The Amazing History of Wolff's and the Surrounding Area
The Wolff's Maple Breeze resort is sprawled upon an old farm, which goes back to the first early settlers of the Hudson Valley. History books tell us that our area, Kiskatom (an Indian name), was first settles by German immigrants.
In 1609, 11 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River to present day Albany. Thereafter, the Dutch took possession of the Hudson Valley, purchasing the land from the Indians and settling colonies along the lower lands. The German immigrants came later preferring to settle in the higher elevated areas of this scenic country, sharing the Dutch language and culture. Grants of land usually 160 to 180 acres were parceled out to individuals or small groups of people. It is believed that Wolff's Maple Breeze is on an original land grant.
Cauterskill Road (meaning road by the creek) received its name by the early Dutch settlers. Originally an Indian Trail, it is one of the oldest roads in New York State. This road became a wagon road and eventually a town road with a bridge. In 1777, a contingent of General George Washington's troops marched from Old Kings Road to Cauterskill Road (about 3 miles east of Wolff's) enroute to Albany and Saratoga. The Battle of Saratoga was a major victory for the Americans. The farmers of Greene County were very active in supplying the army with food, provisions and men. The immigrants came to this new land with the desire to be free, own their own land and to no longer be ruled by the foreign king.
After the revolution, the colonies being free of tariffs and restriction had the full potential to develop their economies. They produced surplus grains, cheese, butter, meats, and lumber, which were transported by the great highway of the Hudson River for cheap shipment to the inexhaustible markets of New York City.
In 1807, Robert Fulton invented the first steamship to sail the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. By 1840, steamboats brought many visitors to the Catskill area and in 1848 the railroads came to Catskill. During this time people from New York City came to the Catskills by the thousands, seeking vacations at farms and boarding houses. They came for the scenic beauty, fresh air, and home grown, hearty homemade meals.
By the late 19th century, many large hotels sprung up around the town of Catskill and the beautiful mountain area. The most famous was the Catskill Mountain House, which was built in the early 1800's. A cable car would take people from the case of the mountain to the top. It became America's number one resort hotel, catering to Presidents, wealthy Americans, and European royalty. It was also known as President Grant's summer White House. The Hotel Kaaterskill was completed in 1887 and became known as the worlds largest and most prominent hotel.
During the 19th century, the present land of Wolff's was then farmed by several generations of the Best family. Their large barn burnt down in 1868. The following year, a smaller barn was erected which is now part of our recreation hall.
The original house, which is believed to have been built about 1790, consisted of wood frame and stone construction. Approximately 18' x 18', it had a small kitchen, tow tiny bedrooms, and a porch. This is still standing today and is part of our kitchen in the main house.
In 1926, August Wolff brought his family to the United States from Stuttgart, Germany. The family of three lived temporarily in New York City. In the spring of 1932, August and his wife Sophie, bought the farm and renamed it Wolff's Maple Breeze Farm. August, who was a baker, knew many people in the baking trade. In turn, many of our guests were bakers too. The average rate per week was $12.00, which included three hearty meals daily. Sophie was an excellent cook and August did all the baking. The cows provided all the milk and butter, and the garden provided all the fresh organic vegetables for the guests. The work seemed endless. Even Herb had his daily chores when he came home from the one room schoolhouse. He has to walk half a mile to the farm and then tend chores until suppertime.
The depression years brought tremendous hardships. There was not enough money to support a significant mortgage even with having the farm's livestock to feed the family. August has an average of 900 chickens besides his cows. During the winters, August had to sell wood to make ends meet. For $5.00 an entire cord of wood was cut, split, and delivered. There was no electricity, bathrooms, or running water. There were two outhouses and water for domestic use had to be brought from an outside hand-pump.
The winters were very hard and cold. In 1932, the temperature often dropped to 20-25 degrees below zero. A large old-fashioned kitchen stove was used for cooking and baking but also provided the heat and made hot water. A kerosene lamp provided the evening light. The water pump froze quite often and the family was with out water. The snow had to be shoveled by hand and there was a constant battle with snowdrifts, which often made paths invisible. Snowplows and snow blowers were not yet available.
The entertainment was a walk to the neighbors, some gossip over a cup of coffee and a game of cards. Cars were very hard to start, batteries often weak, and had to be cranked by hand. The occasional ride to town would be intertwined with the worry of getting stuck in the snow. Sand and a shovel were always in the backseat. Since cars did not have the luxury of heaters, everyone wrapped in blankets. Most roads were unpaved, therefore, dusty in the summer, and muddy with 4-6" ruts in the spring.
In 1937, power lines were strung, which meant running water, flushing toilets, refrigerators, and electric lights. The kerosene lamp became an antique. In 1939, our rooms were refurbished with sinks and running water. In 1940, as business improved, we built another building. the Bungalow (now Lakeside 17 and 18).
Farming came to an end in 1947, and the chickens, cows, and farm animals were sold. However, August continued to enlarge the garden, which was located between our Lake Motels and the Deluxe Motel.
World War II broke out and Herb was drafted into the service. He spent tow years in the Philippines and in the Pacific. In 1946, he was discharged from the infantry with the rank of Staff Sergeant. Herb stayed in NYC and worked in Achrafft's Restaurant where he trained to be an assistant manager. He then went onto technical school for 1 1/2 years while working in restaurants and doing catering work in hotels.
Herb and Edith met in 1948; they were married in 1950 and lived in Jackson Heights. Herb worked for Sperry Corporation in Great Neck for eight years and Edith worked for the New York Telephone Company. Richard was born in 1953 followed by the birth of Christa in 1954.
A major change came in 1957, when Edith and Herb decided to buy Wolff's Maple Breeze from August and Sophie. As the family and business grew, additional improvements were being made. Herb continues working in Long Island during the winter. The Deluxe Motel was built in 1959 and we built our family home in 1962. In 1963, Ellen was born and we added the new pool and Recreation Hall. In 1966 we created Lake Elsa, a four-acre lake. By 1970, most accommodations were modernized motel units. Within that year we also constructed a new dining room.
In 1988 Ellen and Mike joined the business. Before their move from New Jersey, Ellen worked in the Hilton Hotel as a front office assistant manager. Mike worked for MCI as a telecommunications technician. They now have two children, Lauren and Ryan, and manage the resort they will eventually own.
From 1609 to the present time, the Catskills have gone through many changes. Wolff's Maple Breeze has also evolved through the years. One thing has remained constant - catering to their guests who come to the Catskills seeking fun, relaxation, fresh air, visual beauty, and hearty homemade meals.