HMR Architects has been working with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and the Morris County Park Commission to produce a feasibility study for reuse of the Lee’s County Park Marina Pavilion in Mt. Arlington, NJ.
Lake Hopatcong, the largest lake in New Jersey, was a popular upscale resort area from the 1880s through the 1930s, and continued to be popular as a middle-class bungalow and summer home community, with more and more homes becoming year-round residences in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1919, brothers Clarence J. Lee and Edwin Lee purchased property on the lake in the Borough of Mt. Arlington. The property was named Lee Brothers Park and operated as a picnic grounds and bathing beach with tour boats. In September of 1923, construction began on a new pavilion that would be used as a refreshment stand, bath houses, and boat rental.
Sometime in the 1930s, the porch of the Pavilion was enclosed, greatly changing the look of the building. Salvaged window sashes were installed – one attached at the top and the bottom one on hinges so it could be opened up in nice weather. The bathhouses near the building on the west and south sides were removed and new ones built farther down the shoreline near the dock. Later in the 1930s or early 1940s a new sunshade roof was added to the west and part of the south elevation.
The Morris County Park Commission took over the building and property in 1995 and renamed Lee’s Park the Lee’s County Park Marina. At this time the pavilion was still being rented out as a refreshment stand selling ice cream and other food, but was shortly thereafter vacated. The main level has been used only for storage since the late 1990s, but the basement was renovated a few years ago by the Mountain Lakes Rowing Club as their training and boat storage facility.
The Lee’s County Park Marina Pavilion is not on the National Register, but it is a unique example of surviving “lake-style” recreational architecture in New Jersey. It retains much of its character and is significant as an early twentieth century lake recreation kiosk.
The Lee’s County Park Marina Pavilion is simple in both its form and materials. The building is a simple one-story-with-basement rectangular block with a combination of a gable and a hipped roof. The foundation of the building is concrete. On the main level, the walls are painted wood shakes below with windows above wrapping around the entire perimeter. The upper gable walls have been covered with aluminum siding. The basement walls are concrete with some areas of wood infill below windows.
The hinged double-hung wood window sashes that were installed in the 1930s to enclose the porch have been replaced with aluminum awning windows. The exterior basement windows have been replaced with aluminum sliders. Original windows remain in the inner shell of the main level and the basement. Most of the doors are original, with the exception of some modern exterior doors. The original doors are wood and have several different styles.
The building has a simple plan with an inner shell that was the exterior when originally built in 1923, and an enclosed porch on all four sides that was originally open-air. The building is entered from the southeast corner facing the road on an exterior area of the porch. The enclosed porch has a large bar counter with shelving on the south side. The inner core has a kitchen area, two small storage rooms, a bathroom, and stairs to the basement. The basement also has an inner core, which is one room, and an outer perimeter which is full-height to the north and west and crawlspace to the south and east.
The period of significance for Lee’s Pavilion runs from its construction in 1923 through the early 1930s when the porch was enclosed, and extending to c. 1940 when it was believed the sunshade roof was added. While no spaces will be restored to be interpreted to the period of significance, efforts will be made to restore certain finishes and features to better reflect the period of significance. For instance, the windows around the porch enclosure will be replaced to more closely match the 1930s ones, but the room’s function as a snack bar may change. The three options for reuse being proposed in the study center around food service and banquet hall space.
The goal of the feasibility study is to act as a planning document to guide, prioritize and inform future rehabilitation endeavors at the site, and to determine financially- and architecturally-feasible possibilities for reuse of Lee’s Pavilion. The building is in generally good condition and is situated in a prime waterfront location on Lake Hopatcong, making it a strong candidate for adaptive reuse. The report will be of particular use in broadening the understanding and appreciation of the property and in developing future rehabilitation efforts that will improve the representation of the building as an example of early twentieth century “lake-style” recreational architecture, while improving the accommodation for future uses in the building.