The End of an Era (and the dawn of another?)
The Phoenicia Hotel had a storied existence, a favorite destination of Babe Ruth and Dutch Shultz, to name but just two American legends. In recent years it fell into disrepair, and though its bar continued to do business, and a restaurant and gallery were among its storefront tenants, was eventually closed down – just around the time we moved up here. As the biggest building on Main Street, its dilapidated silence spoke of the Catskills’ fragile economy – and when it caught fire a year ago, just as it was about to be sold to local businessman Declan Feehan, promptly became an eyesore, an all-too-visible reminder of how so many other hotels round these parts met their demise and of the ghosts they leave behind. A local photographer caught that fire on camera – and last week, when the Hotel was finally torn down, came out again to capture “the end of an era.”
The village looks notably different without the hotel in the middle of Main Street. But it already looks better. And though Declan Feehan, who went ahead with his purchase of the building despite the fact that the Town condemned the building after the fire, has been coy about what he plans in its place, likelihood is that whatever he constructs will surely be for the good. The Hotel’s slow demise aside, Phoenicia is thriving, with four restaurants, an old-fashioned theater that puts on proper plays and movie nights, the Arts Upstairs Gallery with its own myriad events, the Phoenicia Belle B&B, a variety of decent (and not-so-decent) stores, maybe the best pizza outside New York City, a railway museum, the internationally famous tourist attraction of tubing (see here and here), a beloved Library – and a successful elementary school which, thanks to the recent School Board election, appears to be assured of its status. Here’s to Phoenicia’s Phuture.