Born in Pleasantville, New Jersey, Lake joined his father's foundry business after attending public schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Lake had a strong interest in undersea travel. He built his first submarine, Argonaut Junior, in 1894 in response to an 1893 request from the Navy for a submarine torpedo boat. Neither Argonaut nor Lake's following submarine, Protector, built in 1901, were accepted by the Navy. Protector was the first submarine to have diving planes mounted forward of the conning tower and a flat keel. Four diving planes allowed Protector to maintain depth without changing ballast levels. Protector also had a lock-out chamber for divers to leave the submarine. Lake, lacking Holland's financial backing, was unable to continue building submarines in the United States. He sold Protector to Imperial Russia in 1904 and spent the next seven years in Europe designing submarines for the Austro-Hungarian Navy, the Kaiserliche Marine, and Imperial Russian Navy. When he returned to the United States in 1912, he founded the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which built 24 submarines for the U.S. Navy during and after World War I. Lake's first submarine for the U.S. Navy, USS G-1 (SS-19½), set a depth record of 256 feet (78m) in November 1912. Financial difficulties forced the Lake Torpedo Boat Company to close in the mid-1920s. Following company closure, Lake continued designing maritime salvage systems, and advised the U.S. Navy on submarine technology and maritime salvage during World War II. By his death, Lake had witnessed the submarine's arrival as a front-line weapon in the U.S. Navy.