Lake House Hotel destroyed
April 11, 2007
Woodridge — Around 5:30 yesterday morning, handyman
Jerry Gabrynowicz heard a crackling noise, what he
thought was wood snapping.
Stepping outside, he saw flames blasting apart the
windows of the 50-room former Lake House Hotel near
Woodridge, where he is the caretaker for the religious
By 6 a.m., fireballs shot 60 feet in the air through
The heat melted the glass down to crystal globs.
The fire burned the building to the concrete slab.
The fire destroyed a lobby, dining room, kitchen and
offices on the bottom floor of the camp building;
and bedrooms on the upper two floors. The flames jumped
several yards, burning down three bungalows. Gabrynowicz
and another maintenance worker were sleeping in a
nearby mobile home, the only ones on the property.
Gabrynowicz called 911. No one was injured in the
The cause of the fire likely will never be known.
"It was too far gone by the time anybody got
to it," said Rusty Brown, first assistant chief
for the Woodridge Fire Department.
Only a portion of the spine-like, steel foundation
that once held up the roof was left standing. The
interior of the building looked like the inside of
a barbecue pit. Copper pipes and the metal remains
of tables and chairs lay in the heaps of charred wood,
"I live a half-mile away, and I could see the
flames," Brown said. "When I came out of
the front door, I could see flames. Not smoke, flames."
On Monday, Gabrynowicz said, he left some tools in
the building; he was preparing to run PVC pipes. This
winter, the camp building was robbed of much its copper
He said he mentally retraced his steps. He couldn't
think of anything that he did to start the fire accidentally.
The electricity was not turned on. The lights were
temporarily being run by a generator.
"That is a mystery," he said. "I don't
smoke. The generator was shut down after 4. It is
fishy, very fishy."
Several tanker trucks were called to the remote area
to control the blaze.
Eventually, the fire departments were able to tap
a pond about a quarter-mile away. Woodridge, Mountaindale,
Woodbourne, Ellenville, Loch Sheldrake, Monticello
and Rock Hill departments fought the fire. Liberty
also stood by.
Firefighters saved five bungalows and a second, large
building with about 30 rooms. That building was connected
to the destroyed main building by a short breezeway.
The camp is owned by Brooklyn's Machne Ohel Moshe
Members of that group were not answering telephones
in observance of the final day of Passover. One member
had to be called out of the synagogue in Brooklyn
where he was worshipping and told of the fire.
It was a 'nice' classic Catskill resort
The Lake House was among scores of small, family-run
hotels that were part of Sullivan County's landscape
in the 1940s and '50s. It had a big dining room with
hardwood floors and served lots of borscht and sour
cream. Guests walked across the street to a cow barn
to get raw milk.
"The Lower East Side in New York would come
up and entertain," said Nat Kagan, who delivered
kosher meat to the hotel. "People used to walk
around and play the guitar, and people used to give
them money, on the lawn. In its heyday, it was a nice