Sister Lilian Report, Villa Theresa

Newspaper advertisement for Villa Theresa, which lists its address and amenities.

This 1959 newspaper advertisement for Villa Theresa lists the sites address, amenities, and contact information.

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Known Name(s)

Sister Lilian Report, Villa Theresa


Lake Huntington, NY

Establishment Type(s)

Resort, Tourist Home

Physical Status



It is unclear what this site looked like; however, we know from advertising materials that Villa Theresa included a nearby golf course, a lake for recreational use, and natural trails. There was no universal style for the resorts and vacation sites in Sullivan County at the time—even in commercial districts intended for tourist audiences, the resorts had documented diverse styles and materials, from stucco walls to clapboard siding on the same road.

Detailed History

From 1846 until the mid 1960s, Sullivan County was a premiere tourist destination for vacationers across the country, giving them a chance to see the Catskills from the comfort of a huge number of different resorts in the area. In April 1953 alone, resorts and hotels received more than 11,000 inquiries about reservations for the summer. This period of consistent and growing tourism (1940-1965) is referred to as “Sullivan County’s Golden Age” by local historians. During this period, white vacationers could choose from 538 hotels, 50,000 bungalows, and 1,000 rooming houses in the 986-square mile region.

Because there were so many unique accommodations in the area, a number of the resorts found success as vacation locations for populations that faced discrimination at other locations: African Americans, Orthodox Jews, and international visitors. This is where Villa Theresa found itself situated in the late 1950s and 60s.  As early as 1959, African American newspapers, such as the Westchester Observer, began advertising Villa Theresa. These advertisements promised, “Pleasure at your doorstep, when you holiday at Villa Theresa.” June 1959 rates were $55 for a week stay and $9 daily for adults. Advertised amenities include: the natural beauty of the Catskills, a golf course, swimming, fishing, boating, tennis, horseback riding, archery, shuffle board, sightseeing, the Monticello Race Track, and calypso bands (a music style that originated in Trinidad and Tobago) playing on the weekends.

Villa Theresa’s connection to the Trinidadian community did not stop there, as by 1965, the resort had its own “Trinidad Steel Band” that would play for churches in the community. Sullivan County’s Golden Age began to fade at the end of 1965 for a number of reasons— primarily important for small resorts and bungalows like Sister Lilian Resort/Villa Theresa, which were owner operated, was the increased attention to safety codes after a fire at the Prospect Inn on August 11, 1965. After this event, all vacation properties in the region were put under pressure to update their sites to comply with new fire and safety codes, but the cost of updating these buildings put significant financial hardship on single proprietor and owner-operated sites. In addition to code updates, many smaller resorts could not afford to build or maintain features that were standard at the huge, corporate vacation sites in the region. Over the next decade, certain sections of Sullivan County reported vacation site closure of nearly 75%. There is no clear record of what happened to the Sister Lilian Resort and Villa Theresa, but with the widespread closure of resorts at a time, it is likely that the sites either closed down or changed their names and shifted to an alternative use. 

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