by Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant
July 13, 2021
In 1910, the construction of a trolley line that connected Newark to Bertrand Island’s popular dance hall made numerous attractions even more accessible. No longer brought only by train, NJ entertainment and thrill seekers flocked to Morris County’s premier amusement park.
One of Bertrand Island’s first draws in the 1920s was a steam-powered carousel. Popularity of this attraction prompted a boardwalk and 1,000 car park expansion to accommodate guests. The installation of Northern New Jersey’s first roller coaster in 1925 also proved popular as 10,000 people flooded the park on its opening weekend with 150 still waiting in line at closing. This success led to a host of new attractions to be added including The Whip, an airplane swing, log flume, and a new carousel featuring 66 hand-carved horses.
The Great Depression forced innovative ideas to draw the public. ‘Dime for dinnerware days’ enabled customers to build dishware sets for every ten cents spent within the park. More attractions were promoted, the most popular was the Miss Bertrand Island beauty pageant. The pageant maintained a connection with the Miss America pageant which, at the time, selected contestants from different organizations instead of states. Miss Bertrand Island winner Bette Cooper brought much excitement to the area after winning the title of Miss America in 1937, promoting the park throughout the competition. That same year, renowned burlesque dancer Sally Rand became the most controversial attraction at Bertrand Island after agreeing to demonstrate her famous fan and bubble dances.
Despite surviving the Depression, World War II proved devastating for the park. Attendance plummeted due to gas rationing and the draft, the park ultimately fell into disrepair. After the war, highway expansion meant that families began favoring extensive road trips to local weekend excursions. The opening of a child-centric play area maintained the park for a while, but its continued state of disrepair and the impossibility of expansion due to its island location led to the closure of Bertrand Island in 1983. While the park may have closed several decades ago, many New Jerseyans still fondly remember their time spent at Morris County’s most notable amusement park.
“The Beginnings of Bertrand Island Amusement Park.” Lake Hopatcong Historical Society News (Lake Hopatcong, NJ), 1993.
Kane, Martin and Laura Kane. Images of America: Greetings from Bertrand Island Amusement Park. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.
“Lake Hopatcong’s Brightest Star.”lakehopatconghistory.com. Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum. May 25, 2020
Smith, Dwight B. (1898) 2002. Illustrated Guide To Lake Hopatcong for Season of 1898. Reprint, Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum. Citation refers to the 2002 edition.