Fire blazes at resort that inspired ‘Dirty Dancing’

Thirty-five years after Dirty Dancing depicted Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey successfully executing the lift, part of the resort that inspired the film is no more.

Firefighters responded Tuesday to a fire at the former Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel in Liberty, N.Y., according to a Facebook post from the Liberty Fire Department. They found the three-and-a-half story building in flames, and they had to cut through a gate, overcome concrete barriers in the road nearby and fight overgrowth on the property, which has reportedly been shuttered since 1986, just to get to the building. Eventually, they did, working for “several hours” to “bring the fire under control.” An excavator was brought in afterwards to knock it down.

An investigation into the cause of the fire at the 812-acre former resort, located 80 miles outside of New York City, is underway.

Grossinger’s, which has lost other buildings as its languished in recent decades, was once a draw for hundreds of thousands of vacationers annually, particularly after Wold War II. Its mostly Jewish clientele enjoyed two kosher kitchens and a 1,500-seat dining room, according to the Associated Press. Amenities also included indoor and outdoor Olympic-sized pools, a ski slope, tennis courts, a golf course, a post office and a nightclub at the resort, which opened its doors in the 1910s.

Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein has recalled dancing at Grossinger’s while her mother and father were otherwise occupied on family vacations.

“My parents would hit the golf course and I would just go to the dance studio as a little girl,” she told the Center for Jewish History in Nov. 2021. “On Thursday night champagne hour, I would come out and do all these mambos and things.”

Jennifer Grey dances around the resort where her family is vacationing in Dirty Dancing, 1987. (Photo: Artisan Entertainment/Courtesy: Everett Collection)

While the 1987 blockbuster — which was set at the fictional Kellerman’s Hotel in the Catskills during the summer of 1963 —was inspired by Grossinger’s, it was actually filmed in Virginia and North Carolina.

But that’s OK, because it wasn’t the venue’s only Hollywood connection. The New York Times reported in former owner Harry Grossinger’s obituary in July 1964 that celebrity guests included New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, comedian Milton Berle, boxer Rocky Marciano and actor Eddie Fisher, who wed Debbie Reynolds there in Sept. 1955.

Meanwhile, the Dirty Dancing franchise has stayed strong over the years, spawning a stage show and more films. Lionsgate announced in March that Grey would be part of a “next chapter.”

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