The history of the Borough of Hopatcong parallels the history of the Lake – from its emergence as a great hotel resort, to its evolution into a summer community similar to the Jersey shore, and its eventual transformation into an all year round community. A deep spring-fed lake formed by glaciers, it was the perfect setting for a Native American community. Its forested shores supported ample game while the water furnished abundant fish. The natural Lake ran roughly from Hopatcong State Park to just north of Nolan’s Point and was known as Great Pond or Brooklyn Pond. In ensuing years, dams and dredging have increased the Lake to its current size. Even at its original size, Great Pond would be the largest Lake in the State of New Jersey.
The Lake had first been dammed in the 1750's for a forge located where the Hopatcong State Park is today. As part of the construction of the Morris Canal, this approximately 6' high dam was removed and replaced with a combination canal lock and dam which eventually raised the Lake some 12' above its natural level, and to the level we know today. During the era of the Morris Canal, the Lake increasingly became called Lake Hopatcong. While the origin of the word “Hopatcong” is unknown, it is believed that the word comes from the Lenape word “hapakonoesson,” meaning pipestone.
In the years following World War II, the Lake continued to be a popular summer spot, as it evolved into a middle class bungalow and second home community. On any given summer weekend during the late 1940's or 1950's, Hopatcong’s River Styx area was a blaze of activity as revelers migrated to wherever the action was – the Mad House (just before the River Styx bridge opposite the marina), All featured entertainment and competed to be the Lake’s “hot spot.” Along with numerous other bars and taverns on the Lake, with the 1960's and the gradual completion of Route 80, the Lake’s evolution accelerated. By the mid 1970's, almost all vestiges of its days as a summer resort had disappeared, as more and more homes became year round residences. When Bertrand Island Amusement Park closed in 1983, the evolution was complete, and for all intent and purpose the Lake had become a residential community. The year round population of the Borough grew from 75 in 1900, to 146 in 1910; 179 in 1920, 534 in 1930; 660 in 1940; 1,172 in 1950; 3,391 in 1960; 9,052 in 1970; 15,531 in 1980; 15,666 in 1990; and 15,888 in 2000. Lake Hopatcong remains a unique and special place – one we need to treasure and preserve!
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