The historic Lexington House is pleasantly located on the banks of the Schoharie Creek in the small hamlet of Lexington in Greene County. The 3-story Lexington House was constructed by Jerome Campbell, a master carpenter, in 1883 and opened to the public on July 4th of that year. It had 30 rooms that accommodated 50 to 60 guests. The hotel was first owned by John P. Van Valkenburgh and his partner Edward Clough. The Van Valkenburgh family were among the earliest settlers in the Lexington township and remained among its most prominent citizens throughout the 19th century. The Lexington House was considered “one of the finest, most popular resorts of the period.”
In order to provide additional amusements to its patrons the adjacent Schoharie Creek was impounded to create Crystal Lake within the center of the Lexington hamlet, offering fishing, boating, swimming and ice skating to area visitors. The dam was broken by the mid-1960s. Three years after its opening an 1886 advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle highlighted the benefits of staying at the Lexington House: “Beautifully located on a picturesque eminence overlooking the lake. Table abundantly supplied with fresh vegetables, eggs, butter, pure cream, milk, etc. Boating, bathing, fishing and hunting. Spacious piazza, dancing hall, piano, organ, pool and billiard parlors, etc.; music every day; large roller skating rink on premises. New York mail twice daily. Livery, telegraph office, etc.; easy access; terms very moderate.”
There were five support buildings on the property including the former ice house (c. 1900), the wagon house (c. 1883), the theater/skating rink (c. 1887) and two sheds (c. 1900). The River Theater included a bowling alley and a ballroom while it hosted a variety of performances including opera, melodrama and vaudeville and being home to the Lexington Dramatic Society. In its heyday, the hotel was one of many in the Lexington area that catered to summer tourists, others including the Lexington Hotel, O’Hara House, Morse Inn, Carpathia House, The Mackey, Shady Lawn, The Barnard, Crystal Lake House, Kipp House and others.
The Lexington House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “an architecturally and historically significant example of late-nineteenth century resort architecture in the Catskill Mountain region.” After the decline of the Catskills tourist business ownership of the Lexington House changed hands several times, being used as a music and arts camp and later as home to a non-profit performing arts program. Although the property seems to be suffering from years of neglect, you can, even with just the exterior views, still gain a small appreciation for the grand boarding houses that once dotted the Lexington landscape.