By Peter Zablocki
The area of Rockaway Township that now bears the name White Meadow Lake was first referred to as such in land surveys of 1774. The town section that would become the thriving lake community it is today was once owned by Col. Thomas Muir, with a large pond that bore his name. Within two decades after his death in 1855, the pond gave way to swampland. It would remain as such until being turned into a lake through the construction of a dam by the Fish and Game Club, which acquired the rights to the region in the late 1800s. After a couple of owner changes throughout the early 20th century and a failed endeavor to turn the area into an iron ore mine, the land of 1,127 acres was sold to the National House & Farms Association, Inc., owned by Benjamin Kline, on July 6, 1945.
The Kline Family decided to turn the area into an attractive lake community, highlighting its proximity to Metropolitan New York City as a perfect weekend, summer, or year-round getaway. Because the idea of owning a lake property was no longer unique to the area, especially with nearby Denville and Mountain Lakes having taken up a large share of the clientele and business, Kline decided to invest heavily in the experience and grandeur of lake life. The Club House would become the community’s main attraction and showcase much wealth through its amenities, furnishings, and overall décor inside and out. Unlike many competitors, White Meadow Lake would have numerous beaches, new boat docks, and a year-round beautification staff to ensure its pristine appearance.
Investing heavily into the new community, the Klines ensured the area had paved roads, easy access to downtown, and recreational accommodation such as two big swimming pools, yet it was the decision to build a Day Camp in 1949 which boosted White Meadow Lake’s credibility as the go-to destination for development. By 1950, nearly one thousand lots had been sold, and the number only grew throughout the decade. “Only 55 Minutes from New York,” read the advertisement. And people listened.
Around 1954, the Day Camp and its facilities would be turned over to the Country Club and the White Meadow Lake Property Owners Association, leading to a boom in development throughout the 1950s. In 1952 alone, 616 homes had been built and occupied—a record that stands to this day. Within a year, White Meadow Lake offered school busing and mail delivery service and eventually an all-encompassing telephone service. Since then, the community has never looked back. According to the 2020 Census, White Meadow Lake now has 8,710 people and 2,531 families calling it home.
Peter Zablocki is a local historian, author, and educator. He can be reached at peterzablocki.com.