The History of Crestwood Lake as told by Dick Van Houten
Written by Sheri Van Houten-Marino
Throughout the twentieth century the lure of Crestwood Lake was putting Allendale, NJ on the map as a summer getaway. The development of this resort spot came as somewhat of an accident. In the late 1920’s, business partners Stephen T. Van Houten Jr. and Christopher J. Smith purchased 34 acres with the intent of creating a residential lake community. The dam was built and only one lakefront lot was sold when the Great Depression hit. In order to pay for the construction of the dam and the property taxes, Van Houten and Smith opened the lake for swimming. It was a great success and eventually more acreage was purchased for this wonderful resort.
In the early 1930’s a day’s admission for a guest was 25 cents. As the years passed a family membership or day’s admission fee included a pastoral setting surrounding the lake with sandy beaches, swimming, 2 large water slides, see-saws, 16 rafts, a 30 foot diving tower with platform, Sunday diving exhibitions, basketball courts, swings and picnics in the apple orchard. For an additional fee there was a 9-hole chip & put course, archery, and pony rides, as well as swim instruction offered by a certified swim instructor. A 40 foot water spray was installed for aeration and dramatic effect. Crestwood had its own Water Polo Team (1933-34 State Champions) drawing big crowds for the evening water polo matches. Later a dance floor with jukebox came under the willows by the dam and at the Red Barn.
Families traveled here from far and near NJ and NY all summer long. During the war years of the 1940’s when gasoline was strictly rationed, the Erie Railroad assigned special trains to pick up hundreds of passengers along the way destined for a day at Crestwood Lake! These ran to/from Jersey City to Allendale on Saturdays & Sundays.
Crestwood Lake has always offered great employment opportunities for the young and old. While privately owned, any local kid who was willing to show up at 6 am on a summer morning was given opportunity to work. Many literally worked and lived their summers at the lake, even sleeping on the beaches.
Brothers Dick and Bud Van Houten both worked the lake during the 42 years their family had ownership and together fully managed it for the last 22 years. In 1968 they considered closing the swim club, planning to build a development of 84 residential homes. In early 1970, planning board member Robert Pirie conducted a study on the rapid consumption and disappearance of desirable property in the Borough and proved the need for approximately 30 acres of this land to be used for future recreational and municipal purposes. Negotiations ensued and Crestwood Lake, in its entirety of 70 acres, was sold to the Borough of Allendale in the fall of 1971.
For over 40 years Allendale’s residents and their guests have been creating fabulous memories at “Crestwood Park”, a beautiful treasure that will be enjoyed for generations to come.