Idylease: It’s Role in Tourism at the Turn of the Century in West Milford, NJ. A Multi-Media Presentation at The West Milford Township Public Library on March 12, 2020 at 7PM

West Milford Public Library
Idylease: It’s Role in Tourism at the Turn of the Century in West Milford, NJ. A Multi-Media Presentation at The West Milford Township Public Library on March 12, 2020 at 7PM

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, West Milford township was a major resort destination in New Jersey. At its height, the area had over forty hotels and boarding houses that catered to the tourists that flocked to the area for its magnificent scenery and healthful climate. Since the turn-of-the-century, West Milford attracted visitors for its rustic beauty and natural resources. It’s approximately eighty square miles of mountains and lakes have delighted visitors for more than a century. In the mid-1800s, renowned Hudson River School painter Jasper F. Cropsey, captured many West Milford landscapes in their autumnal splendor. He married West Milford resident Maria Cooley at the WM Presbyterian Church in 1847.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many resorts opened in the township and railroads brought wealthy vacationers from New York City to enjoy the countryside. The transportation revolution of the mid 1920’s, caused tourism to decline in this part of New Jersey, with other, more distant locations rising in popularity.

Around the turn of the century, the City of Newark, NJ systematically acquired large parcels of land until it owned close to a third of West Milford. The City’s Master Plan called for the razing of buildings that were on the watershed preserve, including most of the hotels and resorts. It was their goal to ensure there would be no development or contamination of the many reservoirs in the area that supply the drinking water for resident of the city. Of all the hotels that once graced the region, only one, the resort hotel know as Idylease remains standing as proof of a once thriving tourism industry.

Opened on New Years’s Day in 1903, Idylease thrived during 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 sits amid pastoral country in the foot hills of the Kittatinny Mountains in the Highlands Region of NJ.

Idylease, with its prominent central gable, was opened in 1902 by Brooklyn doctor Edgar Arthur Day who billed the Inn as “a modern health resort, delightful in autumn.” Visitors described it as a “haven of rest” whose “masseuses are among the best in the country” and where fine meals were served in the 46 room hotel’s main dining room.

Idylease attracted a variety of prominent guests, including Thomas Edison. Based in West Orange, Edison opened a self-named mine near Sussex County’s Franklin-Ogdensburg mining district in 1889. When making the trip across North Jersey, Idylease marked the half-way point to the mine from his lab in the Oranges. Edison would have his car serviced at a local garage and spend the night at Idylease before continuing onto the mine the following morning. His plan was to harvest a previously overlooked pocket of lower-quality ore on Sparta Mountain, break up the rock on conveyor belts and suck out the iron with electromagnets.

Other noted guests include: Joseph French Johnson, Dean of New York University’s School of Commerce, who hoped to salve his ill health but died there on January 19, 1925. 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. The Inn’s guestbook reveals the names of famous politicians, including New Jersey’s first female congresswoman, Mary T. Norton.

At the peak of the once thriving tourism industry in West Milford, NJ, tourists 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 city. As Early as 1857, tourists accessed the area by stagecoach when John P. Brown, proprietor of Browns Hotel in Newfoundland instituted coach service to from Paterson with a stop in Newfoundland. The Paterson and Deckertown stage got off to an auspicious start and operated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Agent John P. Brown advertised “Good coaches, fine horses and careful drivers”. The approximately 40-mile trip from Paterson to Deckertown was a bumpy ride along the old Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike. Individuals who wanted to make the trip left Paterson about 10 a.m. Nearly four hours later, they reached Brown’s Hotel in Newfoundland. An untold number of North Jersey residents considered a trip from the Highlands to Paterson something equivalent to a trip across the continent.

A tourists account of his visit to West Milford was recorded by E. Hewitt, an English traveler from London in 1819. It tells of his visit to Brown’s Hotel, two years after its completion:

“This afternoon, completely drenched with rain, we stayed at a tavern newly erected, in a village called Newfoundland. Here we procured a small private room and a good fire, dried our clothes, and got tea very comfortably. Our landlord, a very intelligent man, spent the evening with us, and related several interesting anecdotes of General Washington, with whom he was personally acquainted. I observed he was always addressed with the title of Squire, being a magistrate.

