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Renovation of Famed Catskill Resort Begun

September 30, 1986 GMT

LIBERTY, N.Y. (AP) _ Singer Eddie Fisher brought the house down at Grossinger’s on Tuesday - literally.

Part of the Catskills resort was leveled by an explosion Fisher helped set off during ceremonies inaugurating a $30 million renovation project aimed at restoring the resort’s prominence as a vacation spot.

Fisher made his debut at Grossinger’s 37 years ago.

″I’ve always loved Grossinger’s and Grossinger’s will always be a part of my family,″ said Fisher, who recalled working the resort as an 18-year-old in 1949 when he was discovered by Eddie Cantor.

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Fisher helped William Meyer, president of the hotel company Servico Inc., push the plunger setting off the explosion. The blast brought down only part of one building. A bulldozer was brought in to finish the demolition.

The 812-acre resort, 100 miles north of New York City, was a favorite stop for New York entertainers, vacationers and conventioneers, especially in the 1940s and 1950s, when it drew 300,000 guests a year.

The walls of the lobbies were lined with photographs of fighters who boxed at the resort - Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Ken Norton and Michael Spinks - and of entertainers like Fisher, Joel Grey and Leslie Uggams, whose careers were advanced at Grossinger’s.

The resort featured a 27-hole golf course, ski slope, indoor and outdoor pools and tennis courts, post office, shopping arcade, nightclub, two kosher kitchens and a 1,500-seat dining room.

Grossinger’s was opened 71 years ago by Austrian immigrants Selig and Mahlke Grossinger, who daughter, Jennie, developed a worldwide reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as a hostess, businesswoman and philanthropist.

Paul Grossinger and his daughter, Elaine Grossinger Etess, took over operation of the hotel after their mother’s death in 1971. A group of investors bought the resort from the Grossinger family last October.

Servico Inc., one of the nation’s largest owners and operators of hotels and resort inns, is handling the transformation into the new Grossinger’s Hotel and Spa, to be reopened next July 4th. Grossinger’s has lost business in recent years, especially to the casinos of Atlantic City, N.J.

″I think Jennie would be delighted to know that Grossinger’s will be restored to the preeminent place among resorts in the northeast United States,″ Meyer said.

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He said Servico would ″retain the grace and charm of the old Grossinger’s″ while also updating the facilities and adding new meeting rooms, a 200-room tower, $125,000 condominiums and a gourmet kitchen.

Servico, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Fla., operates 59 hotels in the United States and Canada. It is the second-largest owner of Hilton hotels and fourth-largest owner of Holiday Inns in the United States.