Idylease seeking national historic designation

WEST MILFORD – The Idylease estate on Union Valley road is seeking formal designation as a historic landmark.

Aug 28 2019 | 03:06 PM

Idylease , the turn-of-the-century hotel and health resort on Union Valley Road, is seeking inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

“At the turn of the century, there were about 12 of these resort hotels that existed in the area,” said property owner Richard Zampella. “This is the last surviving example of that kind of resort architecture that is proof of a once thriving tourist industry.”

According to Zampella, it’s not just that the inn is the last remnant of a bygone era that makes it deserving of a national historic listing. It’s also the impressive list of previous guests.

Idylease counts Thomas Edison among its famous guests as the inventor stayed at the inn while traveling to his mining operation in Sussex County.

Other previous guests included sports writer William B. Hanna, Civil War correspondent David Banks Sickels and Congresswoman Mary T. Norton.

Whenever he’s conducting a tour of Idylease, Zampella said he likes to run his hand down the stair banister and talk about the history that’s behind it.

“Edison, David Banks Sickels and William Hanna and all these individuals from generations before,” he said.

According to Zampella, New York City doctor and head of The Newfoundland Health Association Edgar Day built Idylease in 1902 as a tribute to his daughter, who died in Newfoundland at the age of 16.

Day’s granddaughter told Zampella that Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem “Idylls of the King” was Day’s daughter’s favorite book and the source from which the inn derived its name.

Unfortunately, Day only got to run his hotel and health resort for a short time as he passed away a few years after it opened in 1903.

From there, Day’s colleague Dr. Daniel Drake took over and would own and operate Idylease until his death in 1951.

The self-sustaining estate was known as a getaway to city-dwellers with its expansive open-air veranda, hydrotherapy pools, and rural setting, but according to Zampella, the inn saw its true heyday at the turn of the century.

“There were 13 (trains stopping) at the Newfoundland station on a daily basis,” said Zampella. “But with the demise of the railroad and the advent of the automobile, it basically rendered this area obsolete. People were no longer limited to the rail.”

With the tourist industry now nonexistent, the property would sit vacant for years after Drake’s death until Zampella’s father, Dr. Arthur Zampella, bought the inn in 1954.

The elder Zampella, a prominent physician, public servant and medical educator who always had an interest in improved geriatric care, operated the inn as a nursing home until 1972.

Richard Zampella, who grew up on the property, acquired it in 2016 and now operates the site as a boarding house for long-term occupants.

“I’m only a temporary steward of the property,” said Zampella. “Same with my father, same with Dr. Drake, and same with Dr. Day.”

While Zampella said he has plans to turn Idylease into a bed-and-breakfast, he’s putting all of his focus into getting the national historic listing at this time.

“My first push right now is to get the historic designation, primarily to protect the structure for future generations,” he said.

According to the National Park Service website, in order for a property to be considered eligible for the national designation, it must meet certain criteria involving the property’s age, significance, and integrity.

Zampella remains confident in Idylease’s worthiness of the designation and said that the Historic Preservation Office of the State of New Jersey has already reached out to him to offer its support.

“That’s really what my intention is for the future,” Zampella said. “To get it placed on the list of the National Register, to have it protected, and then be able to preserve it and make it available to the public like it once was when it opened on New Year’s Day in 1903.”

“My first push right now is to get the historic designation, primarily to protect the structure for future generations." - Idylease Owner Richard Zampella