For hodgepodge lodge, what future?

| 07 Feb 2012 | 06:34

In the forest just up the crest that overlooks Lusscroft Farm in Sussex can be found a peculiar structure with a history to match. In the 1930s James Turner, who owned the farm down the mountain, crafted the lodge as a gift for his brother William. Because of the grand view from this bluff, the building was named Outlook Lodge. The timbers for these walls and ceilings are the remains of some 25 antique Sussex County barns, and the floor boards are from an old grist mill that used to sit in Branchville. Until the 1950s, Boy Scouts, 4-H members, Future Farmers of America and church groups used the lodge. In 1956 a kitchen and bathrooms were added, and the lodge became a dormitory building for forestry students of Cook College (now the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences) in the summer season. The forestry program deactivated in 1975. In 1996, due to lack of enrollment and mounting maintenance costs, the grounds closed for good. Years of disuse find the lodge approaching collapse. There are some moisture issues, but the main problem is that the weight of the roof is too much for the structure of the building. It needs to be reinforced in order to last. But is this forlorn Frankenstein’s Monster of a building worth the sweat and money? Its whimsical piecemeal construction may prove to be its saving grace. Some call the lodge one of the finest examples of arts and craft style architecture in New Jersey. The farmland and lodge are now in the hands of the NJ State Park Service and the State Agricultural Development Committee, which, along with the Heritage and Agriculture Association, are planning to stabilize the old lodge and restore the deteriorating farm.