Wenzel boarding house circa 1905
While difficult to mark a "beginning," the soul of the resort was born when, at the turn of the century, the Wenzel family decided to build a boarding house on their substantial land holdings in Callicoon Center. The family's land was home to acres of farmland and a gristmill for grinding flower powered by a waterwheel on the river.
Hill’s Villa to Hill’s
Throughout their stewardship, the Hill family continued to develop and expand the resort, adding outbuildings both in the valley and on the ridge. More resort activities were added, and a growing demand finally necessitated the construction of an on-site kitchen. No longer a single villa, the resort shortened its name to simply "Hill's," inspiration for its name today.
Borscht Belt Era
The 1960s brought on the famed "Borscht Belt" era of Catskills resorts. Hotels, cabins, and camps catering to the Jewish communities of the greater NY region proliferated. Hill's tried to differentiate itself, bragging that "The atmosphere is different from many resorts... we have no regimented program." In this brochure, the new "King Size" pool can be seen in its current location adjacent to Terrace Hall.
A Friendly Place for Nice People
The need for dining brought with it a chef named Bruno who caught the eye of Marie Hill, daughter of the proprietors. Marie and Bruno eventually married and went on to act for many years as the charismatic hosts of the resort. In advertisements they boasted: "We provide the magnificent setting, facilities, companions... then let you set your own pace."
In the early 1970's, at the close of one of their visits to Hill's, Walter Ambrozewicz and his wife Anna (seen here), casually commented to Bruno that they never wanted to leave. Bruno's retort "Well if you like it so much why don't you buy it?!" soon became a reality. Unfamiliar with hotel operations, Walter, Anna, and their young daughter Ela bravely moved to the Hill's to carry on the tradition of warm and personable hospitality.
It’s the Perfect Time to Head for the Hills
The Ambrozewicz's eventually dropped the apostrophe and made the property their own as Hills Resort. Much of the graphic artwork during this period, including the iconic Hills logo, was designed by Ela's uncle Ozzie. In this brochure, a young Ela can be seen gamely posing alongside guests in a rowdy game of volleyball.
Callicoon Hills is deeply inspired by the past lives of the property. We were immensely fortunate to have access to meticulous archives kept by Ela of her family's long stewardship of the property. Old photographs, postcards, and collateral have been instrumental in ensuring the updated resort maintains the charm and authenticity of its storied past.
The "informal vacation resort" lives on as Callicoon Hills. If you've read this far you've no doubt come away with a sense of of the language, branding, and spirit of the resort's history that is the hallmark of the reimagined Callicoon Hills. We look forward to meeting you. It's the perfect time to Head for the Hills.