Mount Arlington Historic District
The Mount Arlington Historic District (also known as Mount Arlington North Park Historic District) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
Mt. Arlington in Morris County is one of the few late 19th century interior resort areas in New Jersey which by its buildings and landscaping still exhibits the character of a turn-of-the-century exclusive summer vacation center for wealthy suburbanites.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, as leisure time increased and transportation methods improved, Americans enthusiastically sought ways to implement their free time. Those with lower economic stature turned to nearby and temporary recreational activities such as sporting events or swimming. At best, the poor were only able to make day trips to places like Atlantic City.
The wealthy, however, were able to spend much more money and time in their pursuit of recreational activities. As a result, the families with higher economic status (an ever-growing minority in the late 19th century) sought satisfaction at a distance. This gave rise to the resort town developed especially for exclusionary summer vacationing. Mount Arlington was such a creation. With restrictive rules and regulations excluding most every other aspect of late 19th-early 20th century society, only an elitist culture evolved in Mount Arlington — just as its residents preferred. The cottages, as named by their summer habitants, were anything but what the word implied. Rather, these part-time residences were some of the better and larger Queen Anne and Shingle Style buildings in New Jersey.
Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924), one of America's foremost entertainers during the last quarter of the 19th century, lived at Lake Hopatcong from the date of erection of her house in 1886 until shortly before her death in 1924.
Beginning her career as a vaudeville entertainer touring the gold mining regions of San Francisco while still a youngster, Miss Lotta rapidly became a local favorite and in heavy demand for performances in the area variety halls and amusement parks. Her entertainment usually consisted of dancing, singing, light acting, and pantomiming often in black-face, before bawdy unsophisticated audiences. At 17, she and her mother went east and in 1867 Lotta played dual roles in her first great successful play "Little Nell and the Marchioness." Lotta's child-like naive appearance coupled with a seasoned veteran's demeanor endeared her to audiences across the United States.
She had the lead role in numerous popular late 19th century plays. "The Pet of the Petticoats," "Firefly," "Hearts Ease," "Zip," and "Little Bright Eyes" were a few of the most important plays in which she performed.
For two decades Lotta Crabtree remained a unique, popular and money-making figure on the American stage. Traveling with her own company of players, rather than using local stock companies, as was customary, this vivacious and dynamic personality was said to have been the cause of more merriment than any other entertainer of her time.
In 1885 Lotta commissioned noted architect Frank Furness to design her summer home at Lake Hopatcong, Morris County, New Jersey. After a stage injury and a decline in popularity, Lotta Crabtree retired in 1891, continuing to live and entertain from this 'cottage' which she called "Attol Tryst." After her endeared mother's death in the early 1900's, Lotta never again felt comfortable in the house and, consequently, died in a hotel she owned in Boston in 1924.
Traces of Lotta Crabtree's flamboyance appear in the house which Frank Furness designed for her, most obviously in the billiard room and, in that room, in the giant fireplace emblazoned with her name and the date of the house. With that room, the house was personalized — and became a suitable place for the colorful actress's retirement.
The house is of further interest as one of the best preserved, and most original, of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness's designs. In it, Furness (1839-1912) made a further exploration of the possibilities of destroying the boxy country house formula and instead opening the house to its site, precursing the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Midwestern Prairie School. Here, two ranks of rooms are shifted in placement, with centered doorways opening into corners of the next row of rooms to add a strong sense of diagonal movement to the plan. Interior finishes are largely intact and show Furness's considerable originality. In terms of the development of Furness's career, the Lotta house marks the earliest full scale use of the great rounded volumes that preoccupied him in the late 1880's and 1890's — at the Library of the University of Pennsylvania, the Bryn Mawr Hotel Company, and his own country house, Idlewild in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Frank Furness was one of the most important architects in America during the last quarter of the 19th century.
Finally, the house recalls the years when Lake Hopatcong was a great resort. Urbanistically, it had the potential to be a focus for the region, adding a note of grandeur and excitement to a sleepy resort.
Conservation: Until 1885, the Lake Hopatcong region was a favorite summer resort for sport fishermen lured by tremendous bass and pickerel in the pure water and a camping retreat for vacation parties from New York, Newark, Morristown and Pennsylvania towns. There were a few boarding houses, but most used tents or owned summer cottages.
