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Theodore F. King 1843-1928

A Most Prominent Citizen of Roxbury, New Jersey.
Real Estate Tycoon, Merchant, Developer
Theodore King of Landing Ledgewood NJ



Today's real estate investors like Tej Kohli have portfolios which can be worth over a billion dollars. It is difficult to compare real estate investors of one hundred years ago like Theodore King to billionaires like
Tej Kohli, but suffice it to say both men were successful and products of their own time.

The history of Landing, in the township of Roxbury, New Jersey could not be written without
the name of Theodore King appearing as the most prominent of all those who have
contributed to the development of the area.

Theodore F. King was born on November 14, 1843 on a farm in Roxbury Township, Morris County, New Jersey. His parents were Thomas L. (b. 1809) and Jane (Hilts) (b. 1817) King, his paternal grandparents were John P. and Christina (Wolfe) King. The farm was located in the area then called Drakesville, later the name was changed to Ledgewood. The approximate location of the farmstead was about 3 miles west of Ledgewood center, off Rt 46, in the area informally known as Kingtown, as seen by signs on two local businesses. Thomas King served as Constable of Roxbury Township from the age of 21 and in 1843 ascended to the office of Morris County Sheriff. In addition to his official duties, he ran his farm as well as selling lumber. While he was born on the farm, Theodore King spent the first five years of his life in Morristown where his father carried out his duties at the County seat. His later youth was spent back at the family farm and he received his education at the Chester Institute. During these years he assisted his father in a small retail store they had set up alongside the road that ran by the family farm. 

On May 21, 1873 Theodore King married Miss Emma L. Riggs, (born September 6, 1844) the daughter of a prominent area family, her parents being Albert R. and Nancy (Stanburrough) Riggs. In 1874 he took over the retail store of his father-in-law, located in the center of Ledgewood on the Morris Canal. It is at this point of the story that modern readers will begin to identify with it, for many local residents have seen the preserved "King Store", located in the Ledgewood Historic District and curated by the good work of the Roxbury Historic Trust, assisted by the Rotary Club. The first child born to the Kings, Edna Josephine (born July 8, 1876) died in early childhood (September 1, 1878). On September 25, 1881 Emma Riggs King gave birth to a daughter, also named Emma Louise. Around 1883 the Kings had a beautiful Victorian style home built next to the store, a home that is still standing and under renovation by the Roxbury Historic Trust.
In the 1880's the Morris Canal saw a sharp decline in its' traffic of commercial goods such as coal, lumber, ice and iron ore, as the faster Railroads took some of that business. Even as Theodore King watched the traffic of Morris Canal boatmen and traders dwindle at his store next to the canal, he still managed to do well in his investments. He had already purchased many hundreds of acres of land around Lake Hopatcong while it was still relatively unknown and made much profit by selling part of it to the new 'American Forcite' explosives complex that sprang up in 1883 among the hills at the southeastern corner of the Lake, the area now known as 'Shore Hills'. It is evident that at this time Theodore King shifted more attention, time, business and even leisure interests toward the area that was known as "The Landing". A detailed 1887 map of the area shows large and extensive land holdings by Theodore King all around the southwest and southeast side of Lake Hopatcong, including most of the area now called Landing. He also had several houses and cottages built in Landing for his family during this time including 285 Mt. Arlington Ave., later known as the "Carey" house, and 2 houses built on Kingsland Road next to the Lake for his daughter Emma Louise, houses that are still standing and in use today. Next to one of the houses is Lake Louise, named for his daughter, which was formed when King constructed an earthen dike to enclose a small bay of Lake Hopatcong. The water area north of Kingsland Road on the west shore is called "King's Cove" on old postcards, however, better known as "King's Cove" is the area on the eastern side of the lake just north of Silver Spring. All these areas along with cottages were rented out to vacationers during Theodore Kings' life, and later this same arrangement was managed by his daughter Emma. Eventually the properties were sold and Private Associations were formed to manage the communities; the Kingsland Association on the west shore and the Silver Springs and Kings Cove Associations on the east shore. 

