Idylease: West Milford’s 1903 Inn, Where Thomas Edison was a Guest, Seeks Historic Listing on National Register of Historic Places.

idylease-1902
Idylease: West Milford’s 1903 Inn, Where Thomas Edison was a Guest, Seeks Historic Listing on National Register of Historic Places.

WEST MILFORD, NJ — (August 22, 2019) Idylease Inn, a turn-of-the-century health resort that counted inventor Thomas Edison among its famous guests, may soon make its bid for the National Register of Historic Places.

The inn, the first property named on the town’s list of historic sites, is a five-floor Dutch Colonial hotel and the last of more than a dozen similar facilities that stood in town during the tourism heyday of the early-20th century. Its guestbook contains the names of many famous visitors, including New Jersey’s first female congresswoman, Mary Norton.

“It has a tremendous history,” said Richard Zampella, the property owner. “There used to be dozens of these resort hotels around northern New Jersey, nearly all of them were lost to fire or neglect.”

Opened in 1903, Idylease thrived in the Ragtime Era. The inn was a short trip from the Newfoundland Train station on the way to tourist-filled Greenwood Lake. Promoted as a health retreat, it sat amid pastoral country on the hilly border of New Jersey’s iron belt.

Its location is what drew Edison.

Then based in West Orange, Edison opened a self-named mine near Sussex County’s Franklin-Ogdensburg mining district in 1889. His plan was to harvest a previously overlooked pocket of lower quality ore on Sparta Mountain, break the rock up on conveyor belts and suck out the iron with electromagnets.

Plagued by problems with the machinery and undercut by the discovery of the massive Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, the mine closed a decade later. Perhaps as it was for the phonograph, which Edison thought would be better used for stenography than playing music, he may have misjudged the best use for his mining innovations.

Edison later applied his rock-crushing technology to aid in the creation of the durable cement used in the original Yankee Stadium and help the New Jersey Zinc Company process minerals at Sterling Mine in Ogdensburg.

When making the trip across North Jersey, Edison spent nights at Idylease, the inn’s guest logs show. The Newfoundland area was a favorite of Edison’s, Zampella noted. Scenes from 1903’s “The Great Train Robbery” were filmed nearby, including at Echo Lake.

The main entry at Idylease Inn on Union Valley Road in West Milford features a dual staircase made of local oak. The inn’s former owner, Arthur Zampella, wanted to relocate the staircase when he considered demolishing the inn in the late 1980s.

Idylease, named for Alfred Tennyson’s epic poem of King Arthur of Camelot, “Idylls of the King,” was built in 1902 by local carpenters lured by newspaper ads offering $2.50 for a nine-hour shift. Designed by John Boylston of John B. Snook & Sons, the inn gained prestige early on for its design and amenities. It was billed in June 1903 by The Montclair Times as “a hostelry of which New Jersey may well be proud.”
The inn was conceived by a group of 11 investors collectively called The Newfoundland Health Association. Headed by New York City doctors – first Dr. Edgar Day, then Dr. Daniel Drake – the group brought city dwellers to receive treatment at their country sanitarium for the cost of $10 to $20 a week, Zampella said.

Among the early visitors was H. Montague Vickers, a prominent member of the New York Stock Exchange. A guest in 1906, Vickers later sat on the board of directors for Rahway Valley Railroad and purchased his own farm in the Newfoundland section.

Idylease was known for its expansive open-air veranda, marble hydrotherapy pools and ability to entrench guests in purportedly therapeutic wilderness. The self-sustaining sanitarium had its own ice house, blacksmith shop and farm complex.

The township’s Historic Preservation Commission named Idylease, the Newark watershed’s New City and the Town Hall Annex the first three properties on its list of local historic landmarks in 1988. Only 10 more historic sites have since been named to the local list, records show. Only one, Long Pond Ironworks, is on the national register.

Zampella said he believes the inn is deserving of the designation, due to its architecture, guests and contribution to American history, and plans to soon file an application with the federal government.

The 53-year-old film and multimedia producer who also works in the hospitality industry has been blogging about the site’s history since April 2016. He has collected old records and photos, including the guest books that he said have been eye-opening.

Guests included sports writer William B. Hanna, Civil War correspondent David Banks Sickels, and Grace Abbott, the head of the United States Children’s Bureau from 1921 to 1934.

