A Brief History of Camp Archbald
Camp Archbald, a 288 ½ acre camp, was founded in 1920 by the Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council at a site in Susquehanna County on the shores of Ely Lake in Kingsley, PA. Archbald is the second oldest Girl Scout Camp in the world. The first purchase of 49 acres in 1921 was paid through private subscription – the other purchases of land (1926 and 1959) were paid through the profits of cookie sales. Over 9,000 pine trees have been planted on the property since the first purchase of land in 1921.
Camping for Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council started in 1918 at Lake Coxton but the location was not right for a permanent home. In 1920, Mrs. Thomas Archbald, the chairperson of a committee to find land, traveled with several women to Brooklyn, PA, where a local resident suggested that they visit Ely Lake. They liked the site and rented land from Shirley Stevens that first summer of camping, deciding afterwards that this would be the permanent home of the council’s first residential camp. In 1921, the camp ran eight weeks of resident camp on the newly-purchased land, with approximately 76 girls attending per week. The girls took the Northern Electric Trolley from Scranton, which stopped a mile from camp. From there, the girls hiked up to camp, with cars or trucks transporting their heavier items. It cost seven dollars a week to attend. For the first five years, the main lawn of today’s camp was where girls and staff pitched their tents. The camp was named after Mrs. Archbald.
Starting in 1925, the camp was divided into units of different levels, a practice that was developed by the national organization, and one that has been followed ever since. The first units were Hillcrest, Hultz (Pioneer) and Greenwood. The very first Brownie unit in the United States was created at Archbald in a unit termed Green Forest (originally Hillcrest) in 1933. The first Mariners unit in any Girl Scout camp was started at Camp Archbald in 1938. Grizzly, a pioneer unit created in 1929, was the site of the first covered wagon ‘Gypsy’ trip undertaken by Girl Scouts in 1933. In 1958, All States Camp was held at Camp Archbald by Girl Scouts of USA. Girls representing every state were in attendance.
The oldest building still on the property is the Trading Post, which was originally built in 1921 to be the administrative offices. It remained as such until the building of the Lodge in 1938, at which point the cottage-style building was converted to the camp store, with a portion used for equipment storage. The waterfront was also one of the first places developed, with the first dock on Ely lake built by the Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council in 1922. Even in 1922, the Red Cross safety standards of colored caps that represent swimming ability, unit check-in boards, and a swimming buddy system were strictly enforced by the trained lifeguards.
The most impressive historic building on the property is Schooney Hall built in 1928. W.J. Schoonover immortalized his mother, Roxy Ann, over the fire place with the words, “Best citizens come from the homes where there is a loyal, helpful wife or a loving, practical mother. As a tribute to such a noble woman, this building is presented to the Girl Scouts of Scranton by her son.” Located in the center of camp, the building is made from native PA stone. The stones on the porch and patio are mined from a quarry that was located on the camp property. Pine trees were planted around the building, growing to such an extent that they towered over the building into the early 2000’s. Ultimately, those trees roots began to do structural damage to the foundation, porch and steps, resulting in their removal.
The newest facility on the property is the Laura Muia Dining Hall, which was opened in July of 2014, and dedicated to Laura Muia who was a Girl Scout leader and former board member of Scranton Pocono and Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA). The projects completed in 2014, which included a new archery range, ropes course, climbing tower and zip line, represented what Jane Ransom, the former CEO of GSHPA called, “a huge milestone in the plans of GSHPA to reinvest in the outdoor experience of the girls.” It is also the last major investment that GSHPA made in the property before deciding to start selling off portions of the camp in the Fall of 2017.
“Follow the Cookie Trail,” Pamphlet, Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council, 1967.
“A History…Camp Archbald, 1920 – 1995,” Pamphlet, Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council, 1995.
Lopes, Brittney. “Girl Scouts Dedicate New Dining Hall,” Wyoming County Press Examiner, September 17, 2014. https://www.wcexaminer.com/girl-scouts-dedicate-new-dining-hall-1.1754175
To learn about other buildings and sites on the property keep on reading!
