By Wayne T. McCabe,


President, Sussex County Historical Society


A relatively simple bridge, set on a long series of wood bents and pilings, was the first bridge to span Cranberry Lake between Frenche’s Grove and what today is U.S. Route 206. Built by the Lackawanna Railroad in 1900, the bridge served as a gateway for thousands of visitors to go from the train station to the amusement park that the railroad company had developed at Frenche’s Grove. Special excursion trains from Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken brought city residents out to the country in Byram.


The New Jersey Herald reported that by the summer of 1903, because of the anticipated increase in the number of park guests, the railroad company undertook numerous improvements to the site, including widening and raising the bridge, which provided easy passage between the station platform and the amusement park. Often, trains comprised of 10 to 13 passenger cars containing hundreds of visitors from the city areas arrived at the park.


The park consisted of dance halls, food concessions, a miniature live steam railroad that traveled throughout the park, walking trails, a bandstand, swimming, rowing and canoeing, and fishing. There were stairways, platforms, and rustic arbors that provided wonderful shaded outlooks of the lake. There was one place, known as “The Pike,” that included a couple of dozen concessions under small tents or wood-frame structures that sold food and souvenirs from the amusement park.


The park was in business through 1910, but experienced several downturns and setbacks, including the loss of the Cranberry Lake Hotel to a fire that year. The novelty of the park had worn off by this point. More often than not, alcohol consumption on the park-bound train increased and the crowds became cruder and louder, thus driving many other potential park visitors away.


The railroad company decided to get out of the amusement park business and did not renew the lease once its ten-year lease ended. In May of 1911, the company announced that there would be no more excursions to the park. Four years later, in May of 1915, only two days before a large event was scheduled to be held at the former park, the railroad company attached one end of a chain or cable to the rear of an engine and the other end to various points on the bridge, and pulled four sections of the bridge into the lake. It was reported that some difficulties were encountered during the demolition, as it took several attempts and the replacement of a broken cable before the bridge went over into the lake.


Sussex County Historical Society President Wayne T. McCabe may be contacted at sussexhistorian@juno.com.