In 2005, the majority of the Borough of Mountain Lakes became an historic district listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. This is a source of immense pride for the Borough. But there are also additional benefits. Historic district status serves to protect us from some kinds of intrusive development. Also, as a building owner of a contributing property in a historic district, you may qualify for some grants especially if you are a non-profit or an owner of an income producing property.
The nomination to become an historic district was prepared by the HPC at the request of the Borough Council. The preparation took from 2001 to 2005, and involved approximately five dozen volunteers from town. The community volunteers and HPC committee members spent countless hours documenting our town in words, photographs, maps and slides; and researching the town’s history. The final document individually describes over 1700 properties, and is in excess of 300 pages. A copy of the full nomination can be found at the library and at Borough Hall.
The nomination document describes each property within the district by address, by date of construction, the block and lot numbers, and provides an architectural description of the main structure and all other structures on the property such as stone walls, garages, and boathouses; and a determination that the structure is contributing or non-contributing to the historic district. There is an extraordinarily complete history of the borough, and a detailed discourse on the significance of the borough. The borough’s planning is set into comparative context with other historic American planned suburbs and lake communities. Current and historical maps and photos illustrate the district.
The nomination was presented by Joan Nix and Dr. Maria Iacullo-Bird to the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites in April of 2005. The Board voted to put Mountain Lakes on the State Register and to send it on to the National Park Service for review, with a recommendation to put it on the National Register with state significance. In July of 2005 the Mountain Lakes Historic District was officially listed on the NJ State Register, and in September it was listed on the National Register.
The National Register of Historic Places is the nations’ official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. To qualify for listing, properties must be significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The State Register of Historic Places is a similar program to the National Register, administered through the State Historic Preservation Office in Trenton.
Mountain Lakes qualifies as an historic district under the primary criteria of significance of community planning and development as a planned residential park suburb. The secondary criteria are significance in architecture, for the concentration of Craftsman style homes. The planned residential park suburb designed by the developer Herbert J. Hapgood with his landscape designer Arthur Holton has been maintained to the current time. New houses have been built but the street plan and the concept of a residential park has been maintained. The narrow, meandering streets are still flanked by houses set well back from the road. The abundance of stonework is still clear. Out of an original 482, there are 451 remaining Hapgood house at this date, and 57 Belhall homes out of approximately 60 originally built.