Rooted in Fun & Recreation
Before the Blue Mountain Lakes community existed, the lake and surrounding land housed a popular summer camp.
In the early 1920s Morris Escoll, his wife, and some friends created Blue Mountain Camps for boys and for girls. The boys camps (junior boys and senior boys) were located on the east side of the lake centered around our current pool and clubhouse. The girls camps were located near the current mail pods and gazebo.
Blue Mountain Camps offered Jewish children the opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors in a way they couldn’t in the city. The camps focused equally on athletics and the arts. During the day campers would play sports or go hiking, horseback riding, boating, or swimming. In the evenings they would attend social events, do arts and crafts, or rehearse for one of the three shows they performed each year. Escoll advertised that campers would spend lots of time in the sun and that they would gain weight; two things that were difficult to do in the city.
A Home Away from Home
Rather than just spending one week away from home, campers at Blue Mountain Camps spent the entire summer here, and many would return year after year. Spending so much time together helped campers form some of the closest friendships of their lives.
Many current doctors, lawyers, and entertainers spent their childhood at these camps. Some more famous campers include Ed and Steve Sabol of NFL Films, and Larry Cuban of Stanford University. Even actor Henry Winkler of “Happy Days” fame spent one summer here.
In 1961 Morris Escoll’s poor health meant he was no longer able to run the camp. Other managers took over until the camp’s last year in 1968. Later the grounds were rented to other nearby camps. But in the 1980