The Resorts That Put the Mood in Moodus

The 'Catskills of Connecticut' was a regional vacation hot spot

From the late 1800s through the 1960s, city dwellers flocked by steamboat, rail and later by car to numerous boarding houses, camps, cottage colonies and resorts in the Connecticut countryside. Although there were many places in the western part of the state that attracted vacationers, it was the area around Colchester and Moodus that became the state’s unrivalled vacation destination.

 

In its heyday, during the 1940s and 1950s, Moodus was accurately called the “Catskills of Connecticut.” During the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day, visitors at the more than 30 vacation spots quadrupled the town’s population to about 20,000 people.

These billboards inold Moodu Center were sponsored by numerous local resorts.

The East Haddam village of Moodus was the home of dozens of summer resorts in its heyday as "Vacationland," the largest vacation destination in Connecticut.

Area resorts specialized in either a Jewish or Christian (and in some case a Bohemian) clientele. Thousands of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe had settled in the area, often with the help of international relief organizations who gave grants to establish family farms. Many of the resorts evolved from these farms, whose families welcomed summer visitors -- first relatives and friends, and then strangers.

Summer vacationers would often stay for a week or two or longer. Often mom and the kids would stay for the duration, with dad joining them on the weekends.

Moodus resorts offered a vacation in the countryside, before highways and jets changed how people vacationed starting in the 1960s. Clip from "Working the Land: The Story of CT Agriculture," a documentary by Ken Simon.

Country air, simple accommodations, home-style (often ethnic) food, sports facilities, a camp for the kids and various organized entertainments were the main attractions. The larger the place, the more evolved the amenities. Banner Lodge was the area’s largest resort, with extensive facilities and shows by some of the country’s biggest entertainers.

All of the resorts, however, offered a chance for working- and middle-class people to get away, to enjoy the fresh air, a pool, pond or river, some quiet time, and the opportunity to socialize with fellow vacationers.

 

Starting in the 1960s, cheaper airfare and changing vacation habits doomed most of Connecticut’s country resorts. Most have been demolished; others have found new life as religious retreats, glamping venues, RV camps, and the like. A few hang on as family-oriented resorts, no longer catering to any specific ethnic or religious group, but still offering the classic rural Moodus vacation experience.

Following is a list of 34 town resorts known to have operated through the years.

NORTH MOODUS

BASHAN LAKE

  • Emma Budka's

  • Julia Budka's

  • Demeter's

  • Kalat's

  • Kalista-Brozak's

  • Rest Farm

  • Scadia's

  • Shanaghan's

  • Turek's

TOWN STREET

  • Breslow's

  • Anton & Frances Wolf's Boarding House (later Leiber's Mansion)

  • Charles Wolf's (now Wolf's Den Campground)

LEESVILLE

OTHER AREAS

  • The Auster House (Falls Rd.)

  • Camp Sokol (East Haddam)

  • Camp Wopowog (East Hampton)

  • Mt. Parnassas View (Mt. Parnassas)

  • Samuel's (Hadlyme) 

  • Shadybrook Hotel (Plains Rd., now Nusantara Foundation) 

  • Willow Manor (Rtes 149 & 151)