The approach to this old lodge always strikes us a bit uneasy. It's not simply the strange design, or the fact that it sits silent and abandoned in the forest. What is most bothersome about this place, as we make our slow trek up the wooded trails, is the unblinking gaze of the owl which is crafted into the building's side. Like some creature from a fever-dream it sits perpetually staring outward, colorless except for its orange eyes and beak. Making it all the more bizarre, the owl sits perched upon the smooth branch of a life-sized dead tree which is also constructed into building's chimney. This was not likely intended to be a frightening piece of artwork, but given the current state of the building and the fact that it now sits in the woods far removed from all other structures, the lodge and it's stonework owl guardian have come to seem downright eerie.
This unusual building came into existence back in the 1930's, a product from the mind of James Turner, for his brother William. James Turner owned a large farm down the mountain from the plot where this lodge was constructed, because of the grand view from this bluff the building was named Outlook Lodge. What makes this structure so unique (aside from the aforementioned owl) is the material from which it was built. The walls, floors, and ceilings of this place were constructed from the remains of some 25 antique barns and houses. This strange composition of reused materials gives the lodge an odd aesthetic, and makes it a kind of Frankenstein's Monster among abandoned buildings. It also designates it as an interesting, and very individual piece of architectural history for the rural region of Northern New Jersey.
From the time of its construction, and into the 1950's, the lodge was used on a weekly basis by members of Boy Scouts troops, members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America, as well as Sunday School and various church groups. In 1956 a kitchen and bathrooms were added, and the lodge came to be used as 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, ending the need for dormitories in the lodge. After that the farm, and the lodge when needed, were used by the local 4-H for youth programs. In 1996, due to lack of enrollment and the ever-mounting maintenance costs, the grounds closed for good.
Years of disuse have found the lodge slipping into a frail state. The heavy slate roof is becoming an increasingly hard burden for the aging lodge to bear, and leaks are slowing allowing the elements to gain entry to the vulnerable wooden frame. Without some form of help, in the way of funding or simply volunteered materials and effort, this lodge may be quickly approaching collapse. There is hope however, as the farmland and lodge are now in the hands of the NJ State Park Service and the State Agricultural Development Committee. They, along with the Heritage and Agriculture Association are currently forming plans to stabilize the old lodge, as well as restore the deteriorating farm. While this is all wonderful news and we truly hope it succeeds, as it is with anything of this nature - We will believe it when we see it...