Jeffrey V. Moy, North Jersey History and Genealogy Center
Summertime in Morris County means looking forward to longer days and warmer weather, although families have spent the season in different ways at various points in time. Some enjoyed vacations at country estates or took day trips to the lake, while others worked long hours just as they would any other day of the year. Over the following weeks we will examine some of the photos, postcards, and letters New Jerseyans saved as mementos of their summer activities.
Morristown’s Burnham Park has long been a destination for those seeking relief from the summer sun. Even before the park itself was created, children and adults enjoyed the pond’s cool water for swimming and boating.
In 1911, Frederick Burnham and his wife donated 30 acres of land to create a public park in which local residents could fish, boat, and enjoy the outdoors. In 1928, the Town built a pool on the site of the pond which included a sandy beach, a newly fashionable feature shared by many county lakes.
Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey’s largest lake, offers many recreational opportunities: swimming, boating, lakeside restaurants, picnicking, and its own beach. In 1910, additions to Morris County’s trolley system gave residents the ability to travel directly from the Morristown Green to Bertrand Island by way of a leisurely two-hour trip that cost 35 cents (about $9.35 in 2018).
Longtime New Jerseyans remember Bertrand Island as one of the state’s great local amusement parks, which like Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County and Olympic Park in Irvington, dazzled visitors with a mix of rides, concessions, games, and beach activities. On this site Newark schoolteacher, Louis Kraus had originally opened Camp Village with his wife Elsie in 1908 as an affordable campsite for families.
By the 1920s, Bertrand Island grew to include many attractions familiar to those lucky enough to experience the golden age of American amusement parks: dance halls, rides and roller coasters, games, boat tours, hot dog and ice cream stands, as well as water slides, boat tours, and a large artificial beach. In addition to welcoming local residents, Bertrand Island attracted visitors from as far away as Connecticut and New York City.
The park continued to grow under the new ownership of Ray D’Agostino in 1948 and for decades thrilled visitors every summer with new attractions and activities. By the 1970s competition from larger theme parks in Orlando and ballooning real estate prices made older amusement parks less profitable; nevertheless, Bertrand Park outlasted Palisades Park and Olympic Park, until finally closing in 1983.
Despite the lure of road trips to the shore and daily flights to all points around the globe, Morris County’s diverse collection of parks and lakes continue to attract thousands of fun seekers with a variety of activities and events on sunny summer days.