October 2016: The 40th Anniversary of Jungle Habitat’s Last Season

jungle habitat

No large scale operation in West Milford history was locally derisive as Jungle Habitat. The park was a $10 million dollar theme park owned by Warner Bros. In the summer of 1972, the park had 500,000 visitors that paid $3.75 per adult and $2.00 per child to enter the attraction.

The park contained over 1,500 animals; it consisted of a drive-through section and a walk-through section. The drive-through section was an animal safari park and the walk-through amusement area was called Jungle Junction.

During its 4 year of operations, visitors from all over the globe visited the park. In fact, it is estimated that over 6 million people had visited Jungle Habitat in the four years it was open. Attendance was down by 1976 and Warner Brothers proposed to introduce some new entertainment options to the park by requesting an expansion variance from the Township of West Milford.

Warner Brothers wanted to build an amusement park on the South side of the property. The new area would feature a Ferris wheel, log flume ride and water features. The park closed at dusk, the newly proposed rides would be open during regular daytime operating hours. Residents within 500 feet of the proposed site protested and applied pressure to township officials. Township officials required approvals at the ride level rather than as one single plan. The zoning application was eventually withdrawn by Warner Brothers as they felt the residents and township committee were not supportive of the project. Add a $3.5 million dollar operating loss (since July of 1972) to that lack of support and a swift exit seemed very appealing. Warner chose to walk away from their 10 million dollar investment.

The Idylease Heliport & Jungle Habitat

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

Warner Brothers contacted local physician Dr. Arthur Zampella and together they made application 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 when traumatic accidents occur in the area. Patients are transported to Idylease and flown to the nearest trauma center from the landing field.

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The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway: The Susie Q, Tourists A-Plenty, Train Robberies & The Station Agent

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The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Provided Passenger Service to Newfoundland from 1891 until 1966

The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, also known as the Susie-Q, or simply the Susquehanna, was formed in 1881 from the merger of several smaller railroads. Passenger service, including commuter service from Northern New Jersey to New York City, was offered until 1966.

In 1871, the New Jersey Midland Railway, predecessor of the New York, Susquehanna & Western , began constructing a rail line between Newfoundland, NJ and Hackensack NJ. The line was part of a plan to connect with the New York & Oswego Midland (later New York, Ontario & Western) in Middletown, NY and provide rail service from the Great Lakes to New York Harbor.

The Susie-Q has had a very interesting past in its 125+ year history. The New York, Susquehanna & Western officially began as a culmination of six small railroads that had been hit hard by the Financial Panic of 1873; the Midland Connecting Railway, New Jersey Midland Railway, Northern Jersey Railway, Paterson Extension Railway, Pennsylvania Midland Railway, and the Water Gap Railroad. These companies dated as far back as the Hoboken, Ridgefield & Paterson Railroad of 1866 and were quite small, serving primarily the region around and just west of New York City in New Jersey and extreme eastern Pennsylvania. The new railroad was to be called the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company, founded in the summer of 1881 as a means of handling coal from eastern Pennsylvania to New York City.

At the peak of the once thriving tourism industry in Newfoundland, passengers could board a ferry at Debrosses Street in New York City and catch a train from Hackensack to Newfoundland to escape the confines of the urban overpopulation of the city. Guests utilized the Susquehanna to frequent to travel to the many resorts that adorned the Newfoundland area. Destinations such as Brown’s Hotel, Idylease and the Green Pond Hotel catered to the burgeoning tourists that flocked to the area for its scenic beauty and heathly climate. The 1920’s also marked the height of passenger service provided by the NYS&W at the Newfoundland Station. Thirteen passenger trains in each direction stopped at Newfoundland Station on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the Great depression struck in October 1929 and lasted well into the late 1930’s and the growth slowed dramatically. In 1937, the NYS&W declared bankruptcy and shortly thereafter was spun off from its parent, the Erie Railroad, which had controlled it since 1898. Also, the mass production of the automobile in the 1930s rendered the railroad someone obsolete with more distant locales such as the Poconos and the Adirondack more desirable to travel by car. Passenger service ceased completely by 1966.

In 1973, a ten mile section of unused New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad trackage running between Newfoundland and Beaver Lake, New Jersey was leased for an excursion train ride that advertised itself as the great train robbery. (Actors portraying Jesse and Frank James boarded the train from horseback and demanded fake money to give the two masked robbers). The excursion remained successful for a number of years. However, on December 14, 1980 the last two runs from Newfoundland left the station and returned for the final time. The closure was caused by a decline in visitors in the late 1970s, mostly due to national economic declines and the gas shortage, in addition to increasing costs and major repairs necessary to keep the steam locomotives operating.

the station agentIn 2003, The Station Agent an American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tom McCarthy. Was filmed along the former tracks of the Susquehanna in Newfoundland. It stared Peter Dinklage as a man who seeks solitude in an abandoned train station in the Newfoundland.

Today, the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway serves as a freight line with 85 customers and has a diverse traffic base ranging from lumber/building materials, plastics, paper and chemicals to aggregates and food grade products. The railroad also offers the option of bulk transfer facilities. It is now larger, hauls more tonnage, and is more profitable than it ever was at any point in its more than 130 year history.

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Newfoundland’s Oldest Home: DeMouth-Snyder House

peter snyder house newfoundland, nj

Perhaps the oldest home still standing in Newfoundland is located on Green Pond Road. The original section of the house was erected in 1732 by a member of the DeMouth (DeMont) family. There is a strong possibility that the family had originally built a log cabin before constructing the substantial stone cottage. In that era, the family would have shared the land with tribes associated with the Lenni Lenape Indians.

For years the home was referred to as the “Stone Cottage” and there must have been quite a settlement in Newfoundland prior to 1730, or a structure of that kind would not have been undertaken.

These lands would be inherited by the wife of Peter Snyder, who expanded the house in 1773. Several generations later, the Cole, Davenport, Brown, Eckhart and Kanouse families would emigrate to Newfoundland from England & Germany. A sister of Leonard Cole married Israel Holley and verbal history in 1902 suggested that the Indians carried away one of their children, who grew up with the local tribe.

The local 19th century historian, J.P. Crayon reasoned that Dutch settlers came to Newfoundland as early as 1715 because of the existence of records that indicated that Dutch ministers were dispatched to Newfoundland and held services throughout the region. Those same ministers would eventually organize the First Baptist Church of Newfoundland and The Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge.

The towns of Clinton and Charlotteburg would also be included on the circuit where ministers would visit. The village of Clinton derived its name from Sir Henry Clinton (c. 1738-1795) who was a British general in the American Revolutionary War and a veteran of the French and Indian War.

The Town of Charlotteburg was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 1744 – 1818) who was the wife of King George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her marriage from 1761 until 1818. A Revolutionary War Furnace still remains submerged under the Charlotteburg Reservoir which had been built in 1768 and was operated by Hessian soldiers. Many of these Hessians remained in the area after the war and settled at Macopin, where they established the first Catholic Church in New Jersey that would become St. Joseph’s.

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