Friendship Manor Covered Bridge

December 23, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as the Pine Hill Covered Bridge, was built in 1992. The bridge is 72 feet long and 22 feet wide as it spans Birch Creek to serve as the entrance for the Belleayre Mountain Pine Hill Lake Day Use Area. The bridge is located on the east side of Pine Hill, a small, yet charming hamlet in the town of Shandaken in Ulster County. The one lane bridge is open for auto traffic but is only open with the day-use area. The bridge also includes a pedestrian walkway. Due to its recent construction and use of modern materials and processes the bridge is not eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was designed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge at Pine Hill


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge at Pine Hill, New York


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge at Pine Hill, NY


The Friendship Manor Covered Bridge was constructed by Fort Miller Co. and Chesterfield Associates. Fort Miller is a construction company that specializes in precast concrete products and is based in Schuylerville, New York. The company was founded in 1939 by Jefferson Davis, great-grandson of the President of the Confederate States of America. Their products include bridges, highway barriers, noise barriers, wall systems and more. Chesterfield Associates is a contracting firm. The Friendship Manor Bridge utilizes a precast concrete and steel Inverset bridge which was then covered with a wooden roof to create a traditional covered bridge appearance.


The bridge units “utilized Grade 50W steel and were erected on cast-in-place concrete abutments”[1]. Grade 50W steel is noted for its high strength and resistance to atmospheric corrosion. The “W” “stands for weathering and denotes the fact that this material has controlled rusting characteristics that allow just enough corrosion to occur so a rust barrier is formed. Because of this barrier, painting is not required, meaning less maintenance for state highway crews. In contrast, a non-weathering steel often used in bridge construction requires constant painting and maintenance.”[2]


The area around the hamlet of Pine Hill, where the covered bridge is located, was first settled during the late 1700s. The settlement and industry of Pine Hill followed the traditional arc of Catskills business including subsistence farms, tanneries, lumber, bluestone, arrival of the railroad, boarding houses and tourism.


Aaron Adams is credited as having the first homestead at Pine Hill, located on what is now Main Street. In 1810 Adams established the aptly named Pine Hill Tavern. In 1831 the Empire Tannery, the first tannery in the town of Shandaken, was established on Birch Creek at Pine Hill by Augustus A. Guigou. In 1872, the Ulster and Delaware Railroad arrived, providing expanded tourism opportunities to visitors and in 1895 Pine Hill became an incorporated village. In the late 19th century through the early 20th century, Pine Hill was home to numerous boarding houses for those seeking out fresh air and a vacation from city life. The hamlet was known throughout the region for its sparkling fresh water, marketed by the local Crystal Spring Water Company, referred to as the “Saratoga of the Catskills,” which operated there from 1901 to 1933. In 1949, skiing became a major attraction for tourists with the construction of the adjacent Belleayre Ski Center. In 1960, Route 28 was realigned away from the village Main Street.


Today, although Pine Hill is long past its heyday, it does offer a step back in time with a quaint feel and slower pace. There are several hotels and restaurants, most catering to the crowds visiting the neighboring Belleayre Ski Center. The Pine Hill Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places “as a cohesive collection of late 19th century and early 20th century buildings that represent the heyday of summer tourism in the Catskill Mountains of New York.” Some district highlights include the Shandaken Historical Museum, located in the 1925 School District No. 10 building, the Elm Street Stone Arch Bridge and the 1903 Morton Memorial Library.


