The Adirondacksí 19th century hotels met their demise in various ways. Some, spectacularly, burned to the ground. Many were torn down and their land was subdivided. Some were converted into clubs or conference centers. Taylorís Hotel was fortunate: it was reborn in 1925 as a different type of summer resort, called Scaroon Manor.
Joesph Frieber was an entrepreneur from New York City with an original vision for Taylorís Hotel. He sought to develop a new kind of Adirondack resort, one that would attract vacationers through images of romance, action, youth and fun. A restaurateur with a sure feeling for what young Jewish New Yorkers wanted, Frieber bought the property in the early 1920s and set about creating a world in which vacationers received superb food, fast-pace outdoor activities lively entertainment and, most important, an aura of romance.
Taylorís Hotel became a Jewish resort in 1901. An old register contains WASP or Irish names through 1900; in 1901 the names become Jewish. It should be remembered that the blatant anti-Semitism afflicting 19th century Adirondack resorts was reversed by Louis W. and James Emerson, the visionary Warrensburg businessmen who owned the Leland House Hotel in Schroon village. When the Emersons invited wealthy Jewish guests to the Leland House in the late1890s, the move opened all Schroon Lake hotels to Jews who had previously been excluded.
Probably Joe Frieber first came to Taylorís as a guest. His keen mind must have noted the spectacular waterfront and superb location. Trains were still bringing visitors to Riverside at the time, but horse-drawn stages had been supplanted by automobiles. And what was located near the Taylorís property? The new two-lane Route 9, the International Highway, the Miami-Montreal expressway, the major north-south highway of the day!
Frieber named the hotel after Mme. Scarron de Maintenon, using the 19th century American spelling of her name. He modernized the property by installing new facilities and decorating the grounds in a welcoming manner. Beautiful gardens, long to be the pride of Scaroon Manor, were created. Many of the original buildings, carefully constructed under C.F. Taylorís demanding eye, remained in fine shape. The Parsell cottage and the main hotel building received some cosmetic additions and continued in used until Scaroon Manor closed in the 1960s.
A Summer of Love
When Joe Frieber decided to promote the hotel as a loversí paradise, he realized that honeymoons could be big business. His advertising consigned Niagara Falls to an older generation and implied that these days the desirable place to honeymoon was Scaroon Manor.
Romance was a vigorously marketed product. Frieber promoted the fantasy of love for everyone, at all ages. It was suggested to single young people that a vacation at Scaroon Manor meant finding a mate, at least temporarily. There were indeed plenty of summer romances, but thousands of people met and formed lifelong relationships at the hotel. Couples who married while at Scaroon Manor (often driven to Schroonís Justice of the peace M. Leo Friedman for the ceremony) got a free week there the following year. Repeat honeymoons were encouraged. Anniversaries were celebrated with gusto. The hotel was full, year after year, with young New Yorkers hoping its magic would work for them. Very often, it did; what nowadays is handled by chat rooms, personal ads and dating services could occur at that time through summer vacation at Scaroon Manor.
The famous slogan of the hotel was "Scaroon Loves You." It appeared over the entrance and on the stationary, stickers, menus, newspaper advertising and signs around the property. Local wags made up their own ditty about what they believed to be a major activity at the hotel: "Scaroon Loves You, and you love Schroo-ing." It was an adolescent joke worthy of Paul Scarronís exquisite wit, perhaps, but he would surely have appreciated the play on words and enjoyed the sexual allusion to his own name.
Remembering The Meals
Frieberís forte was food service. A native of Hungary, he had learned Hungarian and French cuisine in Europe. He started in New York City with the Tosca Restaurant on Fulton Street, then opened the Dubonnet, at 5 West 45th Street, a first-class restaurant well regarded for the quality of its food. He got the best kitchen equipment and found a decorator with a luxurious style for the dining room. He hired the best chefs and paid special attention to pastries. Like C.F. Taylor and other Adirondack hoteliers, he understood the importance of food in a summer resort. He did not intend to let his guests become bored with the meals. Eating was to be a central part of the pleasurable activities on the guestsí busy schedules.
Mickey Frieber, Joeís wife and partner, was in charge of the front office Ė a big job that involved sales, customer relations, reservations, bookkeeping and accounting. She maintained an office at the Dubonnet in New York City and worked full time at a job that handled individual guests and convention delegates who kept the rooms full during a 4-month season. Petite and pleasant, level-headed and straightforward, Mickey was a perfect partner for the creative Hungarian she deeply loved.
