Hopatcong, N.J.: ‘We Call It Lake Life’
Hollie Howard found Lake Hopatcong whereas looking the window of an airplane, en path to Newark Airport 5 years in the past. A search of aerial views of lakes quickly revealed that she had been flying over New Jersey’s largest freshwater lake. With just a little extra analysis, she realized that the lake was about 40 miles west of New York Metropolis, the place she was residing and performing in Broadway reveals.
Over the following two years, Ms. Howard, a former musical-theater actress who’s now the director of gross sales for a musical manufacturing firm, spent weekends renting vehicles and driving out to the lake that straddles Sussex and Morris Counties, to take a look at homes there. In June 2018, she purchased a four-bedroom lakefront dwelling with a dock within the borough of Hopatcong, for $500,000. Since then, she has been remodeling the Eighteen Nineties home — as soon as stuffed with small, wood-paneled rooms — into a spot with an open flooring plan, with the assistance of her boyfriend, Ryan Morville, whom she met after shifting in.
“I met the person of my desires, and this place has turn into my Broadway present. It’s my every thing,” stated Ms. Howard, 46, talking in regards to the multiyear renovation manufacturing. However when Covid hit, Ms. Howard’s present turned literal, as she was joined by theater pals fleeing town for nightly serenades on her dock.
“A performer desires to carry out, and abruptly we didn’t have any audiences,” she stated of the common song-and-dance performances that drew applause from passing boaters and later served as a fund-raising software for the Lake Hopatcong Basis.
For Joel and Tracy Beckerman, residing in Hopatcong has been much less like mounting a present and extra like telling a narrative. Or somewhat, persevering with a narrative already wealthy intimately. In Might, the couple paid $1.4 million for one of many borough’s best-known houses, Sleepless Hole, which was owned by Joe Cook dinner, a vaudeville star, within the Nineteen Twenties and ’30s. There, Mr. Cook dinner entertained celebrities just like the Marx Brothers, Ginger Rogers, Babe Ruth and Frank Capra, who loved the house’s built-in pranks, together with false doorways and drop flooring, in addition to the basement speakeasy and theater.
“We had been houses, however this felt extra like we discovered a narrative we may reside in,” stated Mr. Beckerman, a musical composer for tv and promoting. He and Ms. Beckerman, a syndicated columnist, plan to revive the property to its former grandeur.
The Joe Cook dinner period marked Hopatcong’s glory days, when vacationers within the early twentieth century stayed in grand lodges, boated on the lake and visited Bertrand Island Amusement Park. After aircraft journey opened up extra unique locales, the realm fell on onerous occasions, and lots of the previous houses and lodges burned down or had been in any other case destroyed. However the lake is now having fun with a second act, as extra individuals have found its vacation-like charms in the course of the pandemic.
“The lake is as profitable because it’s ever been in my lifetime,” stated Martin Kane, 65, the borough’s historian, who has seen the lake undergo many ups and downs since he arrived within the space 60 years in the past, when his household purchased a lakeside cottage for $16,000. “Individuals are placing extra money into their homes than ever earlier than. It has an excellent vibe proper now.”
One such investor is Lawrence Rubinstein, a associate in a wealth-management agency in Princeton Junction, N.J., who visited a good friend on the lake eight years in the past and, by the top of the weekend, had put in bids on a number of homes. He and his spouse, Camille Rubinstein, now reside within the lakeside home they purchased for $737,000 in 2013, and have since utterly rebuilt it, spending one other $1.5 million.
“You get up within the morning and see the dawn glow on the lake,” stated Mr. Rubinstein, 61. “You go to dinner by boat. Everybody on the lake is your neighbor. It’s a unique way of life. We name it lake life.”
What You’ll Discover
9 miles lengthy, three miles throughout and as deep as 65 ft, Lake Hopatcong is surrounded by the townships of Jefferson and Roxbury, and the boroughs of Mount Arlington and Hopatcong. Occupying a lot of the western shore, Hopatcong lays declare to the largest stretch of lakefront, with about 900 of the realm’s 2,200 lakefront houses, Mr. Kane stated. Stuffed with coves and inlets, the lake’s jagged shoreline — 45 miles of it — offers residents and boaters many choices.
“You may reside on the principle a part of the lake, the place it’s very lively. However you may as well tuck into one of many coves, the place it’s rather a lot calmer,” stated Kathleen Courter, a dealer with Re/Max, who lives in Roxbury.