Lodge: The Lodge was built in 1938 as a new, insulated administrative building. It is where the camp director resides and is also a location for winter camping. In 1967, a separate bedroom and bathroom were added to the back of the Lodge for the camp director.
Friendship (originally Friendship Hall): Friendship was built in 1972. Dedicated to Anna Johns, a former beloved camp director, the connected building originally served as an all-purpose building. Today, the top of the building is the infirmary, with ramps added in 1992, while the bottom is still designated as a staff only area in summer.
Caretaker’s Home: The Caretaker’s home was built in 1952 to replace a cottage that was built as the caretaker’s cabin in 1948. Here, the caretaker of the camp, and his (or her) family had a space to live, as well as oversee the entrance to the camp property. Over the years, the responsibility of the caretaker has been to maintain the property, including basic repairs on the buildings, set up and take down much of the summer equipment, and open and close buildings for troops who undertake camping year-round. The very first caretaker to live in the house was Niles Travis and his wife. A storage barn was built across the road from the house in 1962 to store many of the items that make camp possible. It was also designed to be a workshop to enable to caretaker to do repairs on the equipment, especially during the non-peak months of usage. In 1986, a fire destroyed the storage barn, as well as much of equipment, including tents. The brave actions of the caretaker at the time, Dave Yohe, saved the camp tractor and truck. That winter, girls across the council sold enough cookies to replace all the tents destroyed in the fire.
Infirmary: The original infirmary was built in 1924. In 1927, it was replaced by a larger infirmary that was located next to the waterfront. This building was made from wood reclaimed from a barn that was originally on the camp property and was one of the few buildings that did not utilize any cookie money to create it. This building could accommodate four beds, with a screened in porch, a private bathroom, and a separate bedroom for the nurse. However, in the early 1990’s, to ensure greater access for all girls, the infirmary moved to Upper Friendship. For several years after that, the old infirmary was utilized for male staff members until the decision was made to take the building down due to structural issues.
Heritage: Heritage was built in 1970 as an arts and crafts center, as well as a location for troop camping. Being two stories, it also was designed for storage of waterfront equipment (the garage) and a changing room. Overlooking Ely Lake, the large porch is the spot from which generations of girls have star-gazed and wished on shooting stars.
Dining Hall: The first dining hall was built where Heritage stands today. It was called Watres Hall and was built in 1922. It had a fireplace made from conglomerate rock and allowed girls and staff to look out across the lake as they ate their meals. Originally, food was kept cold in a cooler with ice from Ely Lake until 1941 when modern refrigeration was introduced. An electric dishwasher was introduced in 1939 – before that girls did the washing in tubs at the tables. In 1941, the 300 person dining hall, a much larger double-winged facility than Watres Hall, was built in the pine tree area of main camp. It had a central kitchen with modern refrigeration and dishwashers. During World War II, Camp Archbald campers planted victory gardens that supplied the summer campers with beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots. In one of the summers during the war, the campers and staff canned 115 quarts of green beans and 175 pounds of jam from local raspberries, apples, and blackberries. They made the jam in the unit outdoor kitchens. In the early 2000’s safety concerns about the dining hall resulted in removal of many of the surrounding trees. In 2014, the dining hall itself was replaced with a modern, accessible structure that could be used throughout the year, the Laura Muia Dining Hall. Inside the new dining hall, the original wooden window coverings, created in 1941 with painted Girl Scout badge designs, are now part of the decor.
Hillcrest/Forest/Frontier: One of the first three units created, Hillcrest started in 1925 as a tent unit, which quickly became cabins 1928, which were built from reclaimed wood, just like the 1927 infirmary. This unit was renamed Green Forest in 1931, becoming the first Brownie unit in the country in 1933. From 1939 – 1941, the unit went back to Hillcrest when the Brownies stayed in the unit, and Frontier when older girls stayed there. Eventually, the name Forest stuck and the Forest troop house, overlooking Lake Ely, as completed in 1949. Adirondack shelters replaced the original cabins in 1961.
