(1892 - 1972)
Jennie Grossinger turned a small rundown Catskill Mountain
farm into a large hotel that became an American
Institution. The catch slogan "Grossinger's Has Everything
for the Kind of Person Who Likes to Come to
Grossinger's," tells the story of its success.
Jennie Grossinger was born on June 16, 1892, in Baligrod, a small
village in Galicia, Austria, to Malka and Asher Selig Grossinger. Her
mother was the daughter of an innkeeper and her father was an estate
overseer. Her parents saved enough money to immigrate to America in
the hopes of a better life.
They lived on the lower East Side of New York City where Jennie
went to public and Jewish schools. She left the schools to become a
button hole maker, earning two dollars a week for an eleven hour day.
In 1912, she married her cousin, Harry Grossinger, and moved next
door to her parents. She worked as a waitress in her father's dairy
restaurant. In 1914, her father's health was failing and they decided to
move to the Catskill Mountains where they bought a farm in Ferndale,
N.Y. In order to make ends meet, they took in summer boarders. They
gave their guests what they wanted: kosher food and a vacation away
from the city heat.
They served plenty of food that her mother cooked and Jennie was
the chambermaid, bookkeeper and hostess. Their reputation for plenty
of good food at inexpensive rates attracted more people than they could
handle. They sold the farm and bought a large piece of property with a
hotel on it in Liberty, N.Y.
Jennie had two children: Paul, born in September 1915, and Elaine
Joy, born in December, 1927. Jennie continued to manage the hotel as
she raised the two children.
Keeping abreast of the times and the competition, she built tennis
courts, bridle paths, a children's camp, hired a social director and a
residential theater group which graduated many stars in the entertainment field.
Many famous celebrities came through Grossinger's doors to visit
and entertain. They included Bobby Fischer, Robert Merrill, Mrs.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Red Buttons, Vice President Alben W. Barkley, Chaim Weizmann, Dore Schary and two Nobel Prize recipients: Dr.
Selman A Waksman and Dr. Arthur Kronberg.
Grossinger's Hotel was also responsible in advancing the careers
of many well known entertainers. Eddie Fisher was a young singer
entertaining at the hotel when Eddie Cantor heard him. Cantor was so
impressed that he started Fisher on his rise to national stardom.
Jennie Grossinger was always involved in charities and good causes.
She raised millions of dollars in WW II war bonds at the hotel. An
Army airplane was named "Grossinger's" in her honor. In Israel, there
is a clinic and convalescent home that bear her name. She received
many honorary degrees and awards for her philanthropy.
When Jennie gave up her management of the hotel, it contained
1.200 acres with 35 buildings and they served 150,000 people a year.
On November 20, 1972, she died of a stroke in her cottage at
Jennie Grossinger best personified America. She was poor when
she started and rose to riches by her skill as an innkeeper. Jennie
Grossinger will always be the symbol of what success is in the hotel
industry of America.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.