Bears, deer, and wolves are very numerous in this neighborhood in the fall. A barn not exceeding 60 feet by 30 costs here about $125.00; shingles or wood tiles,15 to 20 dollars per thousand. The whip-poor-will we heard for the first time at this place, repeating its plaintive notes through the whole night.

Our accommodations at this place were very comfortable. and our charge, including hay, one peck of Indian corn, our room, fuel, liquor, one pound of butter, what milk we chose and tar and tallow for our wagon, three quarters of a dollar. I gave our kind host one dollar, which he accepted with reluctance; and at our setting off, he prepared us a quantity of egg-nog, a mixture of apple spirits, eggs and milk. Terrible roads still, and the bridges over the small streams nothing more than poles laid across”.

Although many brave tourists did access the the natural resources of West Milford by coach, by the turn of the century, the railroad became the preferred method to frequent the many resorts that adorned the area. Destinations such as Brown’s Hotel, Idylease, The Hotel Bel Air and the Green Pond Hotel catered to the burgeoning tourists that flocked to the area for its scenic beauty and healthy climate. The 1920’s also marked the height of passenger service provided by the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway to the Newfoundland Station. Thirteen passenger trains in each direction stopped at Newfoundland Station on a daily basis. The Great depression struck in October 1929 and lasted well into the late 1930’s and the growth of tourism began to decline. 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 by Henry Ford in the 1930s rendered the passenger railroad obsolete, making more distant locales such as the Poconos and the Adirondack accessible by car. Passenger service ceased completely by 1966.

idylease-1902
Bonneted Ladies and Jacketed Gentlemen on The Great Lawn at Idylease

The great lawns at the Idylease, once a place where bonneted ladies and jacketed gentlemen relaxed and played croquet, now serves as a landing pad for medivac helicopters under the supervision of the West Milford Office of Emergency Management. Idylease was the first property named on West Milford Township’s list of historic sites, and the last of more than a dozen similar facilities that stood in town during the tourism heyday of the early-20th century.

Idylease was initially advertised in 1908 as a modern health resort, offering “All Forms of Hydro-Therapy and Massage.” Idylease was a “quiet, homelike place for Semi-Invalids, Convalescents, Neurasthenics, and Mild Cases of Cardiac, Nephritic and Stomachic Troubles, and for those desiring change of environment. No Tubercular or Objectionable Cases.” The resident physician and superintendent from 1906 until 1943 was Dr. D.E. Drake. A brochure published in about 1930 stressed the round-the-clock availability of staff physicians, Norwegian-trained massage therapists, and 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.

By the late 1930s Dr. Drake understood that declining tourism required the facility to adapt to advances in medical science in order to ensure the future of Idylease. Idylease’s initial prohibition of tubercular cases reflected modern understanding of tuberculosis as a transmissible infection caused by bacteria. Robert Koch in Germany first isolated the tubercle bacillus in 1882, although it took some years for the medical community to fully accept the infectious nature of the disease. By 1940, Drake conceded to accept guests suffering from Tuberculosis. With this change, Idylease would established itself as one of the most prominent Tubercular Sanitoriums on the East Coast. With the subsequent development of the TB vaccine around 1927, Dr Drake treated patient that had already been infected prior the vaccine. Throughout the 1940s the number of tubercular patients slowly began to decline and Idylease would face an uncertain future. Dr. Drake would shutter Idylease in 1943 and he would pass away in 1951. Idylease would sit vacant for a period of thirteen 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 an article entitled, “Sampling of the Attitudes of the Aged,” Zampella explored the dilemma of the aging process whereby the elderly are striped of their social identities after being admitted to a nursing home. He felt that a sterile environment, devoid of a homelike atmosphere reduced life expectancy. For many years Zampella had searched for a facility suitable to realize his vision for extended geriatric care 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. #westmilford #history #tourism #public #library

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The Origin of “Paradise”

Students at Paradise Knoll School — Do they know where the school derived its name from?

I attended Paradise Knoll Elementary School from 1971-1977. I have many fond memories of my time there as well as a student. I also have wonderful memories of the various events that took place on Friday nights as a member of Cub Scout Pack 44 and Kathy Rupp as my den leader.

