The purchase of the station building in 2014 began an exciting new chapter for the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and the entire region. A historically significant building was saved and an ideal location with ample parking was obtained for future educational and cultural programming.
Our goal from the beginning has been to restore the station to its 1911 appearance as much as is practical. The building still contained many of its original details when acquired, though some past renovations had led to a structural issue requiring immediate remediation. Sheetrock walls and drop ceilings were removed, revealing parts of the original plaster walls and ceilings, as well as much of the original fieldstone. The original terrazzo floor had been uncovered by the prior owner. Several original windows were still in place. A cistern once used to collect rainwater was found in the rafters and the original ticket window area was uncovered in the main hall. Shortly after the purchase, some 50 volunteers assisted in clearing the grounds of the building, demonstrating that the community was ready and willing to lend a hand.
One of our first tasks was to put in place a skilled restoration team. Connolly and Hickey, a historical architecture firm based in Cranford, was hired with Margaret Hickey serving as lead architect and wise sage. Local contractor O’Donnell Construction of Mount Arlington, which has beautifully restored many local structures including the Lotta Crabtree house, was chosen as the prime contractor. Owner Bob O’Donnell’s ingenuity and creativity have been instrumental in facing the many hurdles during the restoration process.
The Lake Hopatcong Station was added to the State Register of Historic Places in 2015 and the National Register in 2016. A Historic Preservation Plan for the building was also completed during this period. Internal structural work was completed in spring 2016, followed by masonry work on the stone parapets. Replacement of the original green tile roof was launched with a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust and was completed in early 2017. Ludowici Roof Tile provided replacement tiles from the same New Lexington, Ohio factory that manufactured the original tiles in 1911. Prior to installation, the backs of many tiles were personalized by LHF donors who supported a special fundraising campaign. The plaster walls in the main hall were restored in February 2018. Electric conduits and new floors the same height as the original terrazzo floor were then constructed, creating a fully accessible building. A combination of new and restored windows and doors were installed, followed by accessible exterior walkways. Renovation of the bathrooms and station master’s office area were completed in the fall of 2018 and at the end of the year, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation staff moved from loaned office space at Nolan’s Point into their new home.
Work continued in the spring of 2019 as the original station benches were beautifully reconstructed by Bob O’Donnell and his team. At the same time, Jeff Roush, a New Hampshire-based terracotta specialist expertly restored the green terracotta trim on the front and back of the building. Lighting and trim work in the main hall was completed before it was officially opened to the public on May 3, 2019, with our annual meeting. During 2019, we hosted meetings of the Roxbury Township Council, League of Historical Societies of New Jersey, Tri-State Railway, and other organizations, as well as presenting a series of public programming. In addition, a six-week installation of the Smithsonian’s traveling Water/Ways exhibit during the summer of 2019 and a holiday model train display set up by the Sussex County Railroad Club in December demonstrated just how well the building serves as an exhibition space to be enjoyed by the public.
With much of the building now restored, efforts continue to refurbish the wrought iron railing and the original exterior drinking fountain. Meanwhile, a mass planting and specimen garden have taken shape on the grounds, featuring native New Jersey plants. Included in the plantings are five blight-resistant American Chestnut trees, once the predominant tree in the Lake Hopatcong area, provided by the American Chestnut Foundation. The public can now enjoy a walk in the gardens while learning about some 70 varieties of native New Jersey plants through interpretive markers. A scrawny rhododendron uncovered during the initial volunteer grounds clean-up has grown with the Foundation and is now covered with lovely flowers each spring. The only non-native plant in our garden, it serving as our mascot.
Thanks to Roxbury Township, Morris County, the State of New Jersey, generous donors, volunteers, and the entire Lake Hopatcong community, the Lake Hopatcong Station has been given a new mission and a new life!