Deep into the Mattresses
Located in South Fallsburg, NY
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Heiden Hotel History
This small hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York was originally a boarding house, started by David Heiden in 1906. The hotel would later primarily cater Jewish visitors, many coming from New York City during the summers. Guests recall the family-like atmosphere of being greeted by the entire Heiden Family upon arrival, as opposed to the almost-anonymous process of checking into hotels in contemporary times. Some livestock were kept out back, chickens and the like, and the children were encouraged to pet them and assist in some light daily chores. Entertainment was provided inside a casino room, a large porch with games, a bandstand, concessions and outdoor pool. Comedians and entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Mason, and Red Buttons have performed at the Heiden during its heyday.
In 1987, Hollywood visited the tiny hotel to film the movie Sweet Lorraine, starring Maureen Stapleton. In the film, the Heiden Hotel pretty much played the same role as in real life - an aging family-run resort in the Borscht Belt, trying to stay afloat amid changing times. It painted an intimate portrait of life here; many of the extras in the film were Sullivan County locals, and even the producer's grandfather was once the salad chef at the Heiden during the 1950s. Unfortunately, the film was eclipsed by Dirty Dancing, which takes place at the nearby Grossinger's Resort (although it was filmed in North Carolina), and did not receive much interest.
David Heiden's son Herbert, who was born and raised at the hotel, eventually ran the place during the summer from his home in Florida. The decline of the Catskill entertainment region, in conjunction to much larger resorts who could keep afloat longer, led to the eventual demise of the Heiden when it closed in 1986. It stood vacant for twenty-six years until a fire broke out in May of 2008, destroying the entire structure.
The memories of Shirley Paris is a great read for anyone looking to recall the old Heiden Hotel.