The Glen Wilde: Reimagining Bungalow Colony Life in Mountaindale, NY
The Glen Wilde: Reimagining Bungalow Colony Life in Mountaindale, NY 44 Church Rd | Mountain Dale, NY
The Glen Wilde is one of those unique properties that triggers memories of my childhood. The communal bonfire makes me think of balmy summer nights at sleepaway camp. The collective undertone reminds me of light-hearted vacations with family and friends, and the wooden bungalows take me back to days spent glued to the television set watching Dirty Dancing or Meatballs over and over (and over again).
While the Glen Wilde has only been operational for two seasons, the property has a history of welcoming city visitors like myself to relax and stay awhile. Originally built in the 1940s, the colony sits on 11 private acres in the quiet hamlet of Mountaindale, NY, just 90 minutes from the George Washington Bridge. Set in an area of the Catskills once nicknamed the “Borscht Belt,” The Glen Wilde was one of many mid-century bungalow colonies utilized as a seasonal destination for weary city dwellers. Millions of Jewish families traveled up each summer to swap the sweltering heat for clear lakes and fresh mountain air. Children roamed freely and safely, potlucks were a nightly ritual, and everyone enjoyed dressing up for evening entertainment. When air travel became more attainable, the area’s tourist industry declined, and today many of the old colonies around Sullivan County have since fallen into decay.
However, an inspired glimpse of the past is what motivated Brooklyn friends and former WRK Design partners, Jeremy Floto and Josh Farley, to search out a bungalow colony of their own. “We wanted to create a place where you could basically be there and not have to leave,” says Jeremy, “a place where you could drink a little drink under the sun umbrella, hang out with your friends, lounge around and do some cooking. It’s about being outside.” Together with their wives, Cassandra Warner and Doris Josovitz, respectively, they set out to restore an abandoned colony, later renaming it The Glen Wilde. As of today, the couples have completed eight stunning bungalows that are available for short term stays on a nightly or weekly basis.
When I first arrived with my husband for a weekend stay, we opened our screen door expecting simple camp-like interiors and were instead blown away by its modern design. Each bungalow is its own inimitably rustic miniature home made of wood and metal, accented by earth-colored details and decorated with found objects and refurbished antiques. I loved playing games at our dining table while the rain pattered against the windows. When the sun broke through, we took to the swings and grilled hamburgers on a barbecue. We carried beers with us as we explored the property, following a trail into the beautiful woods and back around into the open fields. At night, we gathered with our fellow colonists around a crackling bonfire and looked for shooting stars.
If you could bottle the essence of an old Catskills vacation, complete with card games, sun-ripened berries off the bush, and grazing picnics that last all day, the name on the label would be The Glen Wilde. “We love it here,” says Josh. “We think this is a magical place.”
Location: Mountain Dale, NY
Features: 8 newly restored 1- and 2-bedroom bungalows Full kitchen, living, bath, and dining areas in each Closets stocked with games and books Open play fields and lawn games galore Communal fire pit Outdoor picnic tables Tented eating area Multiple barbecues
There are several picnic tables under the trees that are perfect for socializing or sharing a meal. By day, it’s a great place to relax with a book and beverage; by night, the conversation carries on under a canopy of string lights.
One- and two-bedroom bungalows feature sleeping lofts connected to the ground floor by way of handmade steel ladders fashioned from repurposed fire escapes. Vintage rugs, bed frames, and dressers were all salvaged locally.
One of the driving factors in purchasing the property were the bungalows themselves; they were in surprisingly good shape in spite of weather damage and light vandalism, and many items left inside had remained in the exact spot they were last placed by visitors in their heydey. “It was almost like a zombie apocalypse when we found the place,” says Josh. “There were clothes folded in the drawers and old magazines. It looked as though everyone thought they were just going to come back next season.”
Natural light floods the bungalows and newly finished wooden floors lend a rustic air. The lofted bedrooms, some of which feature a wall of windows, offer a clever and contemporary take on available space. “We are trying to modernize bungalow living, but also keep the history there,” says Josh.
It was important to keep the property accessible for families and friends to while away the time and enjoy some old-fashioned amusement. There are hammocks suspended between trees, an adult-sized swing set, a net for badminton, and no lack of nostalgic games to leaf through inside each bungalow.
“The design style we like is one that tells a story,” says Josh when asked if they were ever tempted to tear down the bungalows and start over. “We didn’t want to gut everything and start from scratch because we didn’t feel like that went with the aesthetic of the place.”
Josh and Jeremy went searching (legally) through other abandoned bungalow colonies for vestiges of another era and also purchased larger pieces from local antique dealers, such as Wurtsboro Antiques. Some of their finds include folding enamel dining tables, as well as outdoor seating like metal chairs and Adirondack furniture.
The Glen Wilde is truly a friend and family project — the level of care each owner has put into reviving it shows in the details, such as the handmade cement tiles for bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes. The couples worked entirely together to redesign each bungalow and Josh’s father, a carpenter, has been pitching in to help with renovations.
It feels natural to gather with loved ones at The Glen Wilde and the plan is to continue rebuilding and rethinking the outdoor space. Every Saturday morning, guests are invited to attend a yoga class in the blueberry field behind the bungalows.
“The process of rebuilding the bungalows was not an easy task,” admits Josh. “We started with the ones that were in the worst condition first. The last eleven bungalows will hopefully be the easiest as they have the least damage and now we have the hang of it.”
Once Brooklyn residents, both couples now call the Catskills their home, and are seeking to help revitalize the area around the colony as they connect with other local residents and business owners. “I think there was some skepticism from the locals at first,” says Jeremy, “but everyone seems to love the idea of bringing this area back to its height. We get a lot of people just stopping by to see what we have done, some people even went to camp here. It has been a really positive experience.”
Although the colony is located in a sleepy area of the Catskills, each bungalow comes with a useful list of drivable restaurants, museums, sites and excursions. During our stay, we went bowling at Kiamesha Lanes, stopped for a drink at Catskill Distilling Company, walked around Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and enjoyed a hike and swim in Minnewaska State Park — all places recommended by the owners.
For Josh and Jeremy, there are still plenty of plans waiting in the wings, such as redoing the abandoned swimming pool. “We are hoping to eventually build a large barn in the blueberry field so that there is even more communal space,” says Josh. “This way people can plan a party and not worry about the rain. I’ve also dreamt of having chickens that live just down the road, but that is way down the line. We are just really excited for the future.”