The water of Lake Hopatcong was used after 1831 by the Morris Canal, but competition with railroads diminished the threat of the canal. A proposal in 1912 to increase water for the Morris Canal was hotly opposed by a book written by Hudson Maximum, which included a map showing the buildings at the lake. Lake Hopatcong is the longest lake and has the greatest shoreline of any inside New Jersey, but its ability to replenish itself is only equal to that of a smaller body. Thus, proposals to divert water from the lake for urban water needs in this period were opposed vehemently by early environmentalists. New Jersey had enacted fish and game laws to protect sportsmen and the species, but area development posed another threat to this source of pure water. In 1885, the fishermen reacted sharply to the pollution caused by the waste disposal of chemicals into the lake by the American Forcite Company, a munitions manufacturer, at Shore Hills south of Mount Arlington on the east shore.
The West Shore Association was formed in 1896 to prohibit pollution of the lake by any property owners. This group may have been inspired by the Mount Arlington Park Association. In 1892, Howard P. Frothingham, who was the first mayor of Mount Arlington in 1891, wrote a financial report for the Association covering the prior five years. Frothingham was also an avid fisherman and a member of the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission from 1890 to 1898. Mount Arlington Boulevard was renamed Howard Boulevard in his honor. The trustees of the Mount Arlington Park Association included Henry Altenbrand, Auguste Pettier, Robert Dunlap, and Amasa Lyon, and they took mortgages on property with the provision that the owner would restrict development of "brewery, slaughter house, distillery, smith shop, carpenter shop, forge or furnace, steam engine for manufacturing purposes, brass foundry, nail or other iron foundry, soap, candle, starch, varnish, vitriol, glue, ink, turpentine, or bone factory, or the manufacturing of gunpowder or mineral oils and animal oils, factory for tanning, livery or stables, cattle yard, or noxious or dangerous trade, hotel or inn and saloon for the sale of malt or spirituous liquors." (Lotta Crabtree mortgage, 10-24-1885).
Whereas the huge Hotel Breslin was built at Mount Arlington (the Mount Arlington Hotel and Lake View House were nearby), a complaint was sustained against the Hotel Breslin in 1895 for the Association, and after that time the Hotel Breslin continued as a resort hotel and as the clubhouse of the Lake Hopatcong Club, forerunner of the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.
In 1885, a group of prominent business people from New York and Brooklyn came to Lake Hopatcong as the invited guests of the Lake Hopatcong Land and Improvement. (No certificate of incorporation survives.) Henry Altenbrand, a maltser from Brooklyn, was treasurer and Delos Culver of Jersey City was president of the LH L&I Co. and most of the land developed was obtained from Altenbrand. Both Culver and Altenbrand joined with Robert Dunlap, a Brooklyn hatter, and James Breslin, the manager of the Gilsey House Hotel in New York, to form the Lake Hopatcong Hotel Company (Certificate of Incorporation, Book A, page 163, on 5-24-1886) with the purpose to erect hotels, cottages, piers, wharves, docks and boathouses.
Six houses were built in 1886, following a high tempo of labor during the preceding winter building roads and cutting the forests at Mount Arlington (called Breslin Park) and Mount Harry (called South Park). A map was drawn by W.E. Culver in 1886 showing the improvements of the LH L&I Co. and the new cottages. Henry Altenbrand and Dr. Everett Culver built cottages along the lake shore and August Pettier, a furniture manufacturer from New York, and his friend George Oldner, built to the south of Altenbrand, while Dunlap built a cottage between Altenbrand and Culver. Dunlap has another house on Bertrand Island and lived at the Hotel Breslin, so his cottage may have been purchased by Max Norman of Brooklyn, and later moved by Vintschger. The very wealthy actress, Lotta Crabtree, owned a lot on Chincopee Cove, named for the last Indian at Lake Hopatcong, and her 14-room cottage cost over $20,000 to build. Lotta Crabtree gained prominence as an entertainer in California in 1853 at the age of six years, and her wealth in 1891 was estimated to be $2,000,000, which she gained through real estate ventures and held until her death in Boston in 1924. The local people referred to her familiarly as "Lotta," and she named her cottage "Attol Tryst" after her name.
The hotel, constructed by the Lake Hopatcong Hotel Company on land obtained from the LH L&I Co., was designed by L.C. Baker Jr. of Furness & Evans of Philadelphia and was built by John J. Miller of Elizabeth, general contractor, and Cyrus E. Cook, foreman. The $65,000 hotel was to have 250 rooms for 400 guests and help and was to be ready by June 15, 1886. When the date passed and business was lost, Miller was disgraced. Similar delays occurred to the Crabtree cottage. In 1887, the Hotel Company was sold to the Hotel Breslin Villa Company with the same stockholders, was finished by Cyrus Cook and occupied successfully for the season. The Hotel Breslin was renamed the Alamac Hotel and was destroyed by fire in 1947. Houses along Lakeview Terrace occupy its site not far from the intersection of Edgemere Avenue and Windemere Avenue.