The name origin of the Pine Hill hamlet, and thus the alternate name for the covered bridge, varies slightly depending on the source. Pine Hill’s application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places states that “its name reflects the prominence upon which it is sited.”[3] Similarly, the town website states: “Pine Hill takes its name from the steep ascent rising toward Belleayre that famously challenged travelers and settlers heading west.”[4]


The register of New York place names states that “this community was named for the hill on which it sits.”[5] A Harper’s Weekly article about prominent village resident Henry Morton states: “It is the jest of the place that Pine Hill is so called because there are no pines anywhere near it. Dr. Morton did not like that, so he planted a whole hill-side with pines, and they are prospering.”[6]


A different theory about the Pine Hill name put forward in a book about area history states: “Pine Hill received its name from the Indian word “Kauren sinck” meaning place of the pine trees.”[7] Similarly, the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce website states: “The Indians knew Pine Hill as Kawiensinck. This was told to the interpreter Thomas Nottingham by two Esopus Indians, John Paulin and Sapan. It was placed on a map as such for the Hardenburgh Patent in 1771 by William Cockburn.”[8] The Native American term “kawiensinck” is likely the origin of the Pine Hill name as a detailed study of land deeds shows:


“By July 31, 1706, lawyer Jacob Rutsen of Marbletown, the father-in-law of Hardenbergh, had signed an unusual agreement with an Esopus Indian chief called Nanisinos. For two hundred pounds, Rutsen obtained a promise of lands northwest of Marbletown in Ulster County ‘called or known by the Indian names of moghogwagsinck [on the east branch of the Delaware] kawiensinck [present Pine Hill area] pakatagkan menaghenonck being a great Island [in the east branch of the Delaware] matagherack oghkananteponck and passighkawanonck which said tracts and parcels of Land Lyes upon the fish kill or River [the Delaware] that runs toward Minisinck and several other Rivers Creeks and branches that waters in the said fish kill or River. . .’. The original of this agreement is on file at Kingston’s Senate House, a New York State Historic Site.


This was “according to information given years later by Esopus Indians to Surveyor William Cockburn, who drew a map of the area in 1771 . . . Cockburn obtained his information through an interpreter from John Paulin and Sapan, two Esopus Indians.”[9]


The perennial Birch Creek, over which the covered bridge stands, is a tributary to the famed Esopus River which it joins near Big Indian. The Creek begins its life modestly on the southern flank of 3,520-foot Halcott Mountain in the town of Lexington. It flows generally southward as it crosses Upper Birch Creek Road and enters the town of Shandaken. It quickly meets and generally follows Lower Birch Creek Road and later Birch Creek Road. The Creek flows into and through the hamlet of Pine Hill before bypassing Pine Hill Lake to the east.  It then generally follows the base of Belleayre Ridge along the west side of Route 28 all the way to the hamlet of Big Indian where it joins the famed Esopus Creek. Birch Creek is approximately seven miles long.


Tributaries to Birch Creek include Giggle Hollow Brook, Smith Hollow Brook and Crystal Spring Brook (with its own tributaries of Cathedral Glen Brook and Woodchuck Hollow Brook which is also known as Bailey Brook). Over its course Birch Creek ranges from 10 to 30 feet wide with water depths up to 3 1/2 feet but averaging from 1/2 to 1 foot. It is home to brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. It has a watershed area of 8,114 acres. Birch Creek is the primary feeder into the adjacent Pine Hill Lake, with the lake “currently designed to be able to take water from the creek when flows are in excess of 5cfs” (cubic feet per second).[10]


The original bridge at this site was functional in nature, providing access to a popular boarding house known as Funcrest, or the Funcrest Hotel. The Funcrest Hotel was constructed in 1923 and was owned and operated David Funk, an immigrant from Hungary who arrived in the United States as a young boy. Funk had been a frequent visitor to the Pine Hill area for many summers before buying the property and building the hotel. Before opening Funcrest, David had operated the White House hotel at Pine Hill for a couple of years. The Funcrest Hotel was constructed by M. C. Myers on the former Robert Eignor property.


