Back in the 1880s, when travel was much more arduous and time consuming than today, wealthy urbanites summered at resorts much closer to their home cities than is usual today. Lake Hopatcong, just 50 miles out of Manhattan, in the northwestern part of New Jersey, is one of those original summer resorts, much like Michigan’s Mackinac Island and New York’s Lake George.
Besides the huge, meandering freshwater lake, Lake Hopatcong’s major attraction was the Breslin Hotel. A huge 250-room hostelry that catered to elite vacationers, the Breslin was ringed with the summer homes of numerous millionaires. One of the cottages, the Lotta Crabtree Cottage, so named after its original owner, is now available via Robin Dora with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty with an asking price of $3.5 million.
In what’s now known as the Breslin Park neighborhood of Mount Arlington, the Shingle Style house was built in 1885 by noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness for Lotta Crabtree, one of the best loved American actress and comedians of the time. Furness also designed the Breslin Hotel, which burned down in 1948. Crabtree (1847–1924) was given the house as part of a promotion for the Breslin Hotel. That’s how popular she was. Her named added to any bill could fill the theater and her lakeside presence, the hoteliers hoped, book a bunch of rooms.
She named her house Attol Tryst — Lotta spelled backward — and spent summers there. Local historian Marty Kane says, “This house itself still has many of the original features from when Lotta actually lived here, from stained glass windows to the original billiard table, to the fireplaces, to many architectural features in the house. It is a unique house on the lake.” For example, on the side of the house is buried an elephant’s tusk in the shape of a C, and a fireplace mantel still bears some of the gems initially attached to it that spelled out “18 LOTTA 86.”
The current owners have spent decades restoring and conserving the residence. On 0.98 of an acre on the lake, where you can watch the pleasure boat Miss Lotta cruise around, the house boasts eight bedrooms and two and a half baths.
The 18-room stone mansion includes a circular driveway that passes through a porte-cochere, along with 2000 square feet of curvy verandas that overlook the lake. Inside, there is a gracious foyer with an extraordinary carved granite fireplace with gargoyles, a staircase with carved newel posts, and white painted paneling. There are nine granite and carved wood fireplaces in all. There are also original stained glass windows scattered throughout the house, some of which have been repurposed into kitchen cabinet doors! Other original features include custom woodwork, moldings, coffered ceilings and hardwood floors, as well as the original bar in the basement.
The billiard room, with granite fireplace, includes Crabtree’s original table, probably because it’s too heavy to move, and there is also a lovely, spacious kitchen on this level along with a breakfast area, a formal dining room, and a family room.
Venture outside, and the gardens roll down to a lakeside cabana and a double-wide dock that juts out into the calm waters along the property’s 400 feet of serene waterfront.
This home has been beautifully renovated over the years while staying true to its history. Go ahead. Sink your history-loving teeth into this elegant and quirky 137-year-old grande dame. Miss Lotta would want you to.