The 1887 season was satisfactory, and in 1888 other aspects of a complete community began to emerge. Life at the Hotel Breslin was very serene. The morning after breakfast was consumed by reading, and the afternoon after a luncheon could be spent hiking, fishing or boating. There was entertainment in the evening, or dancing, after which a young man could escort his lady from the hotel up Edgemere Avenue by the light of electric lamps (Dover in 1888 was negotiating a term year contract with the Dover Light Co. to build street lights) to the ice cream fountain at the Pharmacy operated by the Baron Von Furstenwarther, who married the daughter of Bertrand. Later it was agreed that an electric light would be provided near Tanglewild Park, but because the three houses on "Hoboken Hill" had acetylene gas fixtures (later converted to central electric power) it was unlikely electricity was widely available.
Guests coming to Lake Hopatcong might come via the Morris Canal to Landing or via the railroad to Hopatcong or Drakesville (Ledgewood). The Lake Hopatcong Steamboat Company provided water transport, or a carriage was available from Richard Chamberlain. Closer rail connections were sought by the local promoters, who even delayed the construction of a canal spur near Hopatcong to assist the transfer of goods from the Morris Canal into Lake Hopatcong.
Both Catholic and Protestant religious services were provided at the Hotel Breslin, even though the Lake Hopatcong Methodist Church at Espanong in Jefferson Township was nearby. The LH L&I Co. donated land on the hill to build a Roman Catholic Chapel to Our Lady of the Lake, which had its cornerstone laid in August, 1888 on Chestnut Street. Cyrus Cook was also the builder. At its dedication in August, 1889, attended by Bishop Wigger, its priest, Rev. James Brady, had obtained an organ, a stained-glass window depicting the Virgin Mother on the shore of a beautiful lake as a gift from Mrs. A. Leavy of New York, a carpet from Mrs. Dunlap, alter laces from Mrs. Frothingham and other sacramental gifts from Lotta Crabtree.
These same benevolent people attended the laying of the cornerstone on October 2, 1888 of the Protestant Union Chapel at which New Jersey Governor Robert Green was the guest speaker, attended by General W.S. Stryker and other notables. Religious messages were given by the Presbyterian clergy of Rockaway and Dover, as well as by Reverend Stoddard of Succasunna and the historian president of Wabash College, Rev. Joseph F. Tuttie. The Union Chapel was built by Cyrus Cook in stone from the design of George C. Harding, based on the "Little Church around the Corner." In 1893, Robert Dunlap insisted that an Episcopal church be established, and the Protestant Union Chapel was given as St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
In 1913 they tried to relocate the Catholic Chapel, but a violent storm damaged the structure. A stone church for Our Lady of the Lake was built in 1914, and Mrs. Himpler was on the Building Fund Committee. Her husband, Francis G. Himpler, had retired from his architectural efforts in 1892 and died in 1916 at his Lake Hopatcong home. Himpler was an ardent Catholic who designed the Hoboken City Hall, Sacred Heart Academy, Church of S.S. Peter and Paul in St. Louis, St. Anne's Church in Buffalo, St. Francis of Sales in Cincinnati and Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken, from which he was buried. His work was in stone and the new chapel to Our Lady of the Lake was in stone, so it may be presumed that he did the work. This building was subsequently damaged by a fire and is outside the Mount Arlington Historic District boundary.
The New York and Lake Hopatcong Railroad was promoted as a competition to the Morris and Essex branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to Dover, but despite the purchase of lands, in 1886 (Deeds Book W, page 53 and Book XX, page 175), nothing resulted. The D, L&W RR ran a line to Drakesville, and it was hoped that they would establish a depot closer. The Central RR of New Jersey had a line to hotels at Nolan's Point and the winter Brady Ice Company operations, but the nearest depot was at Espanog. Robert Dunlap donated the land and built a station, called Mount Arlington, after 1890, which provided Delaware, Lackawanna and Western service to New York.
A second venture was the "Black Line" of George Campbell's Lake Hopatcong Steamboat Company in 1886 (Certificate of Incorporation, Book A, page 127, 1-15-1886), which took passengers by steam launch side-wheel craft to the hotels on the east and west shores. His boats the Fannie, A. Reasoner and G.L. Bryant, received competition from the "White Line" of T.F. King, whose boats were the Hopatcong, Muskenetcong and Alametcong. A boat called the Minnewaska, electric-powered and operated at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892, was used exclusively by the Hotel Breslin at its boat dock to disembark guests to the Hotel.
Julia Frothingham, Lotta Cabtree, Albert Tilt and others had private steam or naptha powered boats operating from their private boathouses, and from the interest developed the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.