Upon opening in the summer of 1923, the Funcrest Hotel had capacity for 125 people, was located a 1/2 mile from the train depot and advertised itself as “New! Just Completed. Funcrest Hotel. For Fun – For Rest. Pine Hill, N.Y. Adjoining Lake. Catskill Mountains. The last word in hotel construction. Electric lights; hot and cold running water in every room. Rooms with private baths. Well kept tennis court. Jazz Band. Dancing. Competent instructors in all sports. Kosher Hungarian Proprietor.”[11]


In 1925, Funk added another thirty rooms to the hotel, making it “one of the largest and most up-to-date in this section.” In 1926 a new bridge leading to the Funcrest Hotel was constructed under the supervision of Matthew G. Thompson. In a 1927 advertisement the Funcrest Hotel advertised itself as “For Fun – For Rest. Adjoining Lake. Pine Hill, N.Y. Catskill Mountains. A Modern Hotel – All Camp Activities. Private Baths – Telephone in Every Room – Social Director – Physical Instructor. Hungarian Cuisine. Jewish Dietary Laws Observed. Special June Rates. Write for Booklet – D. FUNK.”[12]


By 1929 the Funcrest Hotel had a capacity for 225 people, and eventually reached a capacity of 300 people. In 1931 a new ballroom was added. Various newspaper clippings and advertisements show that they offered seasonal entertainment such as concerts, dances and shows and winter time ice skating. Funcrest also hosted a variety of family and community events.


The Funcrest resort was continuously operated by David Funk for 34 years until 1957 when his health would no longer permit it. The resort was then leased to Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Herskovits, who ran the hotel for 6 years. Under the management of the Herskovits family the hotel continued with its fine reputation for hospitality. “Funcrest Hotel at Pine Hill has exceptional charm which emanates from its congenial operators, the Herskovits family. Its cuisine is kosher and continental and its entertainment program is specially designed for all age groups.”[13] In 1963 David Funk sold the Funcrest Hotel to Hunt, Garvas and Benyey of New York.


In April 1966, the Funcrest resort was sold again to new ownership and the name was changed to “Friendship Manor,” and thus the name origin for the covered bridge. The hotel resort was purchased by an eight-owner corporation headed by Rev. R. W. Gulette who had plans to operate year-round. The June 30, 1966 issue of the Catskill Mountain News announced the resort opening: “The grand opening and get-acquainted party of Friendship Manor was held Friday and Saturday. Dinner was served Friday evening. More than 100 local and out-of-town guests attended. T.H. Edmonds is manager of the new year-round resort hotel.”[14] Famed singer, jazz composer and bandleader Noble Sissle worked as the entertainment director for Friendship Manor.


In April 1967 the local newspaper stated that the resort received its license to sell beer, liquor and wine on its premises. The new resort was “a 1960s-era resort catering to African Americans . . . Mr. Reed ran a bustling ethnic resort, attracting busloads of folks who’d come up from the city on weekends, where friends recall a lively music scene.”[15] The resort quickly endeared itself to the local public by opening its lake for public community use.


Despite its popularity, according to a local newspaper article on May 4, 1972, the property was seized in 1972 for unpaid taxes: “Friendship Manor in Pine Hill has been seized by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid federal taxes. A tax lien of $8,558.32 against Friendship Manor, Inc. was filed in the Ulster County clerk’s office on January 24 and another of $2,048.85 on March 8. Notices have been posted on the property and the buildings padlocked. The firm’s bank account has also been seized.”[16]


The hotel must have paid the taxes and reopened briefly as there is an advertisement in the local newspaper on September 28, 1972 announcing “One Final Fling – Join Us for One Last Party” and “This will be our last affair as Friendship Manor is closing. It has been a pleasure to entertain you. Many thanks for all the good times we have had together. Your host, D. E. Reed”.[17]


Soon after Friendship Manor closed the Fitzgerald family took over the hotel, and they renamed the place Fitzgeralds. The hotel quickly grew in popularity for its dinners, music and entertainment. The Fitzgerald family invested thousands of dollars in improving the facilities. Unfortunately, the popular Fitzgeralds establishment only lasted a couple of years, burning down in November 1974. The devastating and quickly expanding fire destroyed the 51-year-old building in less than 90 minutes.


