The Red Apple Rest

 

It’s the place everyone used to go to that nobody goes to anymore. In 1931 Reuben Freed opened the Red Apple Rest on Route 17 in Southfields NY, it was 48 miles from New York City, 60 miles from the Catksills, and the perfect half way stopping point between the two. As the Catskills grew in popularity so did the Red Apple Rest. In the 1940’s there was even a place just like it on the other side of the road for travelers heading back south (called Orseck’s 999). They both were often packed with cars, had long lines of people, and few tables open to sit down to eat.

redapplerestvintage

Owner Reuben Freed gave his life to the Red Apple Rest. While he and his family lived literally across the street, he was never home, instead he was always working at the Red Apple Rest. Family members had to walk across the street and grab a meal there if they really wanted to spend any time with him at all.

There are scores of stories told by those who fondly remember the place. Bill Graham explains “Twenty-eight miles up Route 17 from New York was the Red Apple Rest. This was a pit stop that you didn’t make. Your car went in there by itsef. It stopped whether or not you put on the brakes.” Author Phillip Ratzer explains, “For miles along this section of Route 17 we were seeing huge buillboards along the road proclaiming RED APPLE REST – 25 MILES, followed shortly by RED APPLE REST – 22 MILES, and so on. The Red Apple, in Southfields New York was known far and wide by all those heading to or from the Country as the place to stop.” 

1930s NY State Map showing the main routes to the Catskills and where the Rest was Located

redapple1980

The Rest was eqiupped with a myriad of snacks, bathroooms, and gas pumps. You could refresh both your car and yourself before continuing on to your vacation spot or coming back home. You could eat hamburgers, soup, bagels and lox, or just grab some candy.

Interior of the Red Apple Rest (splitimage.com)

The Demise of the Rest

Until 1957 almost everyone going to and from the Catskills from points southeast passed by the Red Apple Rest. But then emerged a faster and quicker route that allowed drivers to bypass it. The New York State Thruway had its own rest areas, its own roadway, was built virtually in the backyard of the Red Apple Rest, and allowed people to go right by it without ever seeing it. The completion of the Thruway, as well as that of the route 17 Quickway (the expressway way to the Catskills from the Thruway) a few miles to the north, all made the trip to the Catskills much shorter, and the Rest much less significant.

Meanwhile the Catskills was having problems of its own. Competition from new vacation places like Disney World and the advent of gambling in Atlantic City stole away many vacationers. Long familiar Catskill hotels and resorts began to shut down. Vacation travel along route 17 was greatly diminshed. In 1980, Freed, still deeply devoted to his restaurant, passed away. His family sold it in 1985. The subsequent owner struggled to eek out a living until it finally closed its doors, presumably for good, a few years ago. The building still stands, but the roof has been condemned, and it seems to just be biding its time before it is finally torn down.

Aerial of the Red Apple Rest 1952 and 2009

More Red Apple Rest Photos and Articles

Postcard of the Red Apple Rest

Postcard and ‘Today Photo’

Postcard and Today Photo (Dean Lefebvre)

Another Today Photo (Dennis Garone)

1957 Trailway Cafeteria Ad

Red Apple Rest Billboard

Another Red Apple Rest Billboard

Empty Tables and Full Memories; Lines are Gone at Fabled Cafeteria on Way to Catskills

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for this GREAT post! I have fond memories of the Red Apple Rest from my childhood in the early ’70s. We lived in Queens at the time and always stopped there on our trips up to “the country.” My sister and I would get excited when we’d see the billboards on Rt. 17, even more so when the iconic apple itself came into view. Nowadays, I work not far away and a few years ago, I happened to drive by the old place. It broke my heart to see it in such a deteriorated condition. I really hope it can be saved; it holds so many good memories for so many people.

    Reply
    • I am pretty sure they put on a big fireworks show me and my family caught on year … we pulled over to watch it one year on the way home Dave.

      Reply
  2. julieb

     /  April 24, 2011

    Red Apple Rest Rules..Long live this “Big Apple.”

    Reply
  3. alan gaffan(chipper)

     /  September 2, 2011

    i remember it fondly when my mom & dad would wake me up for a snack on the way home from the bungalow in bloomingburg after a week or weekend or summer at camp hemlock or they sometime would tease me they stopped but didnt wake me up boy was i disappointed

    Reply
  4. Stephanie

     /  February 5, 2012

    Stopped many times for breakfast with my Dad when I was a kid, used to go to Bear Mountains, and Graymoor for mass…..

    Reply
  5. steve kern

     /  April 1, 2012

    i was saddened to learn of the closing of the red apple rest…my earliest memories as a child on the way to see my grandma in nearby florida, ny, were of stopping at the red apple rest…i was so excited to see the big red apple, knowing my dad an i were going to stop for breakfast…i truly miss those special times

    Reply
  6. I have such fond memories of the Red Apple Rest as a child. Eating there was a real treat. It usually meant that we were going to Arrow Park for the day. It’s too bad that no one has revived it. I don’t live that far from it now, and I would probably visit there.

