A Brief History of Eagle Lake, the Unfinished Estate
Eagle Lake remained nameless for most of its history, but locals referred to the estate surrounding it as “The Bunker”. In the late 70’s a bruiser by the name of Thomas Cousins carved out a hillside overlooking this 6-acre lake and built himself an underground fortress. Thousands of tons of concrete were brought in to form not only the exterior walls of the two-story 12,000 square foot structure, but every internal wall as well. The south face of the building overlooking the lake remained exposed and covered with glass. Steel louvers that were never completed would have protected the windows from intruders when closed. Wall thicknesses range from one to two feet and support 4 feet of overburden. A thick layer of foam insulates the exterior of the concrete from surrounding fill which maintain a steady temperature of between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit year around. The result is a comfortable moisture free indoor climate that requires only a small amount of heat and air conditioning. Mr. Cousins built the bunker to house and protect his burgeoning security company. Rumor has it his clients included Pam American Airlines and The New York Times during highly publicized disputes with organized labor.
The estate included a list of commercial variances, 25 acres of woodlands, a 6-acre lake, the underground bunker with skyward facing motion detectors, a walled in concrete courtyard with escape tunnel, school buses with barred windows and steel shields, a hilltop radio tower, a 1970’s era IBM main frame computer, a green house, dog kennels, passive solar heat, thousands of security uniforms and a shooting range. Adjoining the bunker is a 3-story contemporary house that was to become a guard residence after the larger estate home was completed on the hill across the lake. The house was equipped with a subsurface concrete bunker of its own complete with heavy steel door. Sadly, the owner suffered a heart attack and died before the bunker was completed and the estate home was never built. The property and its contents became all but abandoned for a decade or more. The bunker was nothing more than a concrete shell devoid of everything but a small electric panel and communication wiring. Unattended the lake collected silt and the property became a dumping ground. The estate was a blight on the quiescent township of Chesterfield NJ and few saw the possibilities that lay beneath its incomplete facade. Some believed the bunker should be demolished in its place.
A Diamond in the Rough
A for sale sign eventually attracted the attention of a young entrepreneur who was seeking a location for his environmental supply business. He realized the estate's untapped possibilities and raced home to share a vision with his wife. A home for the business is what he shared, a garden venue is what he saw. They entered an agreement with the seller and the estate with all its unfinished work became theirs. The years to come would be filled with hard work and do-it-yourself dedication. Within a year the bunker build-out was complete and the business moved in. A white sand beach replaced the piles of debris by the lake. A large gravel driveway replaced the muddy ruts to the bunker and the start of a sprawling perennial garden displaced the weeds along its path.
Fast forward 18 years, the business is sold and attention returned to the original vision of a garden venue. Paverstone bricks now cover the gravel driveway and property alterations complete. The Estate at Eagle is now open to the public. Over the years many a bride has inquired about this lakeside estate so an amphitheater was constructed to showcase wedding nuptials. In all, its unearthed beauty is a slice of heaven in the heart of NJ that the community of Chesterfield can be proud of.
The Name – Eagle Lake
Most mornings in spring and late summer and many times throughout the year a Bald Eagle or two will visit the lake. Their strength, beauty and legionary vision are the ideal symbol of this transformed lakeside estate. The appearance of such a magnificent creature is always exciting. Visitors can’t help but stop, gaze and applaud the moment. We welcome one and all to visit this wonderful estate and envision your next event at Eagle Lake.
Front face of concrete bunker - then and now
Front of Residence - then and now
Rear of residence - then and now
Beach area, begin renovation by drag lining lakeside - then
Beach area - now
Annual Fourth of July Celebration
The owner as occupied every day for a year laying pavers