As visitors wandered through the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum on Sunday, museum president Marty Kane pointed to a paper mache hippo in the lobby. "This is the next project we've got ahead," he said.
The hippo, which was once part of the Bertrand Island Amusement Park, will be packed up and sent to join historic New Orleans Mardis Gras floats that are also made of paper mache, in an effort to restore another piece of Lake Hopatcong history.
Kane, alongside his wife, Laurie, daughter, Natalie, and a collection of volunteers, has been preserving Lake Hopatcong history for a couple of decades now, and his work is reflected in the museum, which opened for the first time in 2011 on Sunday. The museum will have open hours from noon to 4 p.m. every Sunday (with the exception of Easter) until May 22.
Richard Willis, a museum volunteer and trustee and Jefferson Township historician, was in house on Sunday to answer visitors' questions and provide more details on the hundreds of photographs, documents, and other paraphernalia that line the walls of the old lock tender's house for what was once the Morris Canal (the building now stands in Hopatcong State Park, near the Lake Hopatcong dam).
"I've been doing this for 20 years or more," Willis said, "and I thoroughly enjoy it."
Willis said his favorite room is the Morris Canal room, in part because his grandfather used to own steamboats on the lake. ("He threw nothing away," he adds, "including the whistle—I could almost build a boat.") In addition to the carousel pony that debuted last fall after months of restoration, the museum has added several boards of photos and historical information, including one that documents the beauty pageant history at the lake. Willis said another major project has been digitizing all of the museum's files and keeping them off site, so they would be preserved should anything happen to the museum.
Kane said he was happy to be starting another season. "And it's just nice to not be shoveling snow," he added with a smile.
Call 973-398-2616973-398-2616 to reach the museum. Because of a change to the Borough of Hopatcong's website, the best place to visit the museum online is at http://www.landingnewjersey.com/museum.htm.