From its beginning as a resort in the 1880’s, boats were an important part of Lake Hopatcong’s development. Steamboats met most visitors arriving by train at the lake. As cottages began to spring up, it was natural that their owners desired to have a boat. With the introduction of launches powered by naphtha in the 1890’s, attention shifted from rowboats and canoes to motorized vessels.
Though relatively unsafe, these early pleasure craft stunned spectators with their speeds of eight to ten mile per hour. They were soon replaced by motor boats powered by internal combustion engines. While early from builders like Hacker, Matthews, Dunphy and Elco were sold nationwide, many local boat builders started turning out fine wooden hulls. Such was the case at Lake Hopatcong where many early launches and runabouts were built. By purchasing from a local boat builder, customers saved shipping and other costs and could have a boat built to their exact specifications with a commercially made engine. Boat building was common at the lake over several decades, with wooden motorboats still being produced here into the 1950’s.
When Lake Hopatcong’s first newspaper, the Angler, began publishing in 1894, two of its first advertisements were for boat builders. J.B. Everett advertised boat repairing “neatly and promptly done,” while John Harris offered boat building and repairing. The July 18, 1896 Angler noted that, “Mr. John Harris, the English boat builder, is at work again in his old shop at the River Styx boat yard. He has just finished the work of putting the Breslin boat livery in repair, and is ready to take orders for repairing or building of anything, from a mahogany launch to a flat bottomed fishing boat, and will do one as well as the other.”
In 1903, the Angler reported that there were 71 launches on Lake Hopatcong. A large portion of these had been built at the lake. In 1907 George R. Wallace opened a boat repair operation at the dock of the Sunnyside Hotel at Nolan’s Point. Arguably the first full service boat yard on the lake, it offered fuel and motor boat supplies, repairs, and engines built by Buffalo Motors (whose slogan was “Not the Cheapest – but the Best.”) By 1908, the Lake Hopatcong Breeze reported that sixty new launches had been added to the lake since the previous season. This was a substantial increase as motorboats were still very much a luxury for the wealthy. An average new launch sold for about $1,500 - the equivalent of two years wages for the average person. However, as improvements were made and more mass production techniques were introduced, boats began to fall within the grasp of the growing middle class. This led to an increased demand at Lake Hopatcong for boat sales and service. For the 1908 season Wallace’s Boat Yard built an entire new facility in Great Cove, about half way between Nolan’s Point and Hockenjos. According to the July 4, 1908 Breeze, “it consists of a large plane house, into which any boat on the lake may be drawn by the two marine railways.” These were the first such railways at the lake and consisted of a set of tracks with a cradle used to bring boats out of the water for repairs and winter storage. Wallace’s new boat yard also featured a blacksmith, carpentry shop, and store. In 1909, Edward Johnson opened Hopatcong Garage and Machine Works in Van Every Cove, across Howard Boulevard from where Lee’s Park is now located. By 1910 this garage also featured a marine railway and offered boat sales, supplies and winter storage. Other boat businesses were also springing up. In 1910 Al Schmidt opened a boat garage in Sperry Springs which continued through the mid-1920’s. About the same time, Frank Lee opened the Halsey Island Boat Shop and did hull repairs as well as fine cabinet work.
During the summer of 1913, George Wallace sold his boat yard, the lake’s largest, to Walter D. Lee, who would further expand it. Lee’s Great Cove Launch and Machine Works carried a large inventory, with such items as Palmer motors, wicker furniture, yachting caps, victrolas and records. Lee also stocked supplies and furnished storage for automobiles, which were beginning to become more prevalent at the lake.
Joe Ward’s Boat Yard opened around 1918 and operated until World War II in what is today a residential neighborhood on Lakeside Boulevard in Hopatcong across from the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.
Boat ownership became much more plentiful at the lake in the 1920’s, spurred by sales of such national brands as Chris Craft and Century. Indicative of this increase was the speed restriction of ten miles per hour imposed in River Styx Cove in 1922 due to “heavy traffic.” To meet this demand, many new boat yards opened and it was in this period that many of the locations and buildings we know today originated. An advertisement in the 1921 Breeze announced that Barnes Brothers, “better known as Fay and Barney,” were in operation at Nolan’s Point with boat and auto repairing and supplies. In 1922, the brothers moved their operations to the dock of the Kenvil Store (the location commonly known as Hockenjos) and in 1924 acquired the land around the Mount Arlington public dock and began building a brand new facility. Following a storm in 1925 which collapsed their new storage building, the Barnes’ built the core of the marina still in operation today. Orrin “Barney” Barnes would buy out his brother in 1931 and own the marina into the 1960’s. Two familiar lake names, Dow and Hockenjos, started a boat livery business together in 1917 at Nolan’s Point. Peter Dow would go on to establish a business building canoes and row boats at Nolan’s Point, erecting his own building in 1925. The business, carried on for many years by his son Dick, has since passed out of the family but is still called Dow’s and continues to do business from the same building. When Bill Hockenjos, Jr. returned from World War I, he took over Nolan’s Point Boat Garage, located just south of the current Windlass Restaurant. “Hocky Jr.” as he was often called, would team with his father as Hockenjos and Hockenjos. Operating the docks and tour boats at Bertrand Island Park for some time, they were involved with numerous properties at the lake in the ensuing years and in 1928 purchased the Kenvil Store in Great Cove, renaming it Hockenjos and Hockenjos. While the boat yard was sold to Nick Steneck in 1933, the building retained the Hockenjos name until it was recently renamed Royal Wave Marina.
Meanwhile, the Nolan’s Point Boat Garage remained under Hockenjos’ control until 1939 when it was sold to Frank R. Crater, Jr. and Henry Greene, who renamed it Lakeland Marine Base. Greene bought out his partner in 1941 and expanded the business after the war. Further expansion would come after Charles Pulis headed a group which bought the boat yard in 1953. The main building later burned down and the site is currently under construction including a miniature golf course.
In 1923, Charlie Thompson started Northwood Boat and Engine Works, which would later become one of the centers for the revival of wooden boats on the lake under the ownership of Wayne Mocksfield and later John and Kim Kadimik. Greatly remodeled in recent years, this boat yard continues to specialize in wooden boats today as Katz’s Marina.
Mark Schwarz, Jr. opened a boat yard on Prospect Point in 1939. Following World War II, Schwarz sold to Sam Sutphen, who immediately undertook boat building and engine repairs. In 1948 Sutphen built a new shop, followed quickly by the construction of a new building for winter boat storage. In the ensuing years, Sutphen turned the boat yard into one of the most popular on the lake. Recently, Prospect Point Boat Yard has been given new life as the Main Lake Market.
In future articles, we will feature more in depth looks at some of the marinas which have been main stays of summer life at Lake Hopatcong these many years.
If you have any photos or personal memories of Lake Hopatcong’s boat yards, please send them to the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum at LHHISTORY@ATT.NET.