During the 1880's King started and owned several businesses at the Lake and partnered in the ownership of others. The King Grocery Store at the southwest corner of Landing Road and Lakeside Boulevard was started (in a pre-existing building) in 1891 (it's site is now occupied by 1 Landing Road) by Theodore King and his brother William E. King . Across the street was King's Ice Cream & Confectionery, located on the southeast corner where a Real Estate office now stands. King also had Real Estate and Mining investments around the Lake, and was a financial partner in the construction of the Westmoreland Hotel at the southern end of the Lake (located near the site of today's "Station Hardware") and also partnered in the Silver Springs Park Hotel in the area that still bears that name. 

Perhaps the two most prominent King enterprises at Landing were the Lake Hopatcong Steamship Company and the Mountain Ice House. The 1890's saw the blossoming of Lake Hopatcong as the Summer Resort of choice by both the wealthy and the newly middle-class. The wealthy would rent large furnished houses, (called cottages!!) on the waters edge. The middle-class would often set up large canvas tents on wooden platforms and dwell in these for a week or more. All would enjoy the cool "mountain air" afforded by the so-called "1,200 foot elevation of the Lake" (an exaggeration of its' actual 926 foot elevation), a welcome summertime relief from the sweltering cities. Many would come up for the weekend and stay in one of the Hotels or rooming houses that sprang up around the Lake. Most everyone traveled to the Lake via Train, disembarking either at the Central Railway of New Jersey Station at Nolans Point or at the Landing Station of the Lackawanna Railroad. From there they most often traveled to their Lakeside destination via small Steamboats. The roads were poor to non-existent, and besides, the Steamboats were part of the attraction of the Lake! 
In 1890 the "Hopatcong Steamboat Company", known as the 'White Line' was founded by Theodore F. King  to compete with the established "Black Line". This was a bold move, as the "Black Line" was owned by the same financial syndicate that owned the Lackawanna Railway and the Morris Canal. They had the ability to tax all boats using the Morris Canal and it's "feeder extension", which ran from the deep water of the main part of the Lake right up to the Landing RR Station. It seems that Theodore tried either to undercut his competitor, the Black Line, by avoiding the Morris Canal tolls or could not come to an agreement with them, so he used small boats to ferry people from the shallow dock at Landing to his Steamboats waiting a half mile away in deeper water. 
The Black Line charged passengers a fifty cent fare each way from the railroad station, a sizeable amount in 1890 ! Experienced travelers knew that after they got off the train they could walk across the bridge at Landing and board one of King's boats which only charged a twenty-five cent fare to go out to the hotels and forty cents to return. In addition, the trip out to the Lake took longer via the Black Line as their boats had to travel up the Canal feeder to the Lock (in the present State Park), wait for the Lock to raise their boat, and then through the gate. In July 1891, the Morris Canal and Banking Co. retaliated by lowering the water level on the lake. This resulted in the White Line not being able to operate their small boats from the Landing. Undeterred, Theodore King responded by dredging the swampy area at the southernmost part of the Lake, thereby creating Landing Channel which made it possible for White Line steamboats to come within a block of the Landing Rail Station. (The photo above shows the "Hopatcong", the flagship of Kings's 'White Line', at the dock in Landing). 
One of the industries which helped King make his fortune was the winter harvesting of ice from the frozen surface of Lake Hopatcong and then shipping that ice to the cities of northeast New Jersey to be used in 'iceboxes' before the days of electric refrigeration. King owned the Mountain Ice Company in the Silver Spring section of Landing (near today's Nixon School) which had a huge wooden storage hanger that kept the ice frozen for months after it was harvested. A railway spur was built off the Lackawanna line (it went thru today's Valiante Construction yard) to reach the icehouse and ship the ice out. In 1912 that wooden hanger burnt to the ground in a fire so large the flames lit up the sky all around the Lake.
In 1913 an even bigger storage building was built in a fireproof construction of a steel frame and two layers of sheathing of hollow ceramic tile with insulating properties. At the time of it's construction, it's 56 foot height made it the largest Ice House in America. It was said to be able to hold 100,00 tons of ice. It was the largest single-span construction in the USA until Radio City Music Hall was built. It stood immediately behind the site of our current day Nixon School. With the advent of electric refrigeration, it closed in 1935 and was torn down in 1939. (photo above shows the aftermath of the 1912 fire, the blocks of ice can be clearly seen in the background, along with the rail spur)

