Sussex County History Today: High Point

| 30 Dec 2022 | 09:43

This column is meant to enlighten newcomers about the many significant sites in Sussex County with a historical flavor.

A major site not to be missed is High Point State Park.

This park includes, most prominently, High Point Monument, which is atop the highest point in New Jersey at 1803 feet above sea level.

One of the best views in the state is to be had by parking in the lot near the summit, where one can see the easterly Hamburg Mountains and the ski area trails coming down them in Vernon.

Turning around, to the west one can see a great distance into Pennsylvania and the Pocono Mountains. And rotating to the north, the vastness of New York state unfolds outward to the Catskills.

Recently, the monument has had the added name of New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial, attesting to the many and prodigious sacrifices our citizens have made in defense of our great country.

A beautiful Interpretive Center is near the monument. This mountain lodge has information to help us understand our natural setting and to recognize those animals that are in the common life journey with us.

Many people come here to view natural surroundings, with Lake Marcia at a slightly lower elevation on this picturesque mountain. The clear mountain water is refreshing even to look at, and during the summer, swimming is permitted. An outside grill area is available for a family to bring their briquettes and fire starter. Winter offers snowshoeing and some strenuous cross country ski paths.

The park had been owned by honorary ‘Colonel’ Anthony and Susie Dryden Kuser and was dedicated in 1923. The Kuser Mansion was a great home that held many artifacts.

Local artist Louie Larsen had created a life-size wooden horse noted to be there as were many prized birds of the world.

Kuser was a prosperous New Jersey businessman who organized an ice company, brewery, and consolidated gas and electric companies in Trenton.

He financed an expedition to study birds in the Far East.

He funded William Fox to start Fox Film Corp., later merged as 20th Century Fox. Perhaps coincidentally, there was a large Fox Film storehouse in Ogdensburg where a fire burned many priceless old films in the 1930s, an event that brought national attention.

Remarkably, the Kuser Mansion was left to waste away and was finally torn down, its artifacts squandered and lost to time. The stuffed birds had flown.

Similar mysterious disappearances took place in this remote park with the two Sussex Squadron Civil War cannon and caisson and a big brass door from the monument - these large items gone without a trace.

High Point State Park is astride the Kittatinny Ridge, part of the Appalachian Mountains. The mountainous northwestern section of New Jersey that include Sussex County is more rural with less population in large part because of the difficulty of getting over the mountains during the western expansion. Even today, roads are few that span the Kittatinny Ridge.

People come from many miles away to experience the summer and winter recreation and views that High Point State Park has to offer. Why not try it out as an afternoon venture?