The Second Fire

From Barry’s reminisces

The Second fire

It was Passover 1962. I had just transferred from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration to CUNY in New York City and had come up to work as a waiter during the holiday. In typical Brookside fashion, my mother had given my room in the house away for paying guests and Richard and I were given a place to sleep in the attic of the main house with the kitchen help.

Early on Easter Sunday morning one of the cooks, attempted to light the oven in the bake shop to bake the herring and potatoes for Sunday morning breakfast, got a false flame and after a few minutes the oven exploded in flame, setting the main house on fire.

The main house was a three story wooden structure that contained the kitchen, dining room, and lobby, seven guest rooms on the second floor, and helps quarters in the attic. The fire was contained to the kitchen area at first which allowed for all the guests on the second floor to be evacuated and kitchen help in the attic were already up and out. That is except for Richard and me, who were still sleeping. We can thank Mary Smith, the chambermaid for remembering that we were up in the attic and waking us and getting us out before the fire spread and closed our escape route.

I remember the volunteer fire department arriving a little late and finally setting up the hoses and pumps to get water out of the pond. I remember grabbing a hose and running into the burning kitchen, turning on the hose and having nothing come out. I guess I was a little impatient and ended up getting out real fast. The bottom line was that the building was destroyed. But enough of the bad news.

What happened next was truly amazing and a testament for the goodness that existed in the small Kerhonkson/Accord community.

While the fire was devastating to my family, it also caused a major problem for some 200 guests who had planned their Passover vacation at the Brookside. The news of the fire traveled fast through the local community and within hours word came from the Granite Hotel about a mile away that they would accommodate our guests for breakfast in their Children’s dining room. I remember a car caravan that transported everyone to the Granite and breakfast was served.

Despite it being Easter Sunday, within hours the keys to an adjacent hotel, about a quarter mile away, were obtained along with the OK that the facility could be used to feed our guests. The hotel had been closed up after the summer and a lot of work would have to be done to make the building ready to feed a few hundred people. Without being asked, friends, neighbors and suppliers started showing up to help get the facility ready. Water & electric had to be turned on, the kitchen had to be put in shape, food and supplies had to be obtained and a hundred other things attended to. The community pulled together for my family and almost on schedule lunch was served in a building, that a few hours earlier had been cold and dark. Where everything came from to make it happen, I couldn’t tell, but it happened. In fact, I recall that the Cantor who had been hired to run the Seders was washing dishes. We continued to serve meals at the Granite Sunshine Hotel through the end of the holiday and my recollection is that only a few of guests shortened their planned vacation and left early.

Three times a day car pools could be seen making the short trip from the Brookside to the hotel down the road.

Another good thing that came out of the fire was that as a result of the fire I met my wife Linda who had come up to see her parents who were guests.

The rest is history.


The Last Fire

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