Herbert Hapgood, a developer, was solicited in 1908 to head up a new development that was to be a retreat from the polluted, busy New York City life. The vision included a return to the simple life of the rural community and the arts and crafts designs of Gustav Stickley. The Arts and Crafts movement, which began in Europe, was founded in the belief of preserving family life and stability and building with quality, natural materials. The community he envisioned included man-made lakes, parks and walking paths. The homes were built out of natural materials readily available such as chestnut wood, oak, and fieldstones. The homes included the "family Hearth" as the center of the home. Here the family could gather and spend time together. That community is Mountain Lakes.
Hapgood built nearly 500 homes, but like many of the builders of the arts and crafts movement, his endeavor failed. After Hapgood fled to avoid bankruptcy, the Belhall Company took over the development. There were 60 Belhall homes built, of which 57 still exist today. These homes maintain many of the arts and crafts features. They boast wood flooring, chestnut woodwork and many of the design features of the arts and crafts homes. They maintained the vision of the importance of family life and the stability of the Mountain Lakes Community. The Belhall company also met its demise due to the depression. The Borough of Mountain Lakes was able to purchase most of the land and mortgages at a fraction of the cost. The Borough also purchased additional land including Birchwood and Crystal Lakes. After the war, the Borough sold off some of this land and new homes including cape cod style homes, colonials, ranches and a few contemporary style homes. Today, the borough maintains approximately 673 acres of designated conservation land for the town. New construction is limited to the few homes that are knocked down to build new or a handful of properties the owners were able to subdivide. The population of the town according to a recent Census Bureaue estimate is: 4,277; a land area of 2.62 sq. miles; a water area of 0.27 sq. miles; and a population density of 1,634.94 people per sq. mile.