Towards the end of the age of the area’s railroad-driven tourism in the late 1920s, Idylease welcomed Victor Harrison-Berlitz, who managed 410 of the Berlitz Corporation’s language centers, Joseph French Johnson, the founding dean of the Alexander Hamilton Institute, and Congresswoman Norton, the sixth woman in the United States Congress but the first to hail from the East and win as a Democrat.

Post-tourism revival

Richard Zampella’s knowledge of the site goes beyond his recent findings, having grown up on the grounds. His father, Dr. Arthur Zampella, owned the property for nearly 40 years starting in 1954. Since Zampella acquired the property in 2016, he said he has been attempting to complete the site’s history.

“Researching the history of Idylease has been a lifelong endeavor,” he said.

When Zampella was young, and the tourism boom that established North Jersey’s lake communities was long over, his father operated the inn as a nursing home until 1972. His father’s vision was to create a community clinic with a nearby research center and senior village.

Proposed in 1962, the medical complex concept became known as Lakecrest General Hospital. There were multiple attempts by various groups to raise funds and obtain state certification. In 1976, voters approved a township-led project via non-binding referendum.

Lakecrest

Zampella’s father continued to chase his dream and by 1986 had joined with developers to pitch a $110 million long-term care center with residential cottages and on-site services.

By 1987, Idylease was slated for demolition. In response, elected officials established the township’s Historic Preservation Commission later that year. Its members moved in 1988 to have the home designated as historic and preserved from unapproved alterations. Issues that year at the local planning and zoning board later doomed the overarching effort.

The site today still operates as a boarding house for long-term occupants. Period furnishings adorn the rooms and guests have use of the large country kitchen and other common spaces in a congregate living setup.

Mostly preserved as it was designed, Zampella said it makes sense to use the inn to provide people a place to stay. Monthly rentals start at $800, including utilities, for rooms with basic furnishings and a half-bath.

“It really is a magical place,” he said. “The Newfoundland area and West Milford have such a rich history and Idylease stands as a daily reminder.”

This article originally appeared in north jersey.com at: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/passaic/west-milford/2019/08/22/west-milfords-1903-inn-where-thomas-edison-was-a-guest-seeks-historic-listing/2064469001/

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Idylease Heliport

Idylease

In 1972, executives from Warner Brother’s had a problem with one of the most popular attractions at Jungle Junction. The reptile house had an hourly show that featured highly poisonous snakes. The issue was that the handler was allergic to the anti-venom if he was bitten. Park management needed a find a method to quickly transport the handler to a medical treatment facility.

Warner Brothers contacted local physician Dr. Arthur Zampella and together, application was made to the Federal Aviation Administration for a heliport at Idylease. In the off possibility of a snake bite, the handler would be transported to Idylease and then flown by air to a trauma center where he would be treated by alternative methods.

The Idylease Helistop is a remnant of Jungle Habitat from 40 years ago and still maintains the FAA license. The heliport is currently used by the NJ State Police if major accidents occur in the area. Patients are transported to Idylease and flown to the nearest trauma center from the landing field.

For more information visit the Idylease Helistop Website at: http://njhelistop.com

Richard Zampella is the Owner & Operator of Idylease, a former resort hotel located in Newfoundland, NJ which is a historically significant example of early 20th century resort architecture in Northwest, New Jersey.

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Walking Tour of Idylease on Sunday September 24, 2017

Join us on Sunday September 24th at 1PM, for a walking tour of Idylease. The Greenpond History Association invites you to a gathering at the Historic Landmark located at 124 Union Valley Road in Newfoundland, NJ. The tour will be hosted by Richard Zampella who is the owner & operator of Idylease. The tour will  highlight the role Idylease played in the early history of tourism in Newfoundland.

Construction of the Historic Landmark began in the summer of 1902 and took 8 months to complete. On New Year’s Day in 1903 Idylease opened her doors to the public, advertising the facility as a “Modern Heath Resort.” It had been the dream of owner, Dr. Edgar Day to construct a country escape where cheerful hospitality reigned for persons “wearied or worn with the ceaseless turmoil of the city.”

Idylease Walking Tour
Join us on Sunday October 24th at 1:00, for a walking our of Idylease. The Greenpond History Association invites you to a gathering at the Historic Landmark located at 124 Union Valley Road in Newfoundland, NJ.
Edgar Day was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, but was no stranger to the area. His family owned a summer house on Dunkers Pond off Paradise Road for many years. As a young man Edgar spent his summers exploring the Newfoundland area. It no doubt made an impression on him, even after the family sold the summer home to the North Jersey Water Company that was acquiring land to build the water system for the City of Newark, NJ.

