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NY Real Estate Residential
Woodsy Vistas and Sailing in Mountain Lakes, N.J.
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 28 Nov 2014 21:57:57 EST
Snow falls on Mountain Lake, one of nine lakes in Mountain Lakes, N.J.
Snow falls on Mountain Lake, one of nine lakes in Mountain Lakes, N.J. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Between military postings, John Barr used to visit his sister in Mountain Lakes, N.J. When he left the military, he knew that was where he wanted to live.

“I just fell in love with the town,” says Mr. Barr, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who has lived in Mountain Lakes for 22 years. “I lived in a lot of places in the United States and around the world, but there’s no place that I would rather be.”

Hapgoods, a restaurant and deli, is named for the town's founder, Herbert J. Hapgood.
Hapgoods, a restaurant and deli, is named for the town's founder, Herbert J. Hapgood. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Mountain Lakes, with its distinctive woodsy landscape, nine lakes and century-old houses, has a similarly strong hold on many of its 4,200 residents. The borough, part of Morris County, was developed as a planned community 100 years ago. In the 1930s, borough officials bought up available land to keep as open space.

Eighty years later, the borough is the largest local property owner, and the area’s bucolic setting isn't much different than it was then.

“Mountain Lakes is kind of hilly and winding, which gives it a kind of distinct flavor…it’s set into the natural terrain, while other towns are laid out in grids,” Mr. Barr says. “There really is no other town quite like it.”

The borough has little commercial development. A handful of shops and restaurants, including a deli and gift shop, are situated along or near Midvale Road. Some offices and other establishments can be found on Route 46. This year, local officials approved plans that would allow a 132-room hotel at the site of a catering hall on Route 46.

In the 1910s, the rural area was developed as a planned community, with large stucco houses, many of them by developer Herbert Hapgood. Around 450 of his Craftsman-style houses still stand, believed to be among the largest collection of such homes in the United States, according to the borough’s website.

Brokers say prices for real estate in Mountain Lakes range from the $300,000s to around $2 million. The median sale price so far this year was $860,000, compared with the median sale price for all of 2013 of $795,000, says Mr. Barr.

NJ Transit trains from Mountain Lakes station don't travel directly to Manhattan, but some commuters ride to Hoboken, which takes around 70 minutes, and transfer to the PATH. Others may take direct trains from nearby communities such as Denville, or ride the bus, which takes around an hour to travel to Port Authority.

Residents, many of whom grew up in the borough and now live there with their own families, also prize the area for its civic-mindedness. The many volunteer organizations include the Mountain Lakes Educational Foundation, which supports public schools, and the Medical Needs Foundation, which provides funds to residents facing catastrophic medical situations.

“There’s a high level of volunteerism in the community—people are very involved,” says Mary Menard, a broker with Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan.

Both she and her husband grew up in Mountain Lakes. “The good things about being from a smaller community are really highlighted here,” she says.

The borough is also family friendly, she says, with numerous opportunities for children and teens to play sports and other activities, including sailing.

Ms. Menard says she appreciates that her children can walk almost anywhere, including to their sailing lessons, in the 3-square-mile borough. Many residents are also members of the private, 100-year-old Mountain Lakes Club, on the shore of Mountain Lake.

“I remember when I moved here—it was like an oasis. It was like summer camp,” says the borough’s mayor, Dan Happer, who has lived in Mountain Lakes for 18 years. “We just like to keep things simple, and pristine.”

Sarah McAuliffe, left, picks up pastries from Eve Fusco at the Simplify Marketplace.
Sarah McAuliffe, left, picks up pastries from Eve Fusco at the Simplify Marketplace. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Parks: The Halsey A. Frederick Memorial Park has ball fields and other facilities. Lake beaches include Birchwood Beach and Island Beach, which is on Mountain Lake. The 547-acre Tourne County Park, which is in on the border of Mountain Lakes, has hiking, bicycling and cross-country ski trails, as well as ball fields and play areas.

Schools: The Mountain Lakes School District includes an elementary, middle and high school, in addition to a program for hearing-impaired students.

According to 2012-2013 state data, the high school outperforms 83% of schools across the state when it comes to academic achievement. Its graduation rate was 97%.

Dining: Hapgoods, a restaurant and deli, is on Midvale Road. The Station Restaurant at Mountain Lakes serves American cuisine in a nearly 100-year-old former train station.

Shopping: A handful of stores are situated on Midvale Road. Simplify Marketplace, on Romaine Road, is a gift shop. Additional shopping can be found in the downtowns of nearby Denville and Boonton. The Rockaway Townsquare mall is a short drive away.

The Mountain Lakes Club.
The Mountain Lakes Club. Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

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