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Day Trip: Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum

Housed in what was once the lock tender’s house on the Morris Canal, the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum features a range of exhibits—and has a special aerial photo display on Monday.

Lake Hopatcong Historical MuseumLake Hopatcong Historical Museum
Address: Hopatcong State Park, Lakeside Blvd, Landing
Phone: 973-398-2616
Web: hopatcong.org/museum
Admission: Free

Grand hotels, famous residents, amusement parks and pavilions, a century-old sailing clubhouse…Lake Hopatcong became a popular resort in the lake 1800s and early 1900s, and we are left with a rich history that is well maintained by the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum and the historical society president, Marty Kane. The museum has seasonal hours, open from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays in the spring and fall. There are, however, a few special events in the summertime that open its doors. Specifically, there is an aerial photo exhibit on Monday, July 6, from 6 to 9 p.m., and guests can peruse the entire museum. (It will also be open on Monday, August 3, from 6 to 9 p.m.)

Joe Cook’s shake-’em-off bench and scrapbook-like piano—signed by friends such as Babe Ruth—are two of the popular attractions when school groups visit, Kane says. But they are just a couple of hundreds of photos, signs, and other paraphernalia that lines the walls of the museum, which is housed in a rustic historical building itself, just near the dam at the state park.

Permanent exhibits include "They Lived Here First: The Lenape at Lake Hopatcong," "Passage to Progress: The Morris Canal and the Transformation of Lake Hopatcong," "Simpler Times on Lake Hopatcong," "Jewel of the Mountains: The Great Hotel Era at Lake Hopatcong," "Famous Folks," and "Greetings from Bertrand Island Amusement Park."Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum

The museum also holds special events elsewhere around the lake. This year’s calendar includes a "Cottages of Lake Hopatcong" lecture at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, at the Jefferson House; "What You Never Knew About Lake Hopatcong" at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, at the Jefferson House; and "Lake Hopatcong on the Big (and Not-So-Big) Screen" at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 7 at the Arlington in Mt. Arlingon.

The hours of the museum are limited, largely because the historical society depends on volunteer labor, so get a visit in when you can. "The reason we’re able to make any of this work is all because of the volunteers," Kane says. "We’re preserving these things for future generations." There are about 760 members in the historical society, all of whom receive regular newsletters with historical articles, allowing those who are aching for some narratives and memoirs in the summertime to get their fix.

But nothing beats wondering the museum and checking out the historical records in person, and a walk through is likely to change the way you look at the lake, even as you make your own history today.

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