History of the
Centennial Pines Club
Centennial Lake was once part of a larger tract of land owned by Charles Read who, in 1767, built a mill and iron furnace at the site of the present Taunton Lake dam. The furnace was in operation in 1768, and continued through the Revolutionary War.
In 1784, an advertisement depicted the works as a furnace, a forge, and an adjacent saw mill.
An old map of the area in 1795 shows Taunton Forge and seven houses. Operations continued until around 1830 and were called Read’s Mill, Taunton Furnace and Forge, or Taunton or Tintern Furnace.
At one point, cedar logs may have been “mined” in the area. When cedar logs fall over in a swamp, they can sink and be preserved for years. Long poles with hooks were used to probe into the mud and pull up any buried logs, which were mostly used to make shingles.
It is thought the “underwater road” which runs across the lake bottom from 11 Overlook Court to 35 East Centennial Drive was used for the harvesting of these logs.
This road is clearly visible when the lake is lowered. It is also visible on the Google Map at the bottom of this page. It is a “corduroy road,” made up of logs laid down next to each other horizontally. It is easy to walk along this road even when the lake is full.
In about 1847, Joseph Hinchman bought the mill pond and property and converted it to a cranberry bog.
In 1876, a new cranberry variety was introduced at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The berry was named for our nation’s one-hundredth birthday and eventually the lake which covered the cranberry bog took on the name.
The origins of the development go back to World War II. Dr. Vladimir K. Zworykin bought 600 acres of property including the dam and the lake. Dr. Zworykin was one of the inventors of the television. After Dr. Zworykin purchased the lake, he invited Arthur W. Lewis to become a partner with him in the creation of a “colony” club and the development of the property.
The Centennial Pines Club was founded on December 4, 1948. The five original members were Dr. Zworykin, Elaine V. Zworykin, Arthur Lewis, Harold T. Hinchman, Jr., and Katherine A. Polevitzky.
Mr. Lewis became one of the original residents, picking an ideal spot on the east side of the lake including the lovely Zephyr Point (now 27 East Centennial). Dr. Zworykin resided on Taunton Lake.
In 1957, a compact was signed between the residents (the Centennial Pines Club) and the owners (the Centennial Lake Company). The purpose was to establish a cooperative relationship between the Club and the Company in the further development of the community. The Club assumed “community” responsibilities such as social activities, recreation, and enforcement of rules and regulations, while the Company retained the rights of development and the control of the lake. Provision was made that when development reached a certain point and when the Club established a $25,000-escrow account to cover lake and dam maintenance, the ownership of the lake bottom and control of the lake would be transferred to the Club. The 1957 agreement also stated if the Company owners wanted to sell their interests, these would be first offered to the Club.
After more than a decade of smooth operation of the compact, Dr. Zworykin decided to liquidate his share of the Company. To facilitate this, the Lewis interests were also offered to the Club – a total package for $400,000. As incredible as it may seem now, the Club declined, not wanting to have to go into the real estate business. The property and lake were sold in 1970 to new owners who eventually sold them to the Centennial Land and Development Corporation owned by Joseph Samost.
The new owners submitted plans for a subdivision of the remaining undeveloped property which called for a large number of houses on relatively small lots. The Club opposed this development plan because it felt the large number of houses would poison the lake by causing an algae bloom.
The rest of the 70’s and the first half of the ’80’s was marked by litigation between the Club and the Corporation.
In 1978 the area in which Centennial Lake lies was given protection by the United States Congress when it created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. This was followed in 1979, by the New Jersey Pinelands Protection Act which provided for the Pinelands Commission and the Comprehensive Management Plan.
Finally, in 1985 a settlement was reached between the Club and the Corporation. The Club would not oppose the Corporation’s subdivision plans, which were in basic compliance with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. Construction on a new Centennial Lake subdivision was started shortly after. Ground was broken for the final subdivision in September of 2001.