The Indoor Pool at Idylease

Idylease Indoor Pool

Idylease was widely advertised around the turn of the century as a modern health resort, offering “All Forms of Hydro-Therapy and Massage.” Idylease was established as “quiet, homelike facility with a staff of physicians that made referrals from their respective practices based in Brooklyn, NY.” The facility boasted Norwegian-trained massage therapists, and the “most approved scientific apparatus for administering baths, sprays, and douches.”

The original Hydrotherapy suite (pictured above) where baths were administered to alleviate symptoms of overeating, drinking or for various nervous ailments. After a hydrotherapy session, the now relaxed guest could seek simple pleasures like a game of billiards, reading before Idylease’s impressive hearth during the winter. For communicating with the outside world, the Hotel was equipped with telephones, but most guests relied upon the more conventional, letter or postcard.

On September 3, 1909, E. O. Wakley used one of Idylease’s hand-tinted postcards to write a friend. Wakley spoke of strong wind and nippy 48 degree weather, but indoors, radiant heat, sunshine, and “hot boxes in the treatment room” prevailed. “I’m improving. steadily,” Wakley wrote, and “hope to be my old self some day!”

idylease-poolAs time passed Idylease developed a reputation primarily as a medical facility. In 1954, Dr. Arthur D. Zampella purchased Idylease and converted the resort into a nursing home.

For therapeutic purposes, he constructed a pool in the basement in the space formally occupied by the hydrotherapy suite. Many local resident of West Milford Township learned to swim as part of a YMCA program that utilized the indoor pool at Idylease. The West Milford Township Police Department also utilized the pool in the 1970s and 80s to train for scuba rescue.

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Idylease: What’s in a Name?

idylease inn

For many years two stories have circulated about how Idylease derived its name.

Names for historic structures and landmarks give the people that live in the area a sense of place and speak to those locations and their particular place in time.

Several different explanations prevail about the naming of Idylease. Let’s first determine what is known for certain. Originally the area where Idylease is located was part of a 1,000 acre parcel that was owned by Theodore Brown who established Brown’s Hotel in Newfoundland in 1855. Dr. Edgar Day, a Brooklyn physician, along with 11 other investors built Idylease in 1902-1903. It was a place where cheerful hospitality reigned for persons “wearied or worn with the ceaseless turmoil of the city.” Originally, Idylease was planned as both a vacation spa and resort hotel.

Mention in a 1903 guidebook, yields an entry where State Rt. 23 crosses the Pequonnock River and the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad, narrowing the run between the parallel Pequonnock and a shale escarpment. This is a region of small lakes off the main highway, exploited by real-estate development companies as “The Idyl A While of the East”. Did Idylease derive its name from the locale of this reference? Or… does it’s name originate from the combination of syllables that include: Idyll“an extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque episode or scene, typically an idealized or unsustainable one” and Ease“absence of difficulty or effort” as in ease of living? Somewhat of a literary romantic, it is also believed that Edgar Day named the resort after Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King,” an epic poem about Camelot and the legendary King Arthur’s court.

The background story of the naming of Idylease may never be known for certain and has probably died along with those who built the structure at the turn of the century.

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Jasper Cropsey Painted Extensively in West Milford, NJ

Boat Caulking on Greenwood Lake 1852. Jasper Francis Cropsey Oil Painting

Cropsey met Maria Cooley at her home in West Milford, NJ, located on Greenwood Lake, an area that he would paint views of many times in his career.

Jasper Cropsey was a prominent American landscape artist of the Hudson River School of painting. Known as “Frank” to those most close to him, he was born in 1823 on a farm in Rossville, Staten Island. Cropsey was a young prodigy in visual arts. Drawing pictures and building models from handmade tools, Frank became a local celebrity at the age of 13 when the model house he built won first prize at the Mechanic’s Institute Fair of 1837. He was then known locally as the “boy that built the house.”

By 14 years of age, Frank was an apprentice architect for Joseph Trench’s firm in Manhattan. While working there, he discovered oil painting and as a teen would go to the National Academy of Design to view the paintings of his idol, Thomas Cole. At 19, he began to experiment in oil painting, teaching himself after hours in Mr. Trench’s office. Soon he had developed to the point that he was exhibited at the National Academy, where his early paintings hung along side those of Cole, Asher B. Durand, and other early Hudson River School artists. At 21 he was the youngest Associate Member ever elected to the National Academy, and soon left architecture behind (for a while) to concentrate on becoming a full-time landscape painter.

Cropsey met Maria Cooley at her home in West Milford, NJ, located on Greenwood Lake, an area that he would paint views of many times in his career. They married in 1846 and in 1847 sailed for Europe, traveling in England, Scotland, Switzerland, and France, but spending the bulk of their time abroad in Italy, where the Cropseys rented an apartment and studio in Rome. For the rest of his career, Cropsey would create oil paintings of Italian scenes based on the many sketches and studies he did in the two year period spent in Rome.

Returning to America in 1849, Cropsey’s career blossomed and he was soon regarded as one of the leading lights of the Hudson River School in the 1850’s, along with Frederic Church, John Kensett, Asher Durand, and others. In 1856, the Cropseys returned to Europe, this time living in London and traveling throughout England. His time in England was marked by the completion of Autumn-On the Hudson River, his seminal landscape painting now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as well as he and Maria being presented to Queen Victoria at St. James Palace in 1861.

Back in America in 1863, Cropsey’s career continued to flourish and the 1860’s proved to be his most successful decade in terms of painting sales and income. By the end of the 1860’s, however, the Hudson River School began to lose its popularity by the early 1870’s would be completely out of favor in the art world. 1876 marked Cropsey’s last major successful painting, The Old Mill, now in the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA. In the early 1880’s the Cropseys were dangerously close to having their home, Aladdin, in Warwick, NY foreclosed upon as poor painting sales greatly impacted their finances. They managed to sell their palatial estate and auctioned off many paintings, furniture, and household possessions in preparation to move to a smaller house.

In 1885 the Cropseys moved to Hastings on Hudson, first renting a home, then later purchasing the house at 49 Washington Avenue, which Cropsey named “Ever Rest.” Jasper and Maria lived the rest of their lives at Ever Rest, living quietly and not traveling much, if at all. Cropseys paintings done in this time were either local views or views based on the hundreds of sketches he had completed through the years. Jasper died at Ever Rest in 1900 at the age of 77, and Maria, his wife of 54 years, passed away in 1906.

Bio Courtesy of the Newington Cropsey Museum

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