Dr. Arthur Zampella, Cubmaster
Dr Arthur Zampella was the Cub-Master of Cub Scout Troop 44 in Newfoundland, NJ

The most anticipated scouting event in the gym was the annual pinewood derby with the track set up from the stage down onto the gym floor. I had the added benefit of having my dad as the cubmaster. I remember him playing Santa Claus every year at the holiday party.

It never dawned on me in my years while at Paradise Knoll, the origins of either Paradise Road nor the namesake school that educated local children for many years. I seems to me that current day perception of the geographic center of Paradise is the development of homes and the surrounding vicinity of the elementary school. In fact, the namesake of Paradise has it’s origins quite deep into the interior of current day Newark Watershed property on the eastern periphery of Dunkers Pond. As you will read further down the page, Anthony Ludlow Day established a homestead deep in the heart of Paradise. In the coming weeks I intend to hike into the area in hopes of locating the homestead site. Anthony Ludlow Day was the father of Dr. Edgar Day who would go on to build Idylease in the summer of 1902.

I do not recall any block of instruction that addressed it’s history or any block of instruction on general local history. As a 1984 graduate of West Milford High School there was never any discussion or curriculum about West Milford history.

As a preservationist and one keenly interested in the past, I thought I might share some early history that was provided to me by Beth Willis whose family relatives hailed from the area during the mid 20th century. Beth is a wonderful resource of written and oral history, and has written a 639 page manuscript which chronicles some of the families that had lived on Paradise Road. A copy of the manuscript entitled “The Inhabitants of the Neighborhood…… A Pictorial History of Snufftown, now Stockholm, Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey and it Vicinity” has been donated by her to the West Milford Public Library as a reference source material.

Anthony Ludlow Day

The following excerpt is re-published  from Author Beth Willis’ manuscript.

The Origins of Paradise

Paradise was a name given to a small community of farmers living in the foothills of the Ramapo Moutains in West Milford Township. It was a very remote area. The name was derived from the Angle family, or Angel as some old timers called them, that first settled in the area. Elizabeth S. Day gave an account of Paradise from an explanation given to her by her mother, Elizabeth Strait Day. Elizabeth Day was a descendant of John Angle whose brother Samuel Angle settled in the hills of West Milford. “At one time, there was living on the hill, not only the Angle family, but a family named McCloud. A Methodist preacher holding services at the Clinton School house humorously described them in a letter to his father, ‘I preached until the Angels and the Clouds met. It was he who thought that the earthly dwelling place of these celestial beings’ should bear the name of Paradise”. The name has since adhered to the community.

There were farmers in this area whose descendants had intermarried with several generations living on their ancestral lands. They were William Kimble, Samuel Angle, Silas VanOrden, William Cole, William Wagoner, John Stickles, and Charles Card. Anthony Ludlow Day saw possibilities of establishing a large farm in the area as well. Home sites for these families were shown on the 1861 Hopkins map of West Milford Township.

Two descendants of these families eventually wrote extensive histories. One being Elizabeth S. Day about the “Life of Anthony Ludlow Day 1818-1898” written Dec. 25, 1918. The other being “A History of the Old Days” by Ella V. Card which was a compilation of her notes she kept of her family, and typewritten by her daughter, Dessel K. Fehr, in November 1974. It is from these family histories that this information is based upon. They make delightful reading as to the insight of their lives and times.

The lands in West Milford Township were subject to the land acquisitions by the East Jersey Water Company for building the Clinton Reservoir. Later, the City of Newark acquired additional lands to insure the quality of the water be free from pollution. Most of the area consisted of small farms of poor farmers who were willing to sell their lands. There were only a few properties that the owners refused to sell to the City of Newark. Though the lands in West Milford were not researched, the history of the area is based on the writings of Elizabeth S. Day and Ella V. Card.

The Road to Paradise

From the Day photo collection is a picture of the Day homestead. The photograph was taken by J.P. Crayon, probably in the 1880’s.

Just below the lands of Silas B. Day was a fork in the road. The fork to the left was the Canistear Road, and the fork to the right was called Dunker Pond Road. It was a very windy road and made a few sharp curves that eventually led to the Paradise Road bounding on the east lines of Anthony L. Day’s property. Then, it intersected with the Paradise Road that is a north- south road which traveling southerly one would come into the Newfoundland area.

