William Howard Taft was president, the first Father’s Day was held, and ballroom dancing was all the rage. The year was 1910, and in addition to the Earth passing through the trail of Haley’s Comet—“the captivating event of the year”—Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum president Marty Kane joked that one other milestone captured the attention of the nation: the opening of the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club building.
A presentation by Kane, held on the club grounds Friday night, drew hundreds and kicked off the final weekend of the club house centennial celebration.
Held on the actual 100th anniversary of the dedication of the LHYC club house, which took place on July 9, 1910, the historical museum event focused on Lake Hopatcong in the year 1910, “a nostalgic look back at lake life during the club house’s first summer.”
Nearly 400 people packed a tent on the club’s lawn, and after a beefsteak dinner and some dancing, sat down to listen to an introduction by world-renowned sailor Gary Jobson before watching a slide presentation by Kane that included historical photos of the lake and the era.
“This glacier that came through 10 or 20,000 years ago did a great thing in creating Lake Hopatcong,” said Jobson, an America’s Cup sailor, TV commentator, and author of more than a dozen books on sailing. “Don’t you think people back then [in 1910] would be excited at how the club is going today?”
Jobson raved about the importance of sailing clubs, which bring generations together, and told the crowd to try to imagine the yacht club in another hundred years. He predicted that there would still be sailing on the lake, the clubhouse would still be standing, and many of the current members’ descendents would be actively involved on the lake. “If this club can do so well in 100 years, for sure it’s going to keep going another 100 years,” he said, telling a series of humorous anecdotes (including choosing a sailing regatta over a rock concert—which turned out to be Woodstock), and ending with a “happy birthday, Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.”
Kane then took over, setting the national scene for the summer of 1910. The population of the United States, for example, was 92 million, and had grown 21 percent in the previous decade. Mother Theresa was born, Mark Twain died, and Woodrow Wilson was governor of New Jersey. When he showed a view of the lake—which was almost entirely forested, without much development, the crowd gasped. At the time, the automobile was just beginning to emerge, but railroads were still the dominant source of transportation to the lake, and steam boats were a popular mode of travel on the water. Kane showed a series of photographs that depicted some of the lake’s most popular destinations, including Allen’s Pavilion, the Breslin Hotel, and Lee’s Pavilion. The Justamere Lodge was built on Point Pleasant in 1910 and still stands today as a private residence. But for the most part, the other structures of that era have either disappeared or changed their purpose. “As all of these places have faded, this [yacht club] has stayed the same,” he said.
The era is documented particularly well, Kane said, because 1910 was part of the height of the postcard era. And although the 1920s were considered the lake’s heyday, “the teens were a really good era here,” he said. Sailing was less popular than it is today, in part because motorboats were becoming huge, and canoeing was a dominant activity on the lake.
The club itself was founded in 1905 (and the yacht club held a series of commemorative events in 2005 to celebrate that centennial), and for five years the members held activities on the property of the first LHYC commodore, R.L. Edwards. In 1907, the members bought the land on Bertrand Island and had a budget of $3,500 to build the clubhouse. It was ultimately built for $7,000 and ended up with a Georgian front and Adirondack-style interior, made with logs from trees cut on members’ properties around the area (and transported to the island over the ice in the winter). Though the grounds were unfinished, the club building was opened in 1910, and today looks much as it did then, down to the same furniture in the club’s ballroom.
On Saturday, club members will re-enact the opening ceremony, with many participants arriving in a boat parade to mimic those of the early LHYC days. “We tried to emulate the things done back in 1910,” said George Malanga, chairman of the club’s centennial committee. “Tonight [Friday] has been the highlight, I think, but tomorrow’s events will be great.”
Saturday is supposed to include an All-Lake Regatta, open to sailors around the lake, but a forecast of thunderstorms might cancel the action. Other events that have already been a part of the celebration included a barn dance on July 3, old-fashioned lawn games on July 4, and clubhouse tours open to the public on July 9. “We’re absolutely thrilled with how things have been going,” Malanga said. “This is a special place, and I’m just glad we can honor it.”