In a few days, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation will be celebrating five years at the Lake Hopatcong Train Station in Landing. And although we didn’t actually move into the building until the start of this year, it has been a centerpiece of our efforts in the five years since Lauren Rossi (then the LHF Development Director) and I signed the mortgage paperwork on November 6, 2014. In the months leading up to that day, the LHF board struggled to decide whether it made sense for a two-year-old organization to invest in such a large project, ultimately determining that the risk of the building being torn down by another buyer, and the potential for having a Foundation headquarters that could also serve community needs, was worth it.
In the years since, countless hours have been devoted to bringing this historic building back to its 1911 glory.
I still smile instantly when I remember the first-ever LHF event at the station, a cleanup day on November 22, 2014, when dozens of volunteers spent several chilly hours sweeping out the demolition debris in the interior in preparation for the rehabilitation work to come, and cleaning up the exterior to keep the grounds looking as nice as possible in the meantime.
I think on that day we all recognized how invested the community was in this project, and you all have continued to show that commitment ever since.
In 2015, the LHF received its first grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust for $192,500, which supported the acquisition of the train station building. That year, the Foundation retained the services of Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects to develop a Historic Preservation Plan for planning the future restoration and repair work at the station based on the building’s historical significance, evolution, and existing conditions. In 2016, the Lake Hopatcong Station was listed as a boundary increase to the Morris Canal Historic District and listed in the New Jersey Register for Historic Places, and in the National Register for Historic Places. Collectively, the LHF has received $1.08 million in grants from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New Jersey Historic Trust, the 1772 Foundation, and the Hyde and Watson Foundation towards the acquisition and rehabilitation of the station. We also received significant contributions from individual supporters and the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum, and in all more than 500 donors have contributed to our capital campaign—with nearly 200 of you sponsoring a beautiful green Ludowici tile that now sparkles on our roof! In addition, a number of local businesses have made in-kind donations of labor and materials for the site. (To learn more about the construction process, you can check out our train station page.)
With so much that has happened over the last five years, it’s difficult to know where to begin to say thank you. When we think of everyone involved along the way, from our bankers at Fulton Bank, to the helpful staff and officials in the Township of Roxbury, to our architect at Connolly and Hickey, to the folks at the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust, right down to the super friendly guy who worked on the terra cotta restoration, we realize we couldn’t have had more lovely folks to go on this journey with. Our staff and board have been incredible as well, keeping a positive attitude and always looking to a future where the station would serve the community’s needs. If you are reading this and you can recall a way that you have been involved in this project, please know that we are deeply grateful!
But there are four people who deserve special shout outs on this milestone. Donna Macalle-Holly, our Grants and Programs Director, has worked like crazy to secure all that historical preservation grant money, which has allowed the building to look as fantastic as it does. Bob O’Donnell and his crew at O’Donnell Construction took on this project and went above and beyond to make sure it was done right, doing things like measuring the benches at other train stations of the same era to ensure ours would be proper replicas, and creating new tile and terrazzo floors that look as close to the original as possible. Ron Kraus served as our volunteer project manager, making sure everything was going smoothly and keeping an eye on things at 125 Landing Road when our offices were still on Nolan’s Point—and doing more than a little heavy lifting! And Marty Kane, our board chairman, had a vision for this building when it first came on the market, and has worked tirelessly to see that vision come to fruition, volunteering more hours than we can count.
Of course, this is still just the beginning for the Lake Hopatcong Station, now the Lake Hopatcong Foundation Environmental & Cultural Center. We haven’t even been working out of the building for a full year yet, but it’s been an exciting start. We hosted the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibition this past summer, bringing in more than 700 visitors over six weeks. (It’s worth noting that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities made a site visit in October 2016, before the interior restoration had even started, to determine if the station was a suitable venue. The staff assured them that it would be ready, and our contractor and project manager made it happen.) We’ve also hosted an assortment of local groups for meetings, and begun to hold regular educational programming for the community. We have ambitious hopes for what we will be able to offer, in terms of seminars, workshops, and other community presentations, in 2020 and beyond.
And the building itself still has some work ahead of it. We hope to install a door at the opposite end of the main hall that matches our front door, with a patio area in the back of the building that borders restored fencing along the NJTransit property. When the Landing Road Bridge Project is complete (hopefully within the next couple of years!) we are looking forward to having proper sidewalks and curbing, and a freshly paved and lined parking lot. So we are not done yet, and we certainly expect there to be regular expenses along the way (as any homeowner, especially of a century-old building, knows!). But when we look at how far we’ve come since November 6, 2014, we are so proud, so grateful, and so optimistic about the future.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the last five years at the Lake Hopatcong Station. And we’re looking forward to celebrating many more milestones in the years to come!