Politics-Government: As was provided by "AN ACT FOR THE INCORPORATION OF BOROUGH GOVERNMENTS" passed on 4-5-1878, a number of residents from Roxbury Township who owned at least ten percent of the taxable real estate made a petition to Francis Childs, Morris County judge of the Court of Common Pleas, on October 17, 1890, for permission to hold a special election on the question whether a "Mayor and Council for the Borough of Mount Arlington may be formed."
The petitioners were Daniel Shaefer, Cyrus E. Cook, Julia Frothingham, Michael Williams, Martha V. Furstenwarther, Emma C. Norman, John Werner, Martha Totten, Augustine Pettier, and Richard Chaplin.
A public notice was published in the The True Democratic Banner ten days before the scheduled election on November 1, 1890, and the election was held at the Mount Arlington Hotel owned by Daniel Shaefer. The vote approved the idea by a 43 to 4 count. A second election to select one mayor and six councilmen was advertised in The Iron Era for November 25, and Howard P. Frothingham, a New York investment banker and fisherman, was elected mayor, and Daniel Shaefer and Michael Williams, hotel owners, were given three year terms, while Frederick Zuck of the Lake View House and Aaron D. Stephens were given two year terms and George M. Brockway of the Breslin and Oscar Sisco received one year terms. Cyrus E. Cook was selected Borough Clerk. Ford D. Smith introduced Assembly Bill #98 into the State Legislature on 1-27-1891 to approve the incorporation, and on 2-20-1891, the Dover legislator was appointed municipal attorney with a $150 annual salary.
The Postmaster General was asked to change the postal address from "Rustic" to Mount Arlington and Western Union Telegraph Company was asked to name its local office similarly. These requests were approved.
In 1891, the Borough obtained popular approval to borrow $3,500 to erect a Borough Hall, designed by W.H. Lee and Ed Lee, and built by Cyrus Cook. The people further petitioned the Council and Mayor to borrow additional sums in order to macadam the streets of Mount Arlington, which tended to increase further the value of the property investments in the Borough.
The Hotel Breslin was built in 1886-87 at a cost of $65,000 by Cook from the Baker designs. The Crabtree house cost over $20,000 to build, was designed by Frank Furness of Philadelphia and constructed by Henry Wilson, and the heat and gas were installed by Howarth Bros. The Altenbrand house cost $8,000 and was built by Isaac Riker of Newark, while the Pettier house was built by Jacob Vreeland of Dover for $11,000. The Culver and Oldner cottages cost only $5,000.
Both Frothingham and Tilt, who was a silk manufacturer from Paterson, built their houses in 1889, but "Crescent Lodge" owned by Frothingham was damaged by fire and rebuilt, which Philip S. Dyer came to own. The little Vintschger, Norman (Dunlap and later Steneck), and Culver cottages to the north of the greater Tilt and Frothingham structures possess distinctive fish-scale siding as does the Walsh cottage on Arlington Avenue. Arend Benrend sold lots on "Hoboken Hill" to A.P. Hexamer, who ran the Hoboken Riding Academy, Gustav Hengstler, lithographer, and Rudolph Rabe, state legislator and president of the Second National Bank of Hoboken. From the economic and social ties in Hoboken and its German Club came the name, "Hoboken Hill." It should be recalled that Nicholas Steneck of the Steneck Trust Company in Hoboken and Francis G. Himpler were not unknown on "Hoboken Hill" and Gustav Oelschlager, who bought the Hengstler house, was also from Hoboken.
T.C. Whitlock, Lake Hopatcong Illustrated (Perth Amboy, 1899).
G.M. Brockway, Hazel Breslin Blue Book (New York, 1892).
J.K. Hoyt, Pen, and Pencil Sketches of the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad (New York, 1874).
Moses King, King's Handbook of New York (Boston, 1893).
C.E. Shriner, Paterson, NJ Illustrated (Paterson, 1890).
Hudson Maxim, Lake Hopatcong the Beautiful (1912).
Stuart Murray, History of Hopatcong Borough (Hopatcong, 1976).
W.C. Culver "Map of Mount Arlington" (1886).
The Iron Era
History of Morris County, Lewis Publishing Company (New York, 1899 and 1914).
Dempsey, David R. The Triumphs and Trials of Lotta Crabtree. New York, 1968 .
Rourke, Constance Mayfield, Troupers of the Gold Coast. New York, 1928.
O'Gorman, James, The Architecture of Frank Furness. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973 (p. 203, 92).
Megie, O.G., Guide to Lake Hopatcong. Rockaway, New Jersey, 1891.
† Terry Karschner, Historic Preservation Specialist, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Historic Preservation, Mount Arlington Historic District, Morris County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1977, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.