In 1901, the Brooklyn Borough changed its name to Hopatcong. As with any “hot” resort, Lake Hopatcong was a magnet for many of the “rich and famous” of the day. The most famous female actress of her day, Lotta Crabtree, had a home built here in the 1880’s. Hudson Maxim, noted scientist and inventor, came here at the turn of the century and built a large estate in the borough of Hopatcong. During the heyday of Vaudeville and Burlesque, the Lake became a favorite rest stop for performers during the summer when most theaters closed, particularly in Hopatcong’s Northwood section.
Bud Abbot, Bert Lahr, and Milton Berle were among the many show business people to spend considerable time at the Lake. The center for much of this activity was Joe Cook’s Sleepless Hollow in Hopatcong’s Davis Cove. Cook was a popular Vaudevillian, comedian and musical theater star who lived at the Lake from 1924 to 1941. Among other amenities, his home boasted a nine hole golf course, two bars, and tennis courts at which celebrities could usually be found.
Lake Hopatcong’s run as a major northeast hotel resort lasted from the 1880’s through the Depression. Ultimately, the terrible economy of the 1930’s, the development of the automobile, which led people to seek more exotic destinations, and the onset of World War II led most of the Lake’s hotels to close. The few that survived slowly closed in the ensuing decades, with the final operating hotel burning to the ground in 1972.
As with any resort, recreation played an important role in the Lake’s development. Numerous clubs and organizations have operated on the Lake since the 1880’s. The Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club opened its colonial clubhouse, which still stands, on Bertrand Island in 1910. Hopatcong’s Maxim Park Yacht Club is long gone but its clubhouse still stands as a private home on Cow Tongue Point. The Garden State Yacht Club, in Hopatcong, started in an old lakeside mansion and one-time hotel. Unfortunately, fire stole that building but the Club rebuilt and occupies the same site on Point Pleasant.
With the economic Depression of the 30’s, people no longer “weekend-ed” at the Lake in large numbers. The Grand Hotels around the Lake started closing, including the last one in Landing: The Silver Springs Park House. Though the Hotels were gone, a number of restaurants around the Lake became popular, including ‘The Westmoreland Dining Room’ on Landing Rd, which was operated by Johnny Apostolik, brother of Walter Apostolik, the editor of ‘The Lake Hopatcong Breeze’. Johnny served both local residents, as well as “Show Business Folks” who either vacationed at the Lake or who were performing in Summer Stock.
Some of the ‘Summer tryouts for Broadway took place at the “Lakeside Summer Theatre,” located in the building that now houses Leber-Lakeside Funeral Home on Landing Road. Some of the shows here from the 1930’s through the 1950’s were directed by Herbert Machiz, a Broadway theater director, who though not well-known to the public, was highly regarded by leading actors of the day. It is said that summer performers here included Jackie Coogan, John Carradine & Bela Lugosi. One of the regular summer performers during this era was Orson Wells, who reportedly maintained an active running ‘tab’ at an area bar.