There once was a farming family called the Edgetts. A female member of the Edgett family was born the same year as the USA and was 13 years of age when Washington was inaugurated as President. When she died at age 67, she was buried in the private cemetery on Edgett Farm in Greenville, NY. In the late 1800s, the farm was purchased by Spencer Plank who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Aslaug Olsen around 1910.
In 1920, Peter and Gurine Nicholsen came to the United States and purchased the Edgett Farm. In April that year it was named Sunny Hill Farm by Gurine. The name has been most appropriate because year after year there are many times when rain falls all around the area or state and does not fall at Sunny Hill. The good weather has made Sunny Hill an ideal spot for the vacationist.
In 1920 Sunny Hill consisted of approximately 110 acres of land, less than half being cleared, with stone walls running in all directions. Bulidings included a living house, a barn, a combination pigpen and outhouse (a three-holer with no partitions, and the ever-handy Sears Roebuck catalog), and an old wagon shed which fell only two years later under the weight of the snow. On the front lawn in front of the present Main House was a vegetable garden where the routine vegetables were grown plus rhubarb and an annual crop of potatoes. Approximately six cows furnished milk and butter for the table and two horses were the means of power for plowing and additional farm work. Chickens and pigs furnished the poultry and food for the table.
Peter, a carpenter by trade, had to work in the city during most of the year and would try to do limited farming on weekends and short stays on the farm. Gurine became the primary caretaker of the property and worked from early until late to care for the livestock and her household. She soon discovered that another source of income was needed in order for her family to make ends meet.
To add income, Gurine rented out rooms to three families who did their own cooking and took a few boarders besides—the weekly rate for board and room was $5.00 per week for adults. All families cooked on the woodburning stove. This was the start of Sunny Hill as we know it today and the first form of recreation was a hot dog party about once a week and an occasional trip by horse and buggy to Freehold or Greenville over a wagon trail type of road where the grass grew as high in the center of the road as along the sides.
Eventually, in the late 1920s, the old farmhouse was torn down and replaced by the present Annex building (which has since been rebuilt). A Store and Recreation Hall was provided downstairs in the Annex.
Sunny Hill Continues to Grow
The dining room which was built under the Main House served as the main eating place for almost thirty years, although it was added to three times.
Bungalows A, B, C, D, and E were built in order to meet the need for more summer guests.
At the age of 17, Peter and Gurine’s son Arnold assumed the ever increasing responsibility in the management of Sunny Hill due to Gurine’s ill health. He spent many hours of careful planning and thoughts in laying out the various buildings and sports facilities from a point of beauty, practicability, and enjoyment to the vacationist. In addition to making the plans and layouts for the various buildings and sports, plus the golf course, he also planned the landscaping and layout of shrubbery and tree planting.
The 1940s – Eventful Years at Sunny Hill
In July 1940, Mae ZuIch came to spend a vacation at Sunny Hill from her home in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. After a couple of routine vacation days, things happened fast: Mae met Arnold, and they were married seven weeks later—on Labor Day 1940. And as Arnold often said, “We have been laboring ever since.”
Mae became an invaluable part of the Nicholsen team. Adjusting very rapidly from city life to life in the country, she stepped into the large responsibility of buying food, planning meals and seeing that meals are served on time to hundreds of guests and employees. In addition, she planned room decorations and took charge of linen purchase and maintenance, made many bookings; treated first aid cases and did countless other chores in her 17-18 hour days – plus brought up three youngsters and maintained a home.
Both Gurine and Peter passed away in the 40’s, but their hard work and long hours had laid the foundations upon which Sunny Hill was built.
Focusing Solely on Hospitality
The year 1949 was the last year for any farming and cows at Sunny Hill. It was the turning point which determined that Sunny Hill would be in the vacation business only from then on.
That year a large barn burned down in the center of Sunny Hill’s grounds from unknown causes. It was replaced by an Annex building which contained a fellows dormitory. This building was later enlarged and became known as the present Edmonton Motel—a 24- unit building with private bath and radio in each room plus two TV lounge rooms.
The Arrival of the Fifties and Lake Loree
In 1954, more than 15 acres of woods were cleared for the creation of Lake Loree – named after Arnold and Mae’s daughter Gail Loree Nicholsen. Lake Loree has since provided many decades of fun for families and fisherman alike!
In 1955 Bungalow D was rebuilt to provide the first building with private shower, toilet and sink facilities. The first motel built was the 4-unit Arendal Motel (named after Peter Nicholsen’s hometown in Norway) with private bath and a radio in each room. Guests staying at the Arendal were considered the elite among Sunny Hill guests at the time.
Next came the building of the Grimstad Motel in about 1960, with rooms ranking among the finest in existence at area resorts. At the same time, the Main House and Annex were both converted to all rooms with private baths. By 1961 Sunny Hill may have become the first resort in the area to have all rooms with private bath facilities.
The 1960s – Garwayne Hall Emerges
A long cherished dream became a reality in 1961 when Garwayne Hall was built to provide a very modern and spacious dining hall, second to none anywhere – where guests could enjoy their meals three times a day.
This dining room has one of the most spectacular views in all of the Catskills. The building was named after Arnold and Mae’s sons, Gary and Wayne Nicholsen. Seating 300 guests, this building also features a very modern kitchen with the finest in cooking equipment such as electric and steam pressure cookers, automatic egg boilers and homemade ice cream maker which enables the kitchen staff to work under the most ideal conditions.
By 1963 the old barn was remodeled by adding a new wing and was renamed the Edmonton after Arnold’s birthplace, Edmonton Alberta, Canada.
This same year the remodeling of the Main House and Annex took place. These were part of the original property. Furnishings were updated and the exterior of both buildings were resurfaced. They were renamed the Viking Main and Viking Annex in honor of the family’s Norwegian heritage.
For the 1969 season, Bungalow B and the old Arendal Motel were taken down and were replaced by a new 8 unit Arendal.
In 1972-73 Bungalow E was demolished and replaced with the Country Squire Motel. This was the last accommodation constructed giving Sunny Hill exactly 100 rooms. It was named after the surrounding area.
Further along came the picnic pavilion at Lake Loree, the Sunny Hill Trolley, the Fire Engine, the Merry Go Round, the Doodle Bug and new buses to transport our guests to and from various day trips.
The Viking Annex was removed, but replaced by the new Austland Motel. It was so named for the farm that Gurine Nicholsen came from so many years ago. This pride of Sunny Hill boasts 2 queen size beds, flat screen TVs, refrigerator and a large mountain view balcony. The motel also holds a work-out room and laundry facilities for the convenience of our guests.
2020 ushered in the 100th Anniversary of Sunny Hill Resort. We are very proud of the long-standing traditions, the many guests, old and new. What the Nicholsens all have in common is a remarkable dedication to the company and the family. We have all been part of Sunny Hill as far back as any of us can remember. This tradition is again being passed down to the fourth generation of the Nicholsen family where several family members are involved in the operation. As new generations are added, the children become a natural part of the family operation which makes Sunny Hill.
Sunny Hill is a feeling. Our families feel safe and welcome here. They feel like family. Kids have the freedom to choose what they want to do without feeling tethered. They have fresh air, open spaces to explore, lifelong friendships to build and memories to last a lifetime. Come join us!