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The Hotel Breslin; A Castle By The Sea

By Marty Kane I June 20, 2013

It was a time of great wooden castles—the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George, N.Y. (built 1883), the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. (built 1887), the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, Calif. (built 1888), the Mohonk Mountain House, N.Y. (Central Building built 1887-1888), and the Hotel Breslin at Lake Hopatcong (built 1887).

When the Hotel Breslin was built above today’s Edgemere and Windermere avenues it dominated Mount Arlington and towered over Lake Hopatcong. Passing through the stone gates from Howard Boulevard into “Breslin Park,” guests entered an exclusive, luxurious resort which hosted the “rich and famous” of the day.

The Hotel Breslin was the single most important factor in Lake Hopatcong’s growth as a great northeast resort. The hotel’s construction gave Lake Hopatcong instant credibility.

As Gustave Kobbe noted in his New Jersey guidebook of 1890, “The Hotel Breslin gave to Hopatcong its first decided ‘boom,’ for it brought to the lake the element of wealth and fashion, in the wake of which everything else follows.”

In the 1880s, Henry Altenbrand furnished the land for Lake Hopatcong’s grandest development scheme. Altenbrand was one of Mount Arlington’s founding fathers and owned a vast amount of what is now the Borough of Mount Arlington.

As a principal in the Lake Hopatcong Land and Improvement Company, the Lake Hopatcong Hotel Company and the Breslin Park Land Company, he joined with a group of wealthy and influential individuals who envisioned an elegant and exclusive resort and community at Lake Hopatcong. They convinced respected hotelier James Breslin to join the group giving substance to the largest part of the plan, a grand hotel to be built on a hill overlooking the lake.

Meanwhile, lots circling the hotel were sold to many of its investors. Families such as the Altenbrands, Pottiers, Dunlaps, and Frothinghams built “cottages” around the hotel, so that they would be able to take advantage of all of the amenities the hotel offered. Robert Dunlap’s neighbor in New York City, famed 19th century actress Lotta Crabtree, also became a resident of this summer community known as Breslin Park.

In spring 1886, ground was broken on 18 acres overlooking Chestnut Point. The Hotel Breslin opened during the summer of 1887.

Designed by renowned Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, who also designed Crabtree’s house next door, the hotel featured broad verandas, beautifully landscaped grounds, and a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding hills.

The hotel consisted of four floors and a bit over 100 rooms. It was more luxurious than any other in the area, and was the first building at the lake to have electricity. Golf, tennis, bowling, and many other activities were also offered to guests. In 1894, construction of a new wing enlarged the hotel to nearly 200 rooms. The dining room was also expanded and a ladies’ billiard room added.

While a room at the Breslin cost at least double that of most other hotels at Lake Hopatcong (some $20 per person per week for room and meals), there were those who felt it was not “exclusive” enough. This led to the hotel’s conversion into the private Lake Hopatcong Club in the fall of 1896. The prospectus stated that each member will be “individually responsible for the character of the guests booked on his cards, objectionable people will naturally be excluded, and the club will thereby become a most attractive resort for families who will give a distinctly high social character to the place.”

The private club did not prove financially viable and after three seasons it was reopened as the Hotel Breslin.

In 1910, there was further expansion and more than $100,000 worth of improvements made. Every room now featured hot and cold water, as well as electricity – amenities only found at the plushest hotels of this era. A new “casino” (public room) was added in the form of a boathouse, as were a new electric elevator, grill and garage facility. Expansion continued and by 1913 the hotel was advertising 300 rooms. The addition of a tango room in 1914 was said to be very popular with the young people.

In 1918 the hotel was sold to Mack Latz, owner of the Alamac Hotel on the ocean in Atlantic City. Latz renamed his new Lake Hopatcong hotel the Alamac and completed a major renovation, adding a sun parlor, new furnishings, new tennis courts, an “Alamac Ark” for children, a bachelor lodge, miniature golf, and more.

In 1923, Latz would erect another Alamac on Broadway and 71st Street in New York City as well as one on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach (both buildings survive to this day). The mid-1920s saw Arthur Murray, the famous dance instructor, in charge of social events at Lake Hopatcong’s Alamac, which featured a live orchestra, motion pictures, and a host of daily activities. In the late 1920s, the hotel was sold to the Jacobs family, who adopted a kosher menu and billed it as “Alamac in the Mountains.” It was in these days that the hotel became a favorite of a young Milton Berle, one of vaudeville’s newest headliners.

Hit hard by the Depression, the hotel closed in the late 1930s. Following World War II, while renovations were being made, the hotel caught fire and was completely destroyed on Feb. 21, 1948.

Today, the remains of its exterior staircase and some of the features of its grounds can still be found mixed among the residences now on the site. Its boathouse and a few outbuildings have survived, as have several of the grand residences that formed “Breslin Park.” During its 60 years the hotel had been in the lead as Lake Hopatcong became a major resort and, symbolically, its destruction signified the lake’s decline as a hotel resort. While some hotels would continue to operate in the decades that followed, Lake Hopatcong was evolving and the days of great hotels were in its past.


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