Living on Lake Hoptacong means a lot of things to a lot of people. Here, a slice of lake life. (Photos by Laura Moss)
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The Boat House
The Kitchin family has a long history on the lake, as does their boathouse, a compact structure that sits over the water on concrete blocks. Lloyd, a third-generation Lake Hopatcong resident, and his wife, Carol, raised their four children (including Jessica, New Jersey Monthly’s associate editor) in this tiny house while building their main house on the hill above.
The boathouse was originally the caretaker’s cottage for the famous Breslin Hotel, a 600-room inn built in 1888. When the hotel burned to the ground in 1948, the boathouse was virtually all that remained. When the Kitchins bought the property in 1994, they crammed their family of six into the two-bedroom cottage for a couple of years.
“It was a very special time,” says Carol. “Living in the boathouse, we were part of the lake.” Memories abound. There were two ducks, Henry and Edna, who visited daily and ate out of the kids’ hands, says Carol. To swim, the kids would jump off the roof. Even now, when the grown Kitchin kids come back for summer weekends, they often stay in the boathouse. “It transports you back in time when you go down to the boathouse,” says Carol. “You feel like you’re in a different place, even though you’re just walking down the hill.”
The Grand Victorian
Known locally as the Lotta Crabtree house, this massive Victorian was home to the famed singer/dancer in the late 1880s. Originally built in 1886 (by her mother Maryann, but with Lotta’s money), it was a run-down boarding house when Sherry and Bob O’Donnell purchased it in 1987.
They did renovations for three years before they could even move in; another two years of work returned the house to its original grandeur. Fortunately, the couple own O’Donnell Construction, a firm that builds new homes and restores old ones around the lake. “Anything we couldn’t fix,” says Sherry, “we re-created true to form.” The couple tackled everything, from plumbing and electricity, to the roof, but most significantly, they restored the handsome woodwork that graces many of the rooms. The exterior is distinguished by a 2,500-square-foot, wraparound veranda. It overlooks the cabana, the dock, and the lake below. Although a work in progress—“With an old house, it always is,” says Sherry—the restoration project was so successful that all three of the O’Donnells’ grown children still live in the house. “No one wants to leave,” she says.
The Sailor’s House
Tom Wiss is a fourth-generation Lake Hopatcong E-Scow sailor, a distinction that helped him purchase this house ten years ago. The previous owner—Halsey Prudden, who started the E-Scow fleet on the lake in 1934—sold to Tom and his wife, Genie, despite having higher bids from other would-be purchasers, simply because he wanted a sailor to live in the house. (An E-Scow is a 28-foot flat-bottom racing boat with a crew of three or four.)
The Wiss family’s lakeside roots grow deeper every year. The couple and their three daughters have always summered here; one daughter, Brett, loves the lake life so much she and her husband, Michael, moved into the house next door, where they are now raising their son, Connor. The house, built in the early 1900s, was gutted and rearranged by Tom and Genie. “The living room and dining room are original,” says Genie. “Just about every other room was moved around.” Jam-packed with sailing trophies, the house sits high on a bluff overlooking the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club, where many of those honors were handed out.
To read more stories from our Waterfront Getaways issue, click on the links below:
The Take on Lakes
Rollin' Down the Delaware
Walking the Waterfront
Down by the River
Livin' La Vida Lago
Coming Home: A "Castle" Restored
Easy Does It: Creating Productive Backyard Gardens
Prefab: Easy Being Green
Gardens Galore: Public Gardens in New Jersey
Spring Awakening: The Latest Trends In Home Decor
Up With Downsizing: A Rumson Couple Scale Down
Show Stoppers: Indoor and Outdoor Spaces Shine at Glynallyn