The Cabins of Medford Lakes
Medford Lakes is 1.2 square miles of rustic beauty in Burlington county. Part of the New Jersey Pinelands Preservation area, there are 22 lakes within this small area, and hundreds of lakefront and lakeview properties. And there aren't "streets" or "roads," there are "trails." Of the 1,500 homes in Medford Lakes, more than 150 are log cabins, giving Medford Lakes the highest concentration of log cabins in the world.
Medford Lakes has a rich heritage. During the Revolutionary war, the Etna Furnace made a local contribution to the war effort through the manufacture of cannon balls. Also a part of the industrial life of what is now Medford Lakes was the Saw and Gristmill erected by John Haines.
Medford Lakes became a Borough in 1939. The Medford Lakes Development Company was formed in 1927, and in 1928 the Colony Club Pavilion was built by the Colonists on ground donated by the Development Company. Construction began on the Golf Course in 1929, the Medford Lakes Camp came into being 1930, the Medford Lakes Log Cabin Hotel was constructed in 1931, and the Cathedral of the Woods Protestant Church was dedicated in 1931. After the collapse of the Pavilion from a snowstorm in 1938, the Vaughan Community House was built. The sewage system for the community was built in 1937-1938 through WPA financial assistance, and has since been extended so that now Medford Lakes is completely sewered.
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Medford Lakes started out as a resort in 1927. People lived in log cabins because that was the law...nothing else was allowed. But it's been 15 years since the last log cabin was built. "Cabin" is probably not the best word to describe the structures. Shiploads of cedar logs were imported and craftsmen fashioned them into palatial homes. Inside and out, the walls were of solid log. Some were scraped, and some were put in place with the bark still on.
There is no record of anyone complaining about the unusual building restriction. The homes blended into the area’s pine trees and dozens of small lakes. Cedar, being a porous wood, is an excellent insulator, so the cabins were cool in summer and warm in winter. The resort enjoyed an extended season because the big stone fireplaces could heat the rustic houses in the chilliest weather.
Medford Lakes became a year 'round community in 1939. The result is a collection of nearly 1,000 log cabins, built by talented craftsmen to produce a community that is as picturesque as it is convenient.
The houses are sturdy, livable and popular with owners. But it is unlikely that another log cabin will ever be built in Medford Lakes. The reason: Elaborate log construction is impractical. A single cedar spar, used in the construction, can be turned into as many as 15 or 20 ordinary boards. The real problem, however, is the construction process. This is both an art and skill. Each log is notched and overlapped at the corners so a craftsman has to cut just the right notches to make them fit together. The irregularity of the material makes every notch on every log a custom job. Once the logs are in place, there is complicated work ahead with the wiring and plumbing. Everything has to go through either the chinking spaces between layers or through holes bored with extra long drills. When it's completed, a log cabin can be a comfortable home. But on today's market, it would take a wealthy man to build one to Medford Lakes' standards.
Medford Lakes is a beautiful place to drive through, if not to visit. Very few vacant lots are left. Cedar is termite-proof and the houses were heavily constructed. So, between the lakes and the log cabin homes, Medford Lakes will probably continue to be a beautiful break from the everyday for a long time!
For more information about Medford Lakes, visit their website at medfordlakes.com.
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