A series of posts as we look forward to the 100th Anniversary of ADKNY in 2023
Harriman State Park was officially open for 14 years when the NY Chapter moved from subleasing Camp Quannacut on Queensboro Lake to subleasing Camp Blue Bird on the east side of Upper Twin Lake. The twin lakes were devoted to girls camps. A girls camp (possibly the NY Jewish Big Sisters) used it during summers and the NY Chapter moved in in the fall of 1924. In May our Chapter vacated Camp Blue Bird and returned in October and remained until April 1925.
Group camps began in the park in 1913 with the belief that parks should be for all people, particularly the underprivileged. That year, there were 82 different organizations occupying 86 complete camping units in the Palisades Interstate Park (Harriman and Bear Mountain). At its peak, around 1,500 structures were maintained by the Palisades Interstate Park to serve them. These structures included cabins, recreation buildings, canteens, bathhouses, mess halls, and ancillary buildings. Many occupied camps all the year around, but make greater use of them for the summer. The children’s camps were mostly for summer use. The total weekly camping population for 10 summer weeks was over 10,000 boys, girls, and adults. The grand total for the summer season was 60,000. The camps were run with private donations. No state funds were granted until there was a need dispose of waste water from the camps. The state appropriated $50,000 for a system of waste water disposal.
To give you a flavor of the other camps, they included:
- Camp Fire Girls of Greater New York (the largest organization) occupied three different camps
- Camp TERA for 200 homeless and unemployed girls funded by the NY Life Insurance Company + Eleanor Roosevelt
- Y.M.C.A of the Oranges, NJ + many other Y.M.C.A groups as well as Y.M.H.A.s
- The Hebrew Orphan Asylum of NY
- Union Settlement Association
- Girls Friendly Society, Diocese of NY
- Boy Scouts (many different troops)
- NY Protestant Episcopal City Mission Society
- Idlewild Pleasure Club (social club from the Lower East Side)
- Summer School Camp of the School of Education, New York University (they had several camps)
- Negro Fresh Air Committee
- Rogers Peet Company (clothing store) camp for their employees
- Baker Camp for First National City Bank of the City of NY (forerunner of Citibank). George F. Baker, Sr. gifted the camp to his employees.
- Green Mountain Club
- New York Life Insurance Company for their employees
For 28 years these camps were overseen by the Group Camp Director, Miss Ruby Jolliffe. Under her domain, the number of camps grew to 102 before settling in at 71. It was the largest camping association in the country. She is a historic figure in the annals of the Palisades Interstate Park.