Joe Frieber opened Scaroon Manor in 1925 with the conviction that keeping the guests busy meant happy vacationers and repeat reservations. He knew that evenings had to be as full of appealing activities as the days were. He built an outdoor theater, with a proscenium stage, and began presenting scenes from Shakespeareís plays. This may have seemed to Frieber, with his urbane European background, to be the right entertainment, but it became clear that young guests coming in from swimming or tennis needed something more contemporary than Shakespeare to keep the momentum going during the evening.
After some experiments in musical entertainment, the winning formula arrived in 1935 when David Bines (pronounced Bee-nis) came on the scene. An imaginative producer of stage shows with the heart of an impresario and the soul of a stagestruck kid, Bines knew American musical theater well. He worked for 22 years as production manager for RKO Theaters, principally at the flagship Palace in New York City (taking each summer off to work at Scaroon Manor), and had worked earlier staging dance numbers at New Havenís Paramount, Bostonís Keith, Providenceís Fayís and Hartfordís State theaters.
Vaudeville was nearly finished, and movies with sound had arrived, but at Binesís Palace in New York, audiences craved the combination of live shows and films. The great headliners of the day appeared at the Palace (although Frank Sinatraís famous concert were given at the rival Roxy Theater). Bines guided Lauritz Melchior, Betty Hutton, Alan King, Jerry Lewis, Liberace and Harry Belafonte through their appearances at the Palace. His greatest triumph came in the early 1950s when Judy Garland gave one show-stopping performance after another. Bines also worked with Danny Kaye for ten years, handling the production and especially the lighting of Kayeís highly orginal and successful shows.
THE STARS ARE BORN
Scaroon Manor was known in New York City as a stairway to the stars. Young people hoping to work on Broadway vied to perform at Scaroon Manor and learn from David Bines. Robert Merrill, the international opera star, was one of Scaroon Manorís famous alumni. A Brooklynite, he had never heard of the hotel in 1939 when, as a 20-year-old, he auditioned for Bines in Steinway Hall. As Merrill tells it in his autobiography, Bines appeared unimpressed by Merrillís initial renditions, but when he sang "Largo al Factotum" from The Barber of Seville, Bines hired him at $250 for the summer.
Merrill recalls doing weekday shows with singers and dancers and, on weekends, being the opening act for The Three Stooges and Red Skelton. (Skelton a young Canadian, made some of his first United States appearances at Scaroon Manor.) Merrill found himself surrounded by attractive young female dancers. They were chaperoned by Binesí wife, Cookie, who was the Choreographer. But Merrill was inspired by the romantic lake-side setting and reports that in a boat in the moonlight he was able to achieve what had eluded him back near the Coney Island boardwalk.
Bines next got the handsome baritone a stint on a cruise ship, and soon after that his career took off. Before Merrill made his Metropolitan opera debut, and electrician who worked at both Scaroon Manor and the Met gave him a backstage tour of the opera house. Soon afterward Merrill was on stage, singing in Aida. Merrill sang for many years at the Met and in Europe, famous for his roles in Rigoletto and in A Masked Ball. He became an enduring radio and television star and made tours in such shows as Fiddler on the Roof. He was always welcomed back at Scaroon Manor, of course, as was his colleague, the operatic tenor Jan Peerce, who used to entertain the guests with his trademark "Bluebird of Happiness."
Bines was never able to get his friend Danny Kaye to appear at Scaroon Manor, but he certainly proved himself to be a talent spotter who produced a flock of well know stars over the years. Some, like Robert Merrill, Red Skelton and Alan King were on their way up; others were already there. Milton Berle appeared several times and was one of the headliners when the hotel had its midwinter reunions at the Grand Ballroom of the Astor Hotel in New York City. (The Friebers got Scaroon Manor guests and their friends together yearly, just in time to plan repeat honeymoons and make summer reservations.)
