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A Typical Day at Banner Lodge

For More Than 40 Years, Jack & Ceil Banner's Resort Attracted Thousands of Vacationers to the Beautiful Moodus Countryside

By KEN SIMON

These images from a 1950s Banner Lodge brochure illustrate some of its main attractions: sports, outdoor living and singles adventures.

From 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 vacationers. 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 resort offices, was thoroughly trashed.  The Olympic swimming pool, once a mainstay of Banner advertising and the focus of daytime activity, stood empty 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.

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Click to see a 1950s Banner Lodge brochure.

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 corporate events.

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 200 to 300 townhouses, single-family houses and rental apartments over the next five years. They 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.

Here's Jack! The main man at Banner Lodge
The Banner Staff
Work, play and a great summer tan
Country Cabins A comfy knotty pine experience
Food, So Much Food
No hunger allowed
The Social Scene
Mixing it up in Moodus 
Good Sports for All From baseball to bocce and more
The Main Stage
The stars came out at night

If you would like to share memories of your time spent at a Moodus resort, or if you have photographs of the old resorts, please click here to e-mail us.

THE BANNER LIFE

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Fun in the Sun
A 1950s  brochure

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Here's Jack!
The main Banner


Banner Staff
Work and fun


The Facilities
No phones or TV!

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Food
BBQ to fine dining

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Social Activities
And a-one and a-two...

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Sports
Something for everyone

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Entertainment
Zero Mostel and more

 

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