More Than 40 Years, Jack
& Ceil Banner's Resort Attracted Thousands of Vacationers to the
images from a 1950s Banner Lodge brochure illustrate some of its main
attractions: sports, outdoor living and singles adventures.
the 1930's to the 1970's, Banner Lodge was
arguably the best known of the Moodus resorts and certainly the
largest of the Moodus-area resorts that attracted mostly Jewish
Through years of hard work and thoughtful planning, Jack Banner and his
family had turned the farm started by his father Samuel
"Pop" Banner in 1922 into a popular summer destination.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Banner Guests were
kept happy by numerous activities and attractions. Many guests returned year after year, first
as singles, then with their families, staying for a week or two or
longer. The pastoral setting combined with a full schedule of food, sports and
entertainment provided years of pleasure for visiting city folk and
others. Another key to the Banner success, especially in
the 1940's through the 60's, was a thriving singles scene.
For many years
after Jack Banner's death, the 430-acre property
deteriorated until it resembled a war
zone. Half-built, vandalized and crumbling structures dominated the forlorn
landscape. Most of the original buildings that had
marked the resort all but disappeared -- demolished as part of a misbegotten
revitalization scheme in the mid-1980's. The main building, which combined
the upstairs residence of Jack and Ceil Banner with the downstairs
was thoroughly trashed. The Olympic swimming pool, once a
mainstay of Banner advertising and the focus of daytime activity,
and beyond repair, marred by huge cracks. Everywhere there
was an ugly
overgrowth as nature threatened to obliterate what remained of the once
renowned vacation playground.
All this deterioration took place after
longtime owner Jack Banner's death eventually led to the family
resort being sold to a bunch of slick New York City real-estate
operators. Business had been in decline since the 1970's, a victim of cheap
airfare and changing vacation habits. By the time of
Jack's death, the resort had long since peaked. The only going
concern was the golf course, which continued
to attract golfers to its pleasant rolling hills.
For a short time after the sale, things looked promising. Dozens of
carpenters arrived from out of state and started to
remake the face of the resort. The crew demolished some buildings, renovated others and built still others from the ground up.
The main hall was beautifully restyled with contemporary Victorian architectural
flourishes. Condo-style resort units were quickly built. Soon partner infighting combined with the 1980's real estate bust
and good old-fashioned incompetence to bring Banner Lodge to its knees.
Construction and demolition activity stopped overnight. The partners
became unreachable and the property became mired in a jumble of competing
liens and other legal slush.
Through it all, the golf course continued to operate, while
just down the road, the old resort buildings are a
sorry sight, in ruins. Those that were inhabitable
were occupied by squatters, some by legal tenants.
Junk vehicles littered the property.
It was impossible to tell from this
depressing mess that back in the Banner heyday, more than 700 people,
singles, couples and families could party all day and into the evening
before bedding down in the resort's rustic cabins and motel-like buildings. Hundreds more could be accommodated for
day outings and activities, from high school outings to the largest
Recently, prospects considerably
brightened for the forlorn property. After about two decades of inaction
and several failed attempts at a sale and redevelopment, the Banner
property was sold for $7.3 million in early 2005 to developers Anthony
and Frank Longhitano of New Rochelle, New York. The brothers plan to
bring the property to country-club status, with plans to build
300 townhouses, single-family houses and rental apartments over the next five years.
hope that the new Banner Country Club will appeal to today's
vacation and residential lifestyles. Sale prices start at about
$299,000 and go up from there.
See this Middletown Press article for more information.
Whatever the future holds for Jack
Banner's old creation, tens of thousands of vacationers and
employees who knew it in its heyday retain pleasant
memories of their time there. What follows is an example of a typical Banner summertime week,
illustrated by rare photos dating from the resort's
beginnings and continuing to its sad, last days.
Read user's stories of Banner summers.