With about 15,000 residents residing in its 12.35 sq. miles, Hopatcong is the third largest of the municipalities surrounding the lake. Whereas its waterfront houses are within the biggest demand, extra modest ones will be discovered inland, and a few of them include seashore rights by way of neighborhood associations. (There are not any municipal seashores in Hopatcong; the one public seashore is Hopatcong State Park, on the southern finish of the borough, which fills up early on a sunny summer season day.)
Two condominium developments have been constructed within the borough up to now 5 years: one close to the River Styx Bridge and one other at Mariner’s Pointe. There’s a townhouse growth throughout the lake in Mount Arlington, on the location of a former amusement park that closed in 1983.
What You’ll Pay
As of late July, there have been 154 houses in the marketplace in Hopatcong, from a one-bedroom condominium close to the lake, listed for $75,000, to a four-bedroom lakefront dwelling with a boathouse, inbuilt 2005, listed for $1.895 million. Away from the lake, there have been a number of ranch homes and split-levels on the market, starting from the mid-$200,000s to the mid-$300,000s.
The typical sale worth for a single-family dwelling within the borough from August 2020 to July 2021 was $338,251, a considerable enhance from $255,865 the 12 months earlier than, in line with the Backyard State A number of Itemizing Service. Of these, the 64 houses that had been on the lake bought for a a lot greater common worth: $647,086, in contrast with $523,070 for the 38 lakefront homes bought within the earlier 12 months.
Many actions in Hopatcong revolve across the lake: boating and swimming in the summertime; skating and ice fishing within the winter, when the lake freezes over. So when the state formally closed the lake and Hopatcong State Park in the summertime of 2019 due to excessive ranges of cyanobacteria, it had a noticeable impact on the realm, as did the drop in tourism in the course of the pandemic.
“Individuals right here nonetheless swam and went out on their boats, however when the state shut the lake down, it actually harm. Covid additionally harm the lake,” stated Karen Foley, an agent with Distinguished Properties Sotheby’s Worldwide Realty, who lives in Mount Arlington. “However this summer season, we’re actually in an awesome place.”
There are two yacht golf equipment on the lake, and Nolan’s Level in Jefferson has turn into a middle of water exercise, together with water biking and dinner cruises.
Past the lake, Hopatcong has centered on older residents, who make up about 40 p.c of the borough’s inhabitants, stated Bradley Hoferkamp, a Hopatcong councilman. Pickleball courts have been added to the lately refurbished tennis courts close to the senior heart, which offers each day lunches for $2 and sponsors quite a few actions, together with a Christmas occasion that Mr. Hoferkamp stated “is nearly as good as any wedding ceremony.”
College students in Hopatcong progress by way of the general public faculty system collectively, from Durban Avenue Elementary College for prekindergarten by way of first grade, to Tulsa Path Elementary College for second and third grade, to Hopatcong Center College for grades 4 to seven, after which Hopatcong Excessive College, the place 513 college students had been enrolled in the course of the 2019-20 faculty 12 months.
Final 12 months, the typical SAT scores at the highschool had been 536 in studying and writing and 511 in math, in contrast with state averages of 536 in every.
The highschool has an award-winning marching band and affords 13 Superior Placement programs. It additionally has a Future Lecturers Academy, for these concerned with educating careers, and has a collaborative association with Sussex County Group Faculty, so college students can earn school credit.
Space non-public faculties embody two Catholic choices: St. Therese College, in Succasunna, for prekindergarten by way of eighth grade, and Pope John XXIII Regional Excessive College, in Sparta.
Hopatcong is about 45 miles west of Manhattan, and driving into town takes about an hour and 20 minutes, relying on site visitors.
There are not any practice stations in Hopatcong, however New Jersey Transit trains run from Mount Arlington and Roxbury into Penn Station, with transfers in Dover or Newark. The journeys take from about 90 minutes to greater than two hours, and price $16 a method or $451 for a month-to-month cross.
Bus service by Lakeland Bus Strains has been suspended because the starting of the pandemic.
The Historical past
At 900 ft above sea degree, Lake Hopatcong represented the summit of the Morris Canal and served as the most important feeder of water for transporting coal and iron east from mines in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York, alongside the canal, from 1824 to 1924. The canal’s success spurred the constructing of a railroad line, and tourism adopted. By 1900, greater than 40 lodges and rooming homes surrounded the lake, and the realm turned a well-liked getaway for actors, vaudevillians and burlesque stars.