Hillside Inn spreads its wings

Black-owned Pocono resort plans $5 million expansion

Albert and Odetta Murray fulfilled a dream of providing old-fashioned warmth, good food and personal service when they unveiled the Hillside Inn in 1955. Today, visitors at the 33-room East Stroudsburg resort in Pennsylvania experience the Murrays’ vision firsthand–a concept that’s about to expand with a planned $5 million renovation. A new unit featuring 33 additional luxury rooms, each with its own Jacuzzi, a 600- seat auditorium and a new fitness center are in the works. Completion is estimated by early 2000.

“I feel this expansion will make Hillside Inn the complete answer to why you would want to visit the Poconos,” says Albert, 77, a retired New York State judge. “You can’t use the excuse that other places have better or different facilities.” Located 76 miles outside: of New York City in the heart of the Poconos resort region, the Hillside Inn has the distinction of being the only black-owned resort in the popular vacation destination.

Albert and his wife of 54 years originally purchased the land with Albert’s law partner in 1954. After the death of this co-owner years later, the couple decided to turn the land into a resort. It was in operation until 1982, before being dosed down temporarily for rebuilding and expansion. The doors were reopened in 1989.

Spread over 109 acres, the resort now features a one,acre lake, 35 privately owned homes and townhouses, a new two- story hotel completed in 1989, meeting and convention facilities and year-round entertainment. Amenities include an Olympic-size indoor pool and Jacuzzi, a tennis court, basketball court, softball field, game room, an exercise room and a three- hole, all-season Canadian golf course used for round-robin play. Most memorable is Hilbide’s family-style dining room, where home-cooked Caribbean and Southern foods are served for breakfast and dinner. Live jazz and gospel performances are featured on weekends.

While at the Hillside Inn, guests can take time to explore the scenic region by hopping on the resort’s vans, which make stops at Crossings shopping center, Strouds Mall or the Marshall’s Creek Flea Market on weekends, Skiers can gear up for the slopes at either Shawnee, Big Boulder or Camelback resorts. Another fun stop is the Bushkill Falls waterfall. Catch a trolley to the Delaware Water Gap or enjoy a movie at nearby resorts, Fernwood or Shawnee.

In this area where hotels come a dime a dozen, Hillside Inn is not the biggest or most well known. However, one frequent visitor says the intimate atmosphere is part of the appeal.

“It’s like coming home. I feel like I’m part of the family,” says Chief Charles Adebowale Joshua, the retired president and CEO of Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council. “We should [support] a resort that caters to minorities and has a family atmosphere.” Impressed with the resort since his first visit seven years ago, he has visited 25 times.

Like Joshua, several members of churches and organizations–including the National Association of Black Journalists, the New York National Bar Association and the American Association of Retired Persons–have taken advantage of the inn’s facilities

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