Thomas Edison’s most noteworthy contribution to the Franklin-Ogdensburg mining district was to serve as a innovator in mining and milling methods, including new techniques in blasting, conveying, crushing, and magnetic separation. His renowned electrical and telephone systems were employed in Franklin and Ogdensburg at an early time.
F. Fichter Hoagan, the facilities manager at Idyleaase for Dr. Daniel Drake often reminisced of the days when Edison would spend the evening at Idylease while working on a magnetic ore extracting device at the Franklin/Ogdensberg Mine. Newfoundland served as the half-way point between Edison’s lab in West Orange, NJ and he would stop to have his car serviced at a garage in Newfoundland. He would spend the night at Idylease before proceeding on to the Franklin mines. Edison was no stranger to Newfoundland. He had filmed scenes from “The Great Train Robbery” in Echo Lake.
CONGRESSWOMAN MARY T. NORTON
Mary Teresa Norton (March 7, 1875 – August 2, 1959) was an American politician. The sixth woman in the United States Congress, she was the first from an Eastern state (New Jersey), and the first non-Republican (she was a Democrat). She went on to serve an unprecedented 13 consecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1925 to 1951, and chaired four committees. She was a labor advocate and a supporter of women’s rights. During the late 1920’s Ms.Norton was a regular guest at Idylease.
HORATIO COLLINS KING
American Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient: Guest at Idylease in 1913 – Horatio Collins King (December 22, 1837 – November 15, 1918) was a Union Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the American Civil War. He also served as a U.S. lawyer, politician and author and was admitted to the bar in New York City in 1861. He served in the armies of the Potomac and Shenandoah during the Civil War from August 1862 until May 1865, when he resigned with the rank of brevet colonel. King earned the Medal of Honor for service near Dinwiddie Courthouse, Virginia, on March 31, 1865. King was the son of the Postmaster General of the United States under President James Buchanan.
WILLIAM B. HANNA
Although familiar with virtually all games in the realm of sports, William B. Hanna (1862–1930) specialized in sports writing in baseball and football. He was brought up in Kansas City and began his newspaper career with the Kansas “Star” but came to New York in 1888, joining the staff of the New York, “Herald.” He is widely considered one of the most noted sports writers of the period.
His style was noted for his eschewing of slang such as “swat, pill, horsehide”, etc. His choice of words were those less chosen, terse, precise, kind. His style was succinct, his knowledge encyclopedic. He always signed his copy, William B. Hanna, and became upset if anyone changed it.
DAVID BANKS SICKELS
David Banks Sickels (1837-1918) was a Civil War Correspondent, Fiscal Agent for the State of Arkansas, a Diplomatic Representative of Siam and Acting Consul of The Netherlands. With Lyman W. Griggs he founded the American Surety Company and upon his retirement, focused on literary work. He authored a prolific amount of poems, many of which were published in “Leaves of the Lotos” and “Flowers from the Wayside”.
Watch News 12 New Jersey Interview with Richard Zampella on Idylease in West Milford, NJ and its bid to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places with the Department of Interior in Washington, DC. Idylease, a turn-of-the-century health resort counted inventor Thomas Edison among its famous guests and is in the process of making its bid for the National Register.
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.
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.
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.”