 

A graduate of the Long Island School of Medicine, Dr. Day choose to return to Newfoundland, as the spot to build his facility. He purchased 112 acres from the family that owned & operated Brown’s Hotel. At the turn of the 20th century. The Brown family owned a parcel of land in Newfoundland that exceeded 1,000 acres. There he set about the task of constructing an Inn that would maintain the most modern mechanical & sanitary systems that could be devised for the time.

Dr. Day was a proponent of “Nature Cures” whereby regular diet, scientifically administered baths, massage and exercise could cure a myriad of ailments. Dr. Day would employ a staff of Norwegian-trained massage therapists, and maintain facilities for the “most approved scientific apparatus for administering baths, sprays, and douches.” Potential guests, in the accepted social order of the day, were reassured by the policy boldly stated on the first page of the brochure: “Hebrew Patronage Not Solicited.” Idylease’s prohibition of tubercular cases reflected modern understanding of tuberculosis as a transmissible infection caused by bacteria.

Tragically, Dr Edgar Day would only live 4 years after the completion of Idylease, but his nephew George would continue on as the General Manager of the hotel until his retirement in 1920. Dr. Daniel Drake who had been the resident physician at Idylease after Days death, would go on to purchase the property from the Estate of Dr. Edgar Day. Also practicing medicine at Idylease was Dr.  Leo B. Drake, Daniels brother who was a 1917 graduate of the Harvard School of Medicine.

The Inn would flourish for several decades until the advent of the automobile would render the area obsolete as a tourist destination. The railroad, which had maintained a schedule of 13 station stops per day to Newfoundland, was facing an uncertain future. No longer tied the rails as the sole means of transportation, travelers could now drive to more distant locales such as the Adirondacks or the Poconos. At the peak of the tourism industry in Newfoundland, there where a dozen or so hotel that catered to the tourists that had flocked to the area. Most notable was; Brown’s Hotel, The Green Pond Hotel, and the Hotel Belair.

Dr. Drake saw the necessity in to keep the Inn functioning and in the mid 1930s, he concentrated to the needs of those suffering from Tuberculosis. It is ironic that after Idylease had prohibited tubercular cases for many years, it would cater exclusively to the disease. This change was a result of the failing tourism industry. The Inn would go on to be listed as one of several prominent Tubercular Sanitoriums on the East Coast. With the development of the TB vaccine, Dr Drake set about to treat those that had already been infected prior the vaccine. Slowly the patient base began to dissipate and Idylease would fall on hard times. Dr. Drake would shutter Idylease in 1943 an he passed away in 1951. Idylease would sit vacant for a period of ten years with the windows boarded up and its plumbing shattered.

Dr. Arthur Zampella had graduated from the Boston University School of Medicine in 1943. He had always had an interest in geriatric care and the elderly. It was his wish to find a facility where he could practice medicine and serve the needs of an aging population. As a lifelong scholar, Zampella’s interest in this area were reflected in his authorship of many published medical articles, chapters and books on various aspects of aging, care of the elderly, as well as ethical, socio-economic and philosophic discussion in these fields. In a article entitled, “Sampling of the Attitudes of the Aged,” Zampella explored the dilemma of the aging process whereby the elderly are characteristically striped of their social identities after being admitted to a nursing homes. He felt that a sterile environment, devoid of a homelike atmosphere reduced life expectancy. For many years he searched for a facility that would meet his vision and in 1954, he was introduced  to Idylease. Dr. Zampella purchased Idylease from the Estate of Dr. Daniel Drake and and converted Idylease into a Nursing Home. The renovated facility maintained a staff of 11 doctors and employed 65 people. Idylease Nursing home closed in 1972. Dr. Zampella operated Idylease as a congregate living facility until his death in 1992.

From 1992 to 2016 Idylease languished in uncertainty until the property was purchased by Richard Zampella, the son of Dr. Arthur Zampella. Since then, the estate has seen a resurgence with various restoration projects conducted on the structure.

 

 
Contact Information: GreenPondHistory@yahoo.com
Phone: 973-545-2282,
On Facebook@Green Pond History Association
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