Sophie Tucker, Harry Hershfield, Joey Bishop, Morey Amsterdam, Jan Murray, Myron Cohen and the vaudeville team Smith and Dale were among Scaroon Manorís stars, often appearing between stints at Catskill resorts. Others were singers, instrumentalists or dancers who also played in New York night clubs. Gary Morton, a television performer, and Florence Wyman, a singing star with Phil Spitalnyís All-Girl Orchestra, preformed, as did the comedian Willie Shore, who opened his act singing:
Tea for two
And two for tea,
And have you got
Some Scotch for me?
Bines, who had a gift for being ahead of trends, was able to introduce the hotelís young guests to the latest songs and dances before they gained general popularity. After World War II, having anticipated the national craze for Latin American music, he hired a Latin band for Scaroon Manor. Often professional singers and dancers mingled with the audience to introduce the latest steps. Many vacationers returned to New York or its suburbs full of confidence in their ability to dance the rumba, tango, conga and samba.
The outdoor amphitheater, which had 500 seats and a revolving two-part stage, featured the primary orchestra with 12 musicians to start the show, get the comedian on and off stage, accompany the singers and dancers and play for those guests who wanted to jitterbug or fox trot. Another part of the show was devoted to the Latin band, whose members wore open-necked shirts with ruffled sleeves and used plenty of castanets. No show was complete without adagio dancing, an athletic form of performance with some breath-taking moments.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS RIGHT HERE
Scaroon Manorís inviting facilities were planned to take advantage of the 327-acre site and 8,350 feet of shoreline. Golfers found the nine-hole course at the west end of the grounds a challenge, but a PGA pro was on hand to give lessons and pep talks. In recent years, the Adirondack Park Agency designated some parts of the golf course as official wetlands, but in the environmentally innocent days of Scaroon Manor, the moist areas were simply regarded as water traps.
There were eight handball courts, nine clay tennis courts, a baseball diamond and several basketball courts. There were facilities for badminton, table tennis and shuffleboard, television lounges and a well-stocked library. A large recreation room was used for indoor performances and games during bad weather. Finally, there was the popular Dubonnet Room, the bar that stayed open until 3 a.m. and in which much of the social life took place.
The basketball courts were used for practice and exhibition games by the dream team of the day, from the City University of New York. The men also worked in the dining room and on the hotelís athletic staff, joined by other players from Long Island University and St. Johnís University. Since all such staff members were expected to take part in the social life and make sure, in particular, that there were no wallflowers among guests, the players doubled, perhaps not unwillingly, as dates and dance partners.
There were sandy swimming beaches toward the south end of the waterfront and a concrete-lined marina (parts of which still exist) to the north for boating. Frieber leased the boat concession to local people, and helped them provide guests with the best available equipment for fishing and boating. Among the speedboats were a 27-foot Gar Wood and a 16-foot Century, both with mahogany hulls. Stan Cole of Schroon Lake, who ran the concession from 1949 to 1962, paid his way through college renting boats and giving water skiing lessons. The sportís popularity required building more finger piers off the docks and purchasing additional boats, causing lower Schroon Lake to roar with the sound of motors.
While the kitchen and cleaning staff members usually came up by buses from New York City, the Friebers hired local people for many jobs. Irwin Stowell from South Schroon was a third-generation employee who worked as a caddy and stagehand; his grandfather had operated the electrical generating plant and his father Orville handled various jobs. Joe Gochie, another local man, was the greenskeeper. Jesse Cole was responsible for keeping the ice house packed. The security staff, on the other hand, were always retired New York City policemen, some returning year after year, good-natured but firm about keeping outsiders out.
THE CONVENTION BUSINESS
Frieber was a marketing genius who wanted all his rooms filled during the 4-month season. By the 1950s he had acquired the Harrigan cottage to the north and the Cedars hotel to the south. With accommodations for more than 450 people, the Friebers scheduled conventions frequently, using a network of New York and Miami contacts to cultivate business. A highly placed friend was Benjamin Feinberg of Plattsburgh, a state senator for 17 years who served as temporary president and majority leader of the senate. Feinberg, once a teacher in a one-room school in Clinton County, is best remembered as chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission and for his leadership in creating the State University of New York.
Through Feinberg and his ties to the Republican Party, Scaroon Manor received significant convention business. Governor Thomas E. Dewey, on a northern New York tour to accommodate Feinberg, gave a speech before an audience of 700 at a Scaroon Manor convention in 1945. In 1959, the Federation of Republican Womenís Clubs staged a major convention at the hotel, with Bertha Adkins, the United States Deputy Secretary of Education as the keynote speaker. Governor Nelson Rockefeller made a major address at that convention.
