YORKTOWN, N.Y. - In the 1880s, the arrival of the Putnam Railroad created a link between the bustling metropolis of New York City and the rural communities to the north. Hotels and summer resorts sprang up as residents of the city became aware of the fact that an hour or two on the train brought them to cool and verdant destinations much closer to nature than their day-to-day lives. In fact, by the 1950s, more than a million people inhabited the summer world of bungalow colonies, camps and small hotels in upstate New York.
A little north of Yorktown, Mohegan Lake also developed into a summer community. For the first half of the 20th century, many resorts operated around the lake, offering lodging, entertainment and a rural respite for city families. Among the more famous were the Mohegan Country Club, the Sonoqua Lodge, Uncas Lodge on Crown Island, Tall Timbers, Lakelawn Cottages, Rock Hill Lodge, the St. Nicholas Hotel and the Mohegan Inn. And, in 1940, came Abraham Nabatoff, a contractor from the city who built 17 vacation bungalows around the lake and called his “colony” Mohegan Gardens.
To provide additional summer fun for children, Nabatoff built a swimming pool, and nearby, a dining hall—dubbed “the casino” because it was the center of activity for all the bungalow residents. Camp mornings traditionally began with Nabatoff’s opera singer wife, Maria, singing the national anthem as campers gathered. Today, the bungalows are privately owned homes, but the casino and swimming pool remain stalwart components of Camp Nabby, Nabatoff’s namesake day camp. In 1970, Frank and Flo Bertino became the second owners of the camp, which has been lovingly operated since then by the Bertino family and is now directed by son Joe Bertino and his wife, Rita. Their historic casino is the latest addition to Yorktown’s Homes of Historic Distinction.
Nabatoff’s “casino” became a popular hangout for the bungalow children, and today, it still stands, with very few changes from the original 1940 design. The casino features a miniature stage for theatrical productions, a full kitchen for meals, a soda fountain with the original 1940s Naugahyde and chrome swivel bar stools and a vintage telephone booth with pay phone. Just as it was almost 80 years ago, the Camp Nabby casino remains a central summer meeting point for children.
All of the other Mohegan summer colonies are now gone, but thanks to the efforts of the Bertino family, Camp Nabby continues, both as a reminder of simpler times long past and as a contemporary summer daytime destination for area children.
The Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission (YLPC) is always seeking applicants for the Homes of Historic Distinction Program. To qualify, homes must have historical significance based on age, architectural style, past ownership, or association with a person or event important to Yorktown’s history. Through the program, plaques designating the basic facts about each house’s history are fabricated and installed on or around the home. YLPC will work with each homeowner on appropriate wording for the plaque and will assist in research. The cost for the application and the plaque is $100. Applications are available online at yorktownny.org/planning or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Tim Beachak and Esteban Baquero of Signs Ink of Yorktown in the design, preparation and production of Homes of Historic Distinction signage.
Other Yorktown Homes of Historic Distinction
- Home of Dr. Ebenezer White
- Home of Jeremiah Travis
- Enos Lee Homestead
- Strang Homestead
- The Verplanck Tenant Farm
- One-Room Schoolhouse
- Grace Building
- Van Cortlandt Tenant Farmhouse
- John C. Hart Memorial Library
- Peter Pratt's Inn
- Home of Louis A. Abramson
- Sears Kit House
- George Ferris Farmhouse
- Hunterbrook Road Saltbox
- Ryjk's Patent
This article was submitted by the Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission as part of a series highlighting Yorktown Homes of Historic Distinction.