinced Kaye that he could succeed as an entertainer.

Gottfried relates how Meyer Weiner brought his family to Livingston Manor to farm, and was so successful that in 1919 he purchased 750 acres “on the face of White Roe Mountain, sloping gently down to the town lake.” Weiner bought the land, not to farm, but “to create a summer place for young Jewish single people—‘no families, no children, nobody under eighteen, nobody over thirty-five. Lots of athletics, all kinds of activities and all the food you can eat.’”

Weiner started out with ten rooms, and added thirty tents, each sleeping four, in the second summer. Growth was steady, and by the time Lichtman brought Red and Blackie to the mountains, the White Roe was well established.

“The hotel had new and elaborate facilities, with accommodations for four hundred people, albeit, five and six to a room,” Gottfried related.

With this backdrop, and Lichtman’s guidance, Eisen became Lou Reed and Kaminsky became Danny Kaye. The two sixteen-year-old singers had been “hired as tummlers, and their job was to tummle” all day and as late into the night as necessary—in the dining room, on the front porch and down by the lake.

“A tummler’s duties were broadly defined. Lou and Danny, besides being a harmony team in the Saturday night musical shows, were expected to participate in each night’s entertainment. And there was something scheduled every night. On Sunday nights, there were concerts by the house band (drums, two violins, trumpet, three saxophones, and a piano), which at the time was Lew Sandow and his Columbia Captivators. Weeknights there were masquerades, campfires, or games—anything as long as it was something. Guests would even ask the owner what was scheduled between the end of dinner and the start of the entertainment,” Gottfried wrote.

Danny Kaye worked for seven summers at the White Roe, eventually becoming the headliner there, and then spent the summer of 1937 at the President Hotel in Swan Lake, where he made $100 a week and was sometimes billed as Dan Kolbin. From there, he moved on to the classy Tamiment in the Poconos. Stardom didn’t come immediately thereafter, but soon.

For many reasons, not the least of which was its association with Danny Kaye, the White Roe became arguably the best known of the Livingston Manor area hotels, but it certainly wasn’t the only one. From the Edgewood Inn to the Waldemere, the community was well represented during the Golden Age of Sullivan County tourism. These hotels will be the focus of a presentation by this columnist, your Sullivan County Historian, at the Livingston Manor Library on Thursday evening, April 25. The program starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Contact the Livingston Manor Library for more information.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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