Corporations like Motorola held sales meetings, and groups like the Italian-American Veterans held conventions. Meetings of the statewide town supervisors, county officers and district attorneys were held, as were trade association and labor union conventions.
The Jewish holidays were another time of off-season activity. Guests were invited to return in the fall for the High Holy Days. In 1948, when Orthodox liturgical law banned June weddings for the Hebrew calendar year, Frieber opened the hotel in early May and invited engaged couples to marry early and honeymoon at Scaroon Manor.
HEARTS OF GOLD
Joe Frieber has gone from the memory of many who live today in northern Warren and southern Essex Counties. But others remember a man of great generosity. Many hundreds of local children who might not have had Christmas presents during the hard economic times of the 1930s and the disruptive era of World War II and its aftermath received substantial gifts, shipped by the Friebers for distribution through local churches.
Joe and Mickey were sensitive to the spirit of ecumenism that flourished in the aftermath of the Holocaust. They worked with Schroon Lakeís community and religious leaders to present interfaith services during postwar years. The services, carefully planned to reflect the inclusiveness of the spiritual experience, were held in the town park and the school. The Seagle Music Colony produced the nondenominational music, and speakers of many faiths addressed the groups. Rabbi Stephen Wise, the famed preacher from New York City, attended and spoke at the Friebersí invitation.
The Friebers were generous in raising funds for local and national causes. During World War II they sponsored entertainments to sell war bonds. Once a year David Bines and his wife, Ruth Cook Bines, staged a Scaroon Manor benefit at the Schroon Lake Central School. Committees from the local hotels and businesses sold tickets and guaranteed to the Friebers that every performance would be sold out. In Glens Falls, the Friebers and the Bines annually staged a "Night of Stars" to benefit community projects.
THE LAST DANCE
Joe Frieberís failing health as well as further changes in Americaís vacation habits caused the demise of Scaroon Manor. Frieber ceded the hotel to his nephew and right-hand man, Rudy Weinberg, but Scaroon Manor --- as a concept and as a business --- was finished. It was sold in 1960 to the owners of the Sagamore Hotel in Bolton Landing, who were building their own convention business. They in turn sold the property to the New York State, thus removing it from the tax rolls of the towns of Chester and Schroon. The deed stated that the land was not to be Forest Preserve, allowing for uses compatible with recreational development. The state then brought a closed boysí camp to the south and attached it to the Scaroon Manor property.
The state assigned responsibility for the hotel to the Consersation Department, later known as the Department of Environmental Conservation. Concerned with the liability presented by 140 unoccupied buildings, the DEC auctioned the contents and sold 41 buildings, which were moved out in 1968. Early in 1969, the main building, Cedars annex, and other structures were burned to the ground. The funeral pyre could be seen that night for miles around; by morning Scaroon Manor was truly gone. The foundations were graded, and a barrier was erected at Route 9.
At first, local residents were optimistic that the property would indeed be developed for recreational use. A master plan was devised, providing beaches, bathhouses, a boat launch site, camping spaces, skiing and sledding slopes, a renovated amphitheater, a nine-hole golf course, fishing piers, play grounds, picnic areas and parking for nearly 600 cars. But as the environmental movement blossomed in the 1970s and pressures grew to return the Adirondacks to a natural state, New York backed away from that ambitious plan. Now the land lay fallow, the trees were growing up and Ė in the eyes of those who opposed development Ė a nascent wilderness was emerging. When the Adirondack Park Agency sought for its Visitors Interpretive Centers in the 1980s, the Scaroon Manor property was proposed. Its proximity to the Northway exists might ensure substantial usage, but the center was placed in more remote Newcomb instead.
In recent years proposals have been made to use the land as a campsite and as a cultural center. No taxes have been paid since the hotel closed. Meetings and discussions have been held, studies commissioned and reports submitted. The towns, anxious for revenue, want the site used. Some environmentalists want the propertyís status changed to that of Forest Preserve and thus be kept forever wild. Forty years after the closing of Scaroon Manor and 200 years after the land was cleared for farming, the future of Taylorís Point remains uncertain.
Scaroon Loves You
Very Precious Love
By ANN BREEN METCALFE
by the Warren County