“The devastating fire was discovered shortly before 6 p.m. In its early stages it appeared to center around the main staircase at the center back of the original building. From there it spread outward, first on the top floor, then rapidly through the other floors, and the extensions for the casino, dining room and kitchen areas. There was flame on the roof when the first fire fighters arrived.


Pine Hill firemen immediately sought help from companies in neighboring communities. Big Indian firemen quickly arrived with all their equipment, as did Fleischmanns with two large pumpers. Arkville firemen came with one truck, but this was sent back for standby at Fleischmanns, while Arkville men helped to man hoses of the early arriving companies. Margaretville sent a pumper also to stand by at Fleischmanns, and several firemen came to Pine Hill assist. Moving up from the eastern end were Shandaken-Allaben, which went on standby at Big Indian, and one Phoenicia pumper on standby at Shandaken.


The Big Indian and Pine Hill pumpers began sending water from the hotel swimming pool, about 100 yards from the structure. The Pine Hill tanker relayed lines near the hotel. The two Fleischmanns pumpers were on the main approach bridge pumping from the diminished waters of the Esopus Creek below the dam that had once held back the Funcrest lake.


Two portable pumps were placed in the creek near the swimming pool in an attempt to keep the pool filled. However, the two big pumpers drained this source in little more than an hour. At times water pressured dropped futilely low, dooming early hopes of confining the fire to the center and top of the hotel.


Meanwhile, the fire continued to grow in intensity, despite the numerous lines, high and low pressure from which water was being thrown at all angles. Fleischmanns firemen were moving in on the northwest corner at the front of the building when suddenly an ominous cracking sounded. They scrambled back quickly and most of the building collapsed. The loops in their hoses were under the porch debris, and for a moment it looked as though they were lost.


This collapse intensified the fire, and fanned it more rapidly into the concrete block casino and kitchen extensions. At the western end the flaming cornice dropped like a gigantic spear through the roof of the dining room extension.”[18]


As the entrance for the state day use area, crossing the covered bridge provides access to Pine Hill Lake. The Pine Hill Lake has an estimated surface area of 5.62 acres and has an estimated storage capacity for 29.4 million gallons of water. During the summer months, the lake is used for recreational purposes such as swimming, picnicking, boating and fishing. During the winter, the lake water is used for snowmaking on the ski slopes of Belleayre Mountain. Water is pumped over 1,000 feet higher from the lake to the Upper Reservoir area for use on the upper slopes.  Pine Hill Lake, in conjunction with the 2-million-gallon Cathedral Glen Reservoir, provide snow making capability for 150 of 155 acres, or 97%, of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Area.  


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, Pine Hill, New York

Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, Catskills


Photograph of Friendship Manor Covered Bridge, also known as Pine Hill Covered Bridge, located in Pine Hill in the central Catskills.Friendship Manor Covered Bridge


The artificial Pine Hill Lake was originally constructed in 1911 in order to serve cottagers during their summer vacations. In February 1911 contractor Robert Vaughn, of Windham, was awarded the contract to build Pine Hill Lake. In March 1911 Vaughn refitted the barn on the property of the Pine Hill Lake Company to make it habitable “for the Italian laborers to live in who are to work for him.” By the next month, April 1911, it was reported that he had fifty men at work on the dam which he was building for the Pine Hill Lake Company.[19]


By early July work on the dam was “well under way and the work is progressing rapidly. The entire base of the dam is completed and the water now runs through the large pipes near the center. An extra force of men are to be added to the present force immediately and as practically only concrete work and filling in is now to be done the work will rapidly. The Company has already ordered a carload of boats for the lake and by the time they arrive the work will be so far completed as to allow the water to flood the basin to such an extent as to permit boating and bathing. The dam appears to be a very neat and substantial structure and reflects much credit on the contractor’s manner of doing work.”[20]  


In July 1911 the company received a carload of boats “which they will place on the large lake in the lower part of the village now nearing completion. While the Lake is not yet completed, it is intended to turn the water in sufficient to afford good boating in a few days.”[21]