From “Life of Anthony L. Day”, by Elizabeth S. Day is an account of the Dunker Pond Road. When writing the history of her father, Elizabeth visited the homestead, and along the route took photographs to preserve its history. These pictures ware part of the Strait and Walther Photo Collections taken about 1910-1915.

Elizabeth wrote, “The highway from Stockholm ran through the middle of the low grounds and right across, or through a perpetual pool of water, which father and mother, after reading Pilgrim’s Progress, had named ‘the Slough of Despond’. “Tons of logs and stones and other material had been dumped into this pool to make a causeway over which teams could pass, but additional material was always needed to make the road safe. Occasionally one of our cows became mired in the pool beside the road and could be extricated only with the greatest difficulty. Once father sought to measure the depth of the pool. Three iron rods, each twelve feet long, were let down by the side of the road and screwed together as they were lowered. The extended rod, thus made was thirty- six feet long, failed to touch bottom! Through father’s influence, the county afterward placed a substantial bridge over the ‘Slough of Despond’.

1861 Map showing the location of the Day Homestead & “Origin of Paradise”

Continuing easterly on the road, one would come to Dunker Pond. Elizabeth wrote, “Thinking to reclaim more of this fertile land, father spent about fifteen hundred dollars in blasting out the rocks which formed a natural dam at the outlet of Dunker Pond. Because of this work, done at the suggestion and under the superintendence of Edgar, the surface of the pond was lowered about three feet and the draining of the valley rendered more complete”.

As one continued across the low ground toward Paradise, “the road came to the foot of the large hill on the eastern side of the valley, and then climbed abruptly up to the farmhouse, which stood about a hundred feet higher than the valley below. This long hill had always taxed the strength of horses, and drivers were obligated to halt their teams for rest two or three times on each upward journey. Another appropriate name was borrowed from Pilgrim’s Progress and this long, tedious pull from the low grounds became the ‘Hill of Difficulty’.

© & ™ 2017 – Beth Willis

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On the 25th Year Anniversary: Dr Arthur Zampella

 

Dr Arthur Zampella
Arthur Zampella, Robert Lax and Barry Ulanov Editors of the Columbia Review in 1938

My dad worked as a tour guide in Rockefeller Center while he was a pre-med student at Columbia University. He knew John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who would ask him about his studies. As a child he would stand me before the tablet in Rockefeller Center and read to me the credo he believed in from a man he knew.

“I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.”

Life is a series of moments – and as time passes some moments are indelibly seared in our memory. Some moment we can plan for, but the ones that hit us on idle Wednesday are usually the most unexpected and significant.

The last time I saw him at the age of 25, I remember wishing he were young and vibrant like the photographs I had seen of him as a young man.

For all intent and purpose, I was raised by the grandfather I never had. Arthur Dante Louis Zampella was born to Filomna & Erminio Zampella in Jersey City, NJ in 1917. I was raised with an appreciation of a different era. The influences of fashion, music and history were from a different time. Something I would not fully appreciate until I grew older.

Time has a way of making you forget some things, but I can recall that moment 25 years ago as if it were yesterday. Standing beside his lifeless body and knowing that whatever life force that made the man I adored stir… was no longer with me or within him.

I dream sometimes that I see a figure in the distance on the grounds at Idylease. I think it is him as my mind is prone to play tricks on me. As I approach, it is not him… but rather a stranger. A painful reminder that he is no longer with me. He did not leave me willingly.

As I sit at Idylease on this eve of this anniversary. The words he spoke to me two days before he left
are still with me. “One day you will own Idylease and your vision for the property will become true.”

Most people I speak with that have lost a parent often tell you that there is no such thing as closure, or “getting over it”. Closure would mean forgetting the past and moving forward, For me, the loss itself reinforces my compassion, especially when I see others lose a loved one. Even though you may fill that void, you will never touch, or talk again. It becomes a part of who you are – like where you grew up or remembering reading a good book or a seeing a play.

We should always tell those close to us how we feel about them, even if they have heard it from us before. Tell them why you love them, speak with them like it’s the first time – and the last time.

Moments matter.

Richard Zampella
On the 25th Anniversary of the Death of
Arthur Dante Louis Zampella

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