On Saturday March 17th, 1894, the first Post Office in modern day Franklin Lakes was opened in the railroad hamlet of Crystal Lake[1]  with Edward R. Ackerman appointed as Postmaster. Crystal Lake had a rich history of early pioneer families establishing mills on the mighty Pond Brook, with both the Ackermans and Demarests calling the small valley home for 200 years. The area would remain relatively unchanged until the coming of the highways in the latter half of the 20th century. 

Today Crystal Lake sits under both Route 208 and Route 287 in Oakland and Franklin Lakes. Every time you drive from Rt. 208 North to Rt. 287 South, you actually drive over the old Post Office. Ruins of dams and bridges are all that we have today to remind us of this tiny hamlet on the railroad.

As a fourth-class Post Office, the Crystal Lake Post Office brought in annually less than $1,900 ($55,000 in 2018) in gross receipts from the sale of P.O. boxes, stamps, stamped envelopes, postal cards and newspapers. Interestingly enough the sale of ‘waste paper’ was also calculated into gross receipts, waste paper being defined under legislation brought about in 1883 by the Pendleton Act as, “dead newspapers, printed matter, and twine sold.” The Postmaster of a fourth-class Post Office drew a government salary of under $1,000, and could also collect a commission on money orders sold. Crystal Lake Post Office offered money orders on and off in the early years, offering them continuously from 1914 onward.

In the original application filed with the office of the Postmaster General on May 4th 1893, Edward R. Ackerman lists the New York Susquehanna & Western’s Crystal Lake Depot as the prospective location for the future Post Office. On the application, Ackerman noted that about 300 people inhabited the Crystal Lake area at that time, though when asked how many people the Post Office would serve responded, “Cannot give you a stated number.” The 1902 Bergen County map printed by E. Robinson & Co. of New York City shows the Post Office located in the Crystal Lake Station. In 1903/1904 Jennie Lockwood (nee Arthur) became the first Postmistress at the Depot, Mrs. Lockwood being the daughter of Louis L. Arthur, owner and proprietor of the nearby Arthur’s Hotel (later the Crystal Lake Inn).

1902 Robinson & Co. Bergen County Map

The role of a fourth-class Postmaster in the community was not one taken lightly. The position brought about prominence to the title holder, with the Post Office being the center of civic life. Having a Post Office in one’s business[2] was a sure way to bring people in, the foot traffic and sales associated with it more than compensating for the small, but honorable, government salary. Crystal Lake Post Office, being located near the rail depot, made it easy to route mail through Paterson and beyond. In 1911, Mrs. Jennie Lockwood drew a salary of $128[3]. Being a fourth-class Post Office, records kept on salary are scant, by 1912 the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) program had shut down one-fifth of fourth-class Post Offices, replacing local mail pickup with free delivery services to residences. In early October of 1916, mail service at the Crystal Lake Post Office was to be discontinued and mail routed through the Oakland RFD service, but by the end of the month this order was rescinded and mail service would still be available at Crystal Lake[4].

For the next decade, mail services were available at Crystal Lake, until finally being decommissioned on September 15th, 1926 after several shutdown attempts that started earlier that decade. Station Agent Frank Weise took on the role of Postmaster in 1924, believing his shared office would not be a burden to his railroad duties. Mail traffic slowed to Crystal Lake at the same pace that train commuter traffic dwindled, and Postmaster Weise resigned. Unable to find a replacement due to mediocre pay, the Government ordered the shutdown of postal operations in Crystal Lake. By 1928 the station itself would no longer have a regular agent, the mills that once populated nearby Pond Brook had all long gone out of business and the commuters would rather use easily accessible Oakland or Campgaw stations that were closer to their town centers. The station was badly neglected after the abandonment by the Susquehanna Railroad and was torn down in the early 1960’s,  unceremoniously disposed of in the woods behind the Crystal Lake Inn, which would meet a similar fate a decade later.

The Crystal Lake Post Office had six Postmasters during its run, listed here in order of service and date appointed:

Edward R. Ackerman: March 17, 1894

Jennie Lockwood: December 9, 1903

Walter J. Baker: March 14, 1914

Mary E. Johnson: March 16, 1917

Warren O. Ackerman: June 7, 1923

Frank Weise: April 19, 1924

Resources and Works Cited

[1] The Crystal Lake Post Office was the first in the modern Borough of Franklin Lakes, predating the Campgaw Post Office by three years, ten months, and 26 days

[2] Or in the case of the Campgaw P.O., as a still extant addition on the back of the private Pulis residence (430 Pulis Ave)

[3] At the same time, Campgaw Postmaster William V. Pulis (and future first Mayor of Franklin Lakes), received $230

[4] Similar efforts to shut down the Campgaw Post Office occurred in early 1909, with the same result of the discontinuation rescinded. Mail was also to be rerouted through Oakland. This was 7 years after the nationwide implementation of Rural Free Delivery in 1902.

Picture of Colin Knight

Colin Knight

Colin is a local history enthusiast and can often be found walking along railroad lines and poking around for old foundations while not burning the midnight oil with archival research throughout Bergen County. When he is not trying to weave together stories of the past to connect our shared heritage, he works for the County of Bergen and volunteers at the historic Lorrimer Nature Sanctuary in Franklin Lakes.

Picture of Commissioner Steve Tanelli

Commissioner Steve Tanelli

Steven A. Tanelli was elected to the Bergen County Board of Commissioners on November 6, 2012. Commissioner Tanelli served as Chairman in 2016 and 2021, Vice Chairman in 2015, and Chair Pro Tempore in 2020.

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