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Mountain Lakes Borough


Mountain Lakes Borough Hall is located at 400 Boulevard, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046; phone: 973-334-3131.

Beginnings [1]

The area that would become Mountain Lakes was originally home to the Lenape who settled here around 10,000 BC. They remained through the first European settlements of the 17th century, before moving westward after the treaty of Easton in 1758. From the first European settlements until 1910, the year that the development of Mountain Lakes began, land titles and boundaries were shifted through disputed ownerships and deeds of dubious legality.

In the late 17th Century, the area was known as Old Forges. By 1700 it was part of Whippanong, then the Hanover area, and by 1759 it had become part of the Great Boonton Tract. In 1798 a small portion was part of Boonton Township, and the rest was included in Hanover Township, an arrangement that would last until the incorporation of Mountain Lakes Borough. The area began to attract settlers in the 18th Century, as Old Boonetown, now Boonton, became a center for iron works and gristmills. Workers, traders, and farmers, primarily of English and Dutch origin, established their families and built homes, some of which are still standing.

In 1908, surveyor Lewis Van Duyne of Boonton approached Herbert J. Hapgood with the idea for development of the then virgin area located on the eastern face of the highlands overlooking the Passaic River Valley. Van Duyne had become familiar with the area while surveying for the future Jersey City Reservoir. That year, Van Duyne and Hapgood began to purchase the land that would become Mountain Lakes, at fifteen dollars an acre, consisting of swampy meadows and woodlots which were losing their value with the increasing popularity of coal. Van Duyne and Hapgood, however, saw value in the development of the area based upon its natural beauty and its proximity to the Lackawanna Railroad.

Work on Mountain Lakes Residential Park began in the winter of 1908-09 with the commencement of clearing and the construction of the basic elements that would set its character as a residential park community: the roads and dams. Man-made lakes were created (Mountain and Wildwood) which formed the focus for the design of the community around which roads and residential lots were laid out. Home construction began in 1910 and the first residents arrived in 1911. The beginning of trolley service in 1910 was a significant asset not only for the new residents but for the workmen clearing the site and building the homes.

In 1914 Joseph Yaccarino opened a grocery store in the Midvale Stores building on Midvale Road, which was followed by a drugstore, a luncheonette, a taxi service, and a dry cleaning and tailor shop. The building also contained the first school in Mountain Lakes, as well as the first library, and hosted church services by the Community Church before the current church was built, also in 1914. Half the stores were later destroyed by fire. The Mountain Lakes Club, which at the time cost the extravagant sum of more than $30,000 to build, was opened the same year. The same year, the local post office opened, the cornerstone of the Community Church was laid, and the Education Department of the Woman's Club began a library with one hundred books donated by members.

Nearly 500 homes were constructed between 1911 and 1923 when Hapgood's operation declared bankruptcy. During this period, the Mountain Lakes Association was formed under the leadership of John L. Houston and Lawrence Luellen (the first resident of the new community and the originator of the Lily Paper Cup). This group, a liaison between the homeowners and developers, was responsible for initiating many improvements before the incorporation of the Borough.

A new era for the Borough began in 1923 with the re-establishment of Hapgood's operations under the new Belhall Company and the incorporation of Mountain Lakes as a municipality in 1924. Trolley service ended in 1928 when the track was taken up and the right-of-way became a sidewalk along the Boulevard. In the late 1920's and early 1930's, the Borough became an automobile-oriented community as roads were paved and area highways improved. By 1931 about six hundred homes were completed and Mountain Lakes was established on a scale sufficient to support a self-sustaining community. The Depression forced the Belhall Company into bankruptcy and its assets were liquidated by 1937 to pay creditors.

In 1938-39 the Borough was able to seize the opportunity to acquire many of the remaining undeveloped building lots, an important and far-sighted act by the new municipality. Many of these areas were eventually incorporated into large preserved open space areas, setting into place the final important element which established the character of the Mountain Lakes community. In the years after the war, other large tracts including Birchwood, Crystal, and Sunset Lakes were acquired and incorporated into the Borough's open space. The preservation of these areas and their dedication as open space for the enjoyment of all residents became a cornerstone of Borough land use policy.

Many of these features and structures from Mountain Lake's early development period still exist today.

  1. Borough of Mountain Lakes, Morris County, New Jersey, Master Plan, 1996, www.mtnlakes.org, accessed August, 2013.
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