The July 1911 opening was featured in several New York Times articles. The July 9, 1911 article stated: “Charmingly located in a section of the Catskills noted for its beauty, Pine Hill is one of the best-known resorts in the mountains. Tuesday’s celebration here was one of the pleasantest events of the season, and brought a number of visitors from other places in the vicinity. Pine Hill Lake is completed and will be in readiness to entertain the Summer visitors next week. It will add much to the pleasure of the people who spend the Summer here, because the lack of boating and bathing up to the present time has been a serious matter for Pine Hill.”[22]


The July 30, 1911 follow-up article in the New York Times stated that “work on the artificial lake here has been completed and Pine Hill now adds boating and bathing to its already numerous attractions. During the week many persons have enjoyed these pastimes.”[23]


Within a short time of its opening, Pine Hill Lake proved to be a great success. “During the past few weeks, the 25 boats have been in almost constant use and they will be kept in use during September. The project has proved a success and added very much to Pine Hill’s popularity as a summer resort.”[24]


Near its 40th anniversary, disaster struck the lake, Pine Hill and the central Catskills region at large. In November 1950, the historic Rainmaker’s Flood inflicted widespread damage on the Pine Hill area, including the destruction of Pine Hill Lake.


“Pine Hill suffered the worst disaster in its history when the rainmaker’s flood reached a record height between 10 and 11 o’clock Saturday night, Nov. 25 . . .


The Pine Hill lake gave away, taking with it the small buildings, tennis courts, swimming pools, roads and bridges belonging to the Funcrest hotel and the Pine Hill Country club. The printing presses and machinery of Frank Sanchis, in the basement of his home, were under water. Currents were rushing through homes on the first floors. Chimneys toppled, lawns crumpled, oil burner motors were ruined.


The water mains broke. Electric lines and telephone wires came down. Autoists were stranded. One car washed downstream as its driver attempted to cross a well-washed bridge.


Chicken coops and outbuildings sailed downstream. Trees toppled on buildings. The small bridge on Station street collapsed and tons of dirt came down from the banks which oozed water they could no longer hold. Many lawns were piled up with unwanted gravel and debris.”[25]


The Catskill Mountain News also reported on the destruction from the 1950 Rainmaker’s Flood.


“Then the wall of water jumped into the Pine Hill Lake and broke a hole in the embankment toward the Funcrest Hotel. This let out the great volume of the 40-foot deep lake which tore down to the Ashokan dam, wrecking bridges, dwellings, public buildings and other properties. The township of Shandaken never had such losses. An appeal is being made to the state for help in the emergency.


The first bridge to go below the lake was the one from Route 28 to the Funcrest Hotel. The swimming pool at the Pine Hill Country Club was torn out, the Lost Cove bridge near Greenberg’s went. The Big Indian bridge was able to stand up under the flood. The Donohue bridge went.”[26]


The lake and dam were rebuilt in 1951 by David Funk and his son Danny Funk, owners of the adjacent Funcrest hotel. It cost an estimated $80,000 and was fully paid for by the Funk family. The new dam included a 60-foot spillway, which was double the capacity of the one washed away.


On July 28, 1969 during an unnamed storm the Pine Hill Lake and its dam were destroyed again by floods, sending walls of water downstream to Big Indian. “The Friendship Manor lake dam gave way and sent water charging down the Esopus . . . Major damage in the town of Shandaken was the result of the dam break at Pine Hill. Water rushed down the Esopus causing damage to buildings between Pine Hill and Big Indian and threatening campers in the Phoenicia area . . . Unlike the November 1950 flood, however, when the Pine Hill Lake was also washed out, Monday’s deluge did not take out the bridge below the dam . . . The flood had many of the characteristics of the November 1950 “rainmakers” flood, but did not cause as severe damage. Water rose rapidly catching many mountain residents unawares.”[27]


In the storm’s aftermath there was community opposition to rebuilding the dam and lake. An August 21, 1969 article states that:


“This dam has burst at least once before, has leaked frequently and has been a constant source of fear to those in its path. Its age and condition are such, that it is no longer adequate and capable of serving its purpose. Its continued use, regardless of any attempted repairs, could be catastrophic and lead to great tragedy.


