“The Castle,” a well-known landmark in Northern New Jersey, is located on Garret Mountain overlooking the City of Paterson. Once a private residence, the building is fashioned after an English castle. Catholina Lambert, an English immigrant who made his fortune in the silk industry, built the Castle in 1892-93. He named it “Belle Vista.” Many prominent individuals of that era, including President McKinley, visited the Lambert family in their luxurious residence.
The castle served as an elegant background for Lambert’s extensive collection of American and European paintings and sculptures. He continued to expand the building and in 1896, a 70-foot observation tower, and summerhouse was added as well as a 100 foot by 35-foot art gallery.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Catholina Lambert lost much of his fortune. In 1916, he found it necessary to auction his renowned art collection to pay his debts. Despite this financial setback, Catholina continued to live in the Castle until his death in 1923.
Lambert’s son, Walter, sold the Castle to the City of Paterson in 1925. The city used the building as a Tuberculosis Hospital for several years. In 1928, the title was transferred to the Passaic County Park Commission as part of the 575-acre Garret Mountain Reservation. (The Park Commission is now under the jurisdiction of the Passaic County Board of Freeholders.)
In 1934, the Passaic County Historical Society was granted permission to establish a museum and library in the building. Several years later the Park Commission found it necessary to demolish the Gallery Wing that had been constructed in 1896; however, the Society continued to operate a museum and library in the original structure.
The New Jersey and National Registers of Historical Places awarded the Castle Landmark Designation in 1976.
In 1995, the County Freeholders embarked upon a $5 million dollar restoration project. A festive ribbon cutting ceremony was held on September 24, 2000, to mark the grand re-opening of the building. This massive restoration project will enable Lambert Castle to continue to serve as a very visible reminder of the gilded Victorian Era and provide a unique background for the Society to fulfill its mission of interpreting and preserving Passaic County history.