Located in Breslin Park, the original summer lake cottage of actress Lotta Crabtree was built in 1886 and considered one of the more impressive structures in what once was a community of millionaires.
By the time Lotta Crabtree was 20 years old she had gained great fame and fortune as a comic actress. Her celebrity status could easily be compared to that of today’s Julia Roberts.
Attol Tryst (Attol is Lotta spelled backwards) is an impressive 20-room house designed by famed Philadelphian architect Frank Furness, who was known to combine styles. The Attol Tryst is a blend of the styles Queen Anne and Swiss Chalet. The house has had six owners over the years. Thanks to its current owners of the last two decades, Robert and Sherry O’Donnell, who painstakingly restored the house to its original design, it once again has the grace and grandeur of yesteryear. In fact, one could expect Lotta Crabtree herself to answer the original massive Dutch front door or meander down the homes elaborate walnut staircase. In the entrance way of the grand home is an ornate fireplace, complete with large gargoyles adorning each side of the structure.
“Honestly, I think this fireplace is what sold my husband on the house,” said Sherry O’Donnell.
The O’Donnells restored woodwork, walnut paneled walls, doors, hardware, light fixtures and other original items in the house. What could not be restored was milled or reproduced as a replica or to fit the era of the structure. Although the garage looks like an original structure to the site, it was built by Robert, who included details that make it fit perfectly into the architectural design of the house.
Over the years, items-which were part of the original structure or décor of the home had been sold or destroyed by previous owners. With the help of Marty Kane, President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Society, some of those precious items have returned “home”.
“We were so happy to find the original stain glass windows which lined the staircase. We plan to put them back in their original place by reconfiguring the windows,” said O’Donnell.
Another great find was Crabtree’s own billiard table, which was the focal point of her game room. The game table was actually attached to the wood floor back in 1886.
“It came back to us in pieces. But with a lot of work it looks like it once did,” said O’Donnell.
Also original to the game room is the green light fixture above the billiard table and the wooden score keeper suspended from the ceiling. The fireplace mantel in the game room originally spelled out “18 LOTTA 86,” in colorful gemstones. However most of the stones are long gone having been shot out with a gun by a former homeowner-either the bootlegger who secured and locked the house like a fortress, or the gambler who used the house as a casino.
Over the years the family has acquired photos of the actress that are displayed throughout the home and blend nicely among the O’Donnell family pictures.
The home boasts 10 original fireplaces, eight bedrooms, third floor servants quarters-where the O’Donnell children played when they were little and entertained as teens.
A massive porch overlooks the lake and is the perfect spot for entertaining. A wine cellar and the kitchen were originally in the basement where all the meals were prepared. The servants used dumbwaiters to bring the meals to the second floor.
“My favorite spot in the house would have to be my master bathroom though,” said O’Donnell. “It is a very relaxing place.”
A gargoyle stands guard at Attol Tryst (left). Right: These ornate gargoyle figures adorn the left and right side of the foyer fireplace and may be Robert O’Donnell’s favorite item in the house.
Stairs to the dock overlook Van Every Cove.
The powder room and second floor full bathroom each have Victorian charm.
A large circular deck overlooks the lake and provides a breezy, shady place to relax.