In the Lewis Publishing book of biographies of prominent New Jersey Businessmen published during King's life (1899), his political affiliations are described this way: "Mr. KING, like his father, is a staunch Democrat, and he, too, has been shown official preference. He was elected clerk of Roxbury township when be was twenty-one, was re-elected and served several years, and almost continuously since he attained his majority has he served as a committeeman". In various sources King is alternately described as either a Presbyterian or a Baptist in religious persuasion. The uncertainty seems to stem from the fact that his wife and daughter were members of the Succasunna Presbyterian Church, as were his wife's parents, while King himself in the latter part of his life is described in reliable sources as a member of the Ledgewood Baptist Church and 'Superintendent' of the Sunday School there for several years. Such a position at that church would  indicate what would be described today as an evangelical stance.

In 1928 Theodore Frelinghuysen King passed out of this life, and in mourning his daughter simply locked the door of his Ledgewood store, contents just as they were, which is how it remained until her death on July 22, 1975. In the late 1980's restoration work began on the King Store, which is now operated as a Museum by the Roxbury Historical Society and Roxbury Historic Trust. The King family is interred at cemetery of Succasunna Presbyterian Church.

Although the mark King left on Ledgewood is easily seen in the still standing store and house, his influence on the founding and development of Landing was even greater. When one considers his Landing ventures of two retail stores, the Steamboat line, the Ice House with it's dozens of employees, the partnerships in Landing's two Hotels, and the houses and vast real estate he owned and rented out or sold, you get the sense that he was THE driving force in Landing for almost 40 years. How appropriate that there are 4 streets in Landing named after him: King Place, King's Highway, King's Road and Kingsland Road. Two Landing neighborhoods bear his name: King's Cove and Kingsland. 

This article written by Mottel Balston,  Website Editor copyright 2003, 2020

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The "King Store" on Main Street in Ledgewood, owned and operated by Theodore F. King from 1874 through 1928, is now open for short tours on the second Sunday of each month (except January) from 1-4 PM. Operated by volunteers from the Roxbury Historic Trust, this is well worth a visit. They sell Roxbury historic postcards and excellent books detailing local history. We recommend it !!

Interested in learning more? We recommend that you join the Roxbury Historic Trust, annual dues are $25.
Send to: Roxbury Historic Trust,  209 Main St,  Ledgewood, NJ  07852  tel: 973-927-7603.
The Trust is also involved in the ongoing restoration of the King Homestead, and is seeking volunteers to help in that effort or to contribute toward the work. Progress is being made !

information for this page came from a variety of sources, including:

Cramond, Richard. Special thanks to Richard Cramond of the of the Roxbury Township Historical Society and Roxbury Historic Trust.
Crayon, J.P. "Rockaway Records of Morris County, N.J. Families". 1902
Hosking, Annie S. & Meeker, Harriet  "THE HISTORY OF ROXBURY TOWNSHIP" Vol. I & II  Roxbury  Township Historical Society
Kane, Martin. "HOPATCONG - A CENTURY OF MEMORIES" , Arcadia Publishing
Lewis Publishing,  "Biographical History of Morris County New Jersey".  1899
Lum, Edward H.  "Genealogy of the Lum Family" 1927
Munsell, W.W.  "History of Morris County, New Jersey",  1882
Murray, Stuart A.P.  "HISTORY OF HOPATCONG BOROUGH" , 1976 Hopatcong Bicentennial Committee
Seraly, Ruthann & Lyman, Frances; "OLD HOMES OF ROXBURY TOWNSHIP", Roxbury Township Historical Society
Succasunna Presbyterian Church Cemetery Gravemarkers

Thompson, Mary Wolfe. "THEODORE FRELINGHUYSEN WOLFE", 1961, privately published
The Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum,   PO Box 668,  Landing, New Jersey  07850
 . . . and field trips by the author around Roxbury

If you know Landing history and can add to or correct this page,

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