The Grotto

Located on the grounds of our seven-acre tract, Nathan Hofheimer had this grotto built in 1915, over a 165 foot deep copper mine that had been flooding. It is one of the most beautiful man-made grottos in the East and some say it was modeled after a similar grotto in Germany that Mr. Hofheimer saw during his travels abroad, constructed with the help of European craftsmen. The grotto lies at one end of the Hofheimer Woods trail, maintained by Warren Township.

The main pool is 18 feet deep and its waters flow over a damn to connect further down with the East Branch Middle Brook (that later becomes Buttermilk Falls after the East Branch Reservoir).

Gravity-fed water was supplied by the nameless pond on the edge of the Warrenbrook Golf Course and flowed over and down the multiple tiers of stone layered around the pool. Sadly, on June 1, 1966 Somerset County got permission to pump 100,000 gallons a day from this pond for the watering of the Warrenbrook Golf course and closed this valve, thus ending the dreams that the Elks had of making this grotto, once again, a beautiful showplace for Warren Township. The adjoining pond just North of the grotto, part of the East Branch Middle Brook, dried up.

Near 2005, there were discussions to install pumps to create a fountain that would aerate the stagnant water, but there doesn’t appear to be any proof that this ever happened.

Today, the grotto is overgrown, with a trickle of spring-fed water falling over the dam. The adjacent pool to the north is now a swamp, unable to receive any water as overflow from the pond and grotto.

You can read more about the grotto here:

“We invite the general public and nature lovers in particular to visit the club’s grounds and view this tranquil setting. We are sure you will see a spot of beauty never dreamed existed.

Grotto 1938

The HofHeimer Grotto, Newspaper Clippings prior to 1964, when the site was purchased by the Watchung Hills Elks Lodge #2252 (later to merge with and become Elks Lodge #885).

Grotto 2009

The Hofheimer Grotto, January 4, 2009, Photos courtesy of Debbie Weisman

Grotto 2018 Vandalism

The Grotto has been vandalized for a few months by this time (June 24, 2018). Large tractor tires, the Boy Scout Troop 228 Eagle project picnic tables, a shopping cart, a 300 gallon IBC tote and various debris were tossed into the pool.

Grotto 2018

The Hofheimer Grotto, Images taken in 2018. The Warren Township Department of Public Works has removed the tractor tires, shopping cart, picnic tables and 300 gallon reservoir from the pool. A few garbage cans have been added to the trail, and the storm-debris was removed from blocking road access from the Somerset County equipment parking lot behind the Warrenbrook golfcourse.