The Village of Fleischmanns was created in 1913, consolidating what had been two separate areas. Dating back to at least the 1830s, the hamlet of Griffin’s Corners grew on what is now the east end of the village. It was named after Matthew Griffin, an early settler and quite the jack-of-all-trades. Griffin was first Postmaster here, was a lawyer and ran a hotel and store, and even served in the State Assembly. The Griffin’s Corners Post Office opened in 1851.
In the 1870s, a railroad was built from Kingston and was eventually known as the Ulster & Delaware Railroad. The new mode of transportation suddenly opened the area to visitors from New York City, and from farther away. A trip that had taken many difficult hours (or days) on the rough roads suddenly became a matter of hours.
Local farmers quickly found that they could make money hosting summer visitors trying to escape from the heat in pre-air conditioning New York City. A number of large and medium sized hotels and guest houses were built. Most impressive of all, the wealthy Fleischmann family (of yeast fame and fortune) purchased land above the railroad, overlooking Griffin’s Corners, where they built a family compound with five mansions and many outbuildings. Picture a 19th-century version of the Kennedy compound at Hyannis.) This encouraged many others from NYC to build their own summer homes, and for many decades the area around Fleischmanns absolutely boomed in the summers. Dr. Skene, after whom the library is named, was one such part-time resident.
By 1888 there was a separate Fleischmanns Post Office, serving the booming business at the west end of town; Bridge Street was the dividing line between the two areas.
In 1906, work began on a dam on the outskirts of the village; by 1907 Lake Switzerland had changed the views and the life of the community. New hotels were built on either side, and there was something of a real estate boom.
Postcards and paintings from the era show much colorful activity — boating, an amusement park, and the hotels in their prime. While the Hotel Switzerland is long gone, the St. Regis hotel is still there, actually outlasting the lake it was built to grace. When the Fleischmann family left the area for good in 1913, they donated their park property on Wagner Avenue, where baseball and other summer pastimes entertained throngs of visitors (some reports state that attendance at the Mountain Athletic Club games could hit 5,000 people), to the village. In grateful recognition, the expanded village renamed itself Fleischmanns in their honor.
Over the years, patterns of travel and tourism changed. The advent of the automobile brought about a new style of vacationing; motor courts (later motels) replaced the earlier hotels. Fewer people took the train, which ceased passenger service in the 1950s. Over the years, many of the old hotels and guest houses burned or fell into ruin. While there was something of a resurgence after World War Two, the change in the nature of travel clearly impacted Fleischmanns.
As jet travel made the world accessible, fewer guests came to stay at hotels in the Catskills. But the number of second home owners has steadily risen. Fleischmanns is still graced with many of the virtues that have been bringing visitors up since the 1870s, and the village is continually being rediscovered by subsequent generations of visitors and home-buyers.