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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Fairy Tale Forest


Of all the attractions and that have existed in West Milford, few were more beloved than Fairly Tale Forest in Oak Ridge, NJ. Whether a class trip or family outing to the park, it was a long awaited and much anticipated event for generations of children. For many years you could spot Fairy Tale Forest Bumper Stickers on Highways all around the Tri-State Area.

The story of Fairy Tale Forest began in 1955 when Paul Woehle, Sr., a German immigrant, built Fairy Tale Forest. The cottages were all designed and made by Woehle and his two sons. There were kiddie rides, magic shows, story-telling, and roaming costumed characters. In addition, there was a gift/candy shop and snack bar in the main building.

A winding path led guests through the woods, and along the way they were able to glimpse key moments from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. More than 20 cottages sat nestled in the trees, their interiors depicting tableaus from the most famous children’s stories. Woehle completed his project in two years, and it opened to the public in 1957.

In winter, the forest was decorated to bursting with lights, transforming it into a winter wonderland the likes of which can nowadays rarely be found outside of story books. Those visiting the forest in winter could expect to be greeted by Frosty the Snowman and a cup of hot chocolate. Santa Claus awaited eager youngsters in his Christmas House, and gently interrogated each for his or her Christmas wishes

In many ways the 1950s and 1960s were golden years at the park, and it was filled with locals, summer residents and folks visiting for the day. Fairy Tale Forest was a favorite spot for school, business and church outings. The park seemed to fill a perfect niche at Oak Ridge .

But America was changing and by the 1970s, Fairy Tale Forest was feeling the competition from larger parks as well as the slowing of the baby boom. Other parks had already succumbed –Jungle Habitat closed in 1976 and Acton Park appeared with it’s Alpine Slide and Water Park. Visitors began to feel that the attraction was becoming dated and in 2003 the dwindling visitors eventually forced the park to close.

In 1993, pop star Mariah Carey utilized the park as a location for the music video, ”All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Outdoor scenes were shot at the Fairy Tale Forest, where Carey’s then-husband Tommy Mottola made a cameo appearance as Santa Claus

Today, there is talk that in a dark patch of woods scattered with bits of decomposing nostalgia. Against what seems like all odds, Fairytale Forest may be reborn in 2016, with the grounds once again helmed by a member of the founding family. Those who remember Fairytale Forest as it was may bring have the opportunity to bring their own children to experience the wonder found in that patch of woods in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.

Original Antiquities Echoes Article Appears at: https://antiquityechoes.blogspot.com/2011/07/fairytale-forest.html

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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


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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