The undersigned [property owners and residents, immediately below the village of Pine Hill] respectfully petition the above named individually and collectively, to the end that an immediate inspection be made, that the said dam be condemned and that its further use be prohibited.”[28]


The lake was not rebuilt again until 1988, this time by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. This time however the lake was separate from Birch Creek and no dam was built.


In 1992 Belleayre Beach on the lake was constructed and was opened to the public in July 1993 as the Belleayre Mountain Pine Hill Lake Day Use Area. The lake is very popular during the summer months with swimming, picnicking, boating and fishing. There are also volleyball and basketball courts as well as horseshoe pits. Other than perhaps a secluded swimming hole, the lake provides some of the best swimming in the Catskill Park. The covered bridge was constructed in 1992 to provide a scenic entrance to this mountain escape. The property is now managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).


[1] Fort Miller website. Bridge Products Project Gallery. Accessed February 20, 2014.

[2] Yost, Lon; Funderburk, Scott. “High-Performance Steel Increasingly Used for Bridge Building.” American Welding Society. Accessed February 20, 2014.

[3] Pine Hill Historic District. Application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

[4] “Shandaken’s Hamlets.” Accessed February 21, 2014.

[5] Vasiliev, Ren. From Abbotts to Zurich: New York State Placenames. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004. p. 178.

[6] “Personal Notes.” Harper’s Weekly. Vol. 46. Harper’s Magazine Company, 1902. p. 575.

[7] Bussy, Ethel. History and Stories of Margaretville and Surrounding Area. Margaretville, NY, 1960.

[8] “A Brief History of Pine Hill.” Accessed February 21, 2014.

[9] Dunn, Shirley. “Mohican Seminar 3: The Journey – An Algonquian Peoples Seminar”. New York State Museum Bulletin 511, 2009. pp. 81-82.

[10] “Belleayre Mountain Ski Center UMP, Appendix B – Snowmaking Engineers Report.” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. April 2011. p. 6.

[11] The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. July 1, 1923.

[12] The American Hebrew. May 13, 1927.

[13] Post, Larry. “Round the Resorts. New York Post. July 5, 1962.

[14] “New Manor Is Open.” Catskill Mountain News.  June 30, 1966. p. 7.

[15] Birns, William. A Catskill Archive. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2011. p. 146.

[16] “Tax Agents Seize Friendship Manor.” Catskill Mountain News. May 4, 1972. p. 1.

[17] “Our Final Fling.” Catskill Mountain News. September 28, 1972. p. 2.

[18] “Fitzgeralds Hotel Destroyed in Pine Hill Fire.” Catskill Mountain News. November 14, 1974.

[19] “News From the Vicinity.” The Mirror-Recorder. April 19, 1911.

[20] “Weekly Home Happenings.” Windham Journal. July 6, 1911.

[21] “From All About Us.” The Mirror-Recorder. July 26, 1911.

[22] “New Artificial Lake to be in Readiness This Week.” New York Times. July 9, 1911.

[23] “The Artificial Lake Now Open for Boating and Bathing Parties.” New York Times. July 30, 1911.

[24] “From All About Us.” Stamford Mirror-Recorder. 1911.

[25] Smith, Mrs. James. “The Rainmaker’s Flood Which Damaged Pine Hill.” Catskill Mountain News. December 8, 1950. p. 9.

[26] “Many Houses and Bridges Lost in Esopus Valley.” Catskill Mountain News. December 1, 1950.

[27] “Flood Wash Out Roads, Bridges.” Catskill Mountain News. July 31, 1969. pp. 1-2.

[28] “Dam Repair Opposed In Petition Submitted By Pine Hill Residents.” Catskill Mountain News. August 21, 1969. p. 1.




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