Pioneer/Hultz: Created in 1925 when Miss Amy Hultz started pioneer camping at a site in the woods above Lake Ely. Eventually, the unit was renamed in her honor. This unit was designed for girls to do primitive camping, so a temporary outdoor kitchen was replaced with a permanent one in 1931. A log cabin troop house was built in 1932, donated by the Samter family. It was destroyed by a fire and only the outdoor kitchen was the main shelter of the unit, until the 1990’s, when the former troop house for Grizzly, which had been the camp Nature Center at Beechwood, was moved to become the troop house for Hultz.
Greenwood: The third 1925 unit at Camp Archbald was Greenwood, a Robin Hood themed unit with four Adirondack shelters – four more were added in 1932. In 1947, tents replaced the shelters. The troop house at the foot of the hill was built in 1954. A winterized structure, it housed campers and troops for decades. The last years of use during resident camp saw it used by the Counselors-in-Training (CIT) program. Currently, the building is considered structurally unsound and is unavailable for usage.
Grizzly: Because of the popularity of pioneer camping at Hultz, a second unit was created beyond that unit in 1929. It was named after the nickname for a popular counselor, Gertrude Gold. Grizzly was the site of the first covered wagon ‘Gypsy’ trip undertaken by any Girl Scouts. At Camp Archbald, this trip lasted until 1970. Although no structure remains on the site of Grizzly, the unit’s original 1956 troop house is still in the fabric of camp as the troophouse at Hultz.
Nissaki/Meadows: In 1932, four cabins were built in an open field to become the unit Nissaki. The troop house was built by the Reciprocity Club of Scranton. In 1940, the unit was renamed as Green Meadows, becoming Meadows over time. Meadows got a shower house in 1947.
Mariners: In 1938, the first ever Girl Scout Mariners unit, was started at Camp Archbald. The first houseboat, called the “Hey You” was ready for that summer. The second houseboat, the “Challenge” was completed for 1939. The boats originally had canvas roofs, which were replaced with wooden ones over the course of the next several decades. In 1982 and 1983, those original houseboats were replaced with the current houseboats. Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts, with the appropriate swimming ability, live on the houseboats, which are frequently the home of girls who undertake canoe trips on rivers (Susquehanna and Delaware) and creeks. The first canoe trip on the Susquehanna was completed in 1930.
Sunnyside: A new Brownie unit of three cabins was created in 1941 in the field next to Meadows. The unit, visible from Main Camp, had a troop house added in 1946. It burned down in the 1980’s. The original cabins were replaced in 1960.
Samoset: A place to train girls to become counselors became a necessity in 1947. This three-tent unit was near Grizzly and only had a latrine. It lasted until 1961 when Applenook became the new training unit. It has been utilized as a primitive camping area in the decades since then.
Beechwood: Over 1000 campers were attending Camp Archbald in the late 1940s, resulting in the creation of a new junior unit in the woods behind Greenwood. The location was not a lasting one and the unit was discontinued in 1961. Today, the Quiet Place, built to honor Jeanne Gordon a former executive director in 1995, is in the former unit’s location.
Applenook: After the last purchase of new land in 1959, the camp expanded in a western direction. Created to replaced Samoset, Applenook was also a primitive unit with the only permanent structure being a latrine. Preparing for the National Girl Scout Roundup, a competitive gathering of Girl Scouts across the country, was one of the purposes of the unit’s usage – only eight Senior girls from a council could attend. Today, the unit has been re-purposed for outdoor adventures, including a ropes course, a climbing tower and a zip line.
Maples: In 1961, a tent unit was created on the western side of the camp above Meadows and Sunnyside. Here, up to 30 girls, camped doing pre-pioneer activities. It is also where the first bike trip groups for camp were housed. A large troop house was completed in 1967.
Treetops: The newest unit in Camp Archbald, built on the site of the original Greenwood unit, is Treetops. Dedicated in 1991, this year-round facility has an innovative structure, utilizing the natural cliff layout of the original unit area. It is very popular as a rental for troop camping. The building honors Louise Greener Williams, a former camp director and Scranton Pocono Council Director.
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