On a warm spring day this past year we went on a short hike to explore another forgotten building. We hiked up an old rutted road that was slowly being reclaimed by the forest. The road climbed and twisted and soon we found ourselves staring up at a whitewashed tree with a huge white owl on a branch! Had we wandered into a magical wonderland? No, we had found Outlook Lodge!
Lusscroft Farm was built between 1914 and 1930 by a wealthy New Jersey stockbroker to serve as a perfect model of dairy farming based on the most up to date scientific practices of the time. He built his own manor house overlooking the fields and rolling hills, then got to work on Outlook Lodge. The lodge, nestled atop the ridge well behind the main house, was a gift for his brother. Timbers from 25 different barns and homes were used to construct the building. The wood on the floors and ceilings came from a local saw mill and, rumor has it, that the oak paneling came from a castle in England.
The lodge has a piecemeal effect with timber, brick, and stone all used on the outside. Cement animals, shapes, and symbols are plastered all over the outside walls, creating a very unique and, at the same time, beautiful look. An Arts and Crafts like effect; though I’m not sure if that’s what they were going for.
Lusscroft Farm was donated to the state of New Jersey in 1931 to be used for agricultural research. Forestry students of Cook College (now part of Rutgers) used the farm, as did the Boy Scouts and 4-H.
During the 1950s a kitchen and bathrooms were added to Outlook Lodge so it could become a dormitory for the forestry students. Boy Scouts, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and church groups also used the lodge during this time. Then, in 1975, the forestry program was deactivated and in 1996 the grounds closed for good.
Today a local state park, High Point State Park, maintains the property and buildings. This includes 578 acres, including 23 original structures, most of which are farm buildings. But my favorite and by far the most unique is Outlook Lodge. It sits all alone up the ridge from the others and, although it is slowly fading away into the forest, it still maintains its dignity and beauty.
We explored around the building and, although you can see the effects of time, little of it is the result of human hands. I definitely see some graffiti as art, but it always saddens me to see it mindlessly covering old buildings. Especially ones with an interesting history and design. The fact that Outlook Lodge stands unadorned speaks loudly to its beauty.
We were alone on the ridge as we explored Outlook Lodge. It was quite and seemed far removed from civilization and time. Time moved froward that day as people ran errands, mowed their lawns, and watched TV, but Outlook Lodge transcended all of that. It sat in its decaying elegance among the trees and flowers and grasses that were slowly creeping in. But, you know what, it all felt right. Outlook Lodge, with each passing season, is becoming more of a part of the environment, but it feels as though it was made for that!
You can learn more about Lusscroft Farm at lusscroftfarm.com