A Budd That Bloomed

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant
March 19, 2024

Over three centuries ago, Budd Lake sprouted as an attractive destination offering both business opportunity and recreation.  While historical accounts vary, the largest natural lake in New Jersey was likely first known by the Lenape as Kaukauanning or Hattacawanna before it was renamed by John Budd, who arrived shortly after the Revolutionary War. Shaped by its landscape, the community of Budd Lake developed from an industrious hamlet to a star-studded resort.

As visitors flocked to the area, Shore Road became the site of cottages and boarding houses.

At the start of the 19th century, Budd Lake quickly became a manufacturing center, as it offered a critical and readily available water source. In addition to several mills, local residents also established ice companies. Blocks, noted to be 12 inches thick, were harvested and stored in nearby icehouses before being carted to area homes and businesses. By the 1850s, the lakeside hamlet that developed from these industries garnered the attention of city-dwellers seeking a respite from urban life. In response, boarding houses opened their doors, the Forest House chief among them.  Operated by Jesse Sharp, the Forest House accommodated hundreds of guests beginning in 1856, with its popularity requiring an expansion of the structure by 1871.

Vacationers not only enjoyed the sandy shoreline of Budd Lake, but also attractions such as The Oasis (top right), where dancing and musical guests occurred nightly.

The celebrity that Budd Lake received as a resort destination reached its peak by the turn of the century. Tents and more permanent cottages dotted the shoreline as the population swelled during warmer months. Along with boating and swimming, visitors enjoyed the seemingly endless variety of attractions built to cater to the crowds. Among them was Budd’s Pavilion, opened in 1909, which offered an ice cream parlor, swimming wheel, bowling alley and weekly movies. Into the 1920s-30s, vacationers could spend their evenings at the Oasis, Wigwam, or Casin-O, which hosted such acts as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Jackie Gleason, Count Basie, and later the Everly Brothers. Rounding out these amusements, children of all ages could ride the carousel that arrived in Budd Lake in 1937.

While still attracting crowds, Budd Lake experienced a shift following World War II, becoming home to an increasing number of year-round residents. This development was accompanied by the establishment of several institutions such as the Budd Lake First Aid Squad (1954) and the expansion of others like the Budd Lake Fire Department (est. 1931), which completed its own firehouse in 1968. Today, Budd Lake has bloomed into a multi-faceted community that reflects its rich and vibrant history.