    Reply
  7. MY God..i was there last weak (9/15/2012) and was so sad to see this great place in such a mess. the best years of my young life was there too..i use to walk to the back by the railroad tracks and pray for a train to come..If i had the money and work force, I would restore this place the way it was in the 1940’s..hope sombody out there gets the message to bring this place back..it should be a landmark and funded by our states..or even just by us folks. God bless you Red Apple Rest

    Reply
  8. Laurie

     /  January 13, 2013

    For many years, my family traveled from upstate NY to visit family in NYC and NJ. Although we were sad to say farewell to family, we looked forward to swinging into the Big Red Apple Rest on our journey home for a hot pastrami sandwich, potato knish and kosher dill pickle. Sorry to learn of this legendary establishment’s demise. RIP old friend.

    Reply
  9. Karen

     /  January 17, 2013

    Does anyone know if the Red Apple Rest ever had a motel attached to it in the 1950s? My parents are long gone now but I thought I remembered my mother saying they made a honeymoon trip there. I’d really appreciate any info.

    Reply
    • R. Marsh

       /  February 3, 2014

      Yes I am a 5th generation Tuxedo member. The Red Apple Motel is still in operation. It is located across the street.

      Reply
      • anthony

         /  February 3, 2014

        I do remember a hotel across the street from the red apple rest back in the 60’s but do not know the name.

  10. Carl McCaffee

     /  February 9, 2013

    I use to live in New York and went to the Red Apple many many times, I loved the old place and am saddened to hear of it’s state of disrepair. I have been living in Mississippi for 25 years and there was a place much like the Red Apple close by called the Sunset. I understand in it’s heyday(1920’s) it was the place to meet and enjoy some illegal drink. However like the Red Apple the land was bought and the old Sunset is no longer.

    It is truly sad the way we Americans wastebasket our history, will we ever learn, I doubt it.

    Reply
  11. Phil Lachaga

     /  April 22, 2013

    I used to go to Boy Scout Camp at Spruce Pond, literally just on the other side of Route 17. Some of the best moments were when we went and ate at the Red Apple Rest. I drove there a few years ago and walked around reliving the past. Both Spruce Pond and the Red Apple closed.

    Reply
  12. Jamie

     /  June 22, 2013

    I am said to hear that Red Apple is gone. I have great momories of going there as a child all the way to an adult. Us e to go there 3 or 4 ( sometimes more ) on our way back from Seven Lake drive.

    Reply
  13. Rick (Nars)

     /  December 8, 2013

    My friends and I would go to the mountains to meet girls and enjoy the summer weekends in the early 1960’s we would go to Schenks, the Concorde, the Raliegh, Kutshers, and assorted bungaloo colonies, I actually met my wife up there at Edelmans we are still married and just celebrated our 45th anniversary. My friends and later my wife and I would always stop there for bathroom, hot dogs and soda going up and coming home on Sunday nights. We never took the thruway up or home always down old 17 so we could stop there.

    Reply
  14. I want to thank you for this awesome post. I’m the President of the Tuxedo, NY, Chamber of Commerce (Southfields is part of the Town of Tuxedo) and I pass it twice a day on my way to and from work. It is a sad hulk of a building now but it is excellent to see it in its heyday and read some of the great stories.

    Reply
  15. Aimee

     /  February 4, 2014

    My parents met there in 1968 and my grandmother still lives in Southfields!!!

    Reply
  16. Elaine Freed Lindenblatt

     /  February 5, 2014

    To all you Apple-holics, thanks for sharing. Watch for my book “Stop at the Red Apple” (SUNY Press, late 2014), which tells the story of my family’s 50+-year-restaurant. Warm wishes, Elaine Freed Lindenblatt

    Reply
  17. Hi folks! The Tuxedo Historical Society is hosting Elaine Lindenblatt for a book launch on Saturday, December 6th at 1:30 PM at 7 Hospital Road in Tuxedo NY. I hope that you can make it!

    More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1505258073075079/

    Reply
  18. Beth Kagan

     /  April 11, 2015

    On Christmas Eve 1964 a Short Line busload of travelers were driven through heavy snow from NY Port Authority to Monticello and points north. It was terrible driving for the driver, and of course our times of arrival were were late. As we approached the Red Apple, some travelers urged him to bypass it and keep on so they would get to their destinations. But some sensible soul shouted, “What about the driver? He needs a rest!” We all applauded, he turned in to the Red Apple for a well-deserved break, and later we continued along old Rt. 17. That was so long ago……

    Reply
  19. Jerry

     /  November 6, 2015

    Watching the movie Oliver’s Story..the sequel to Love Story..one of the scenes takes place here.

    Reply
  20. Vic Carlton- Musician. I have fond memories of RED A. Rest. Being a musician/entertainer, i have stopped at the R.A.R a 1000 times. My family, and I always looked forward to stopping there. It was so routine, and part of the ride back to Bklyn. and VS.VERSA.. I will always have fond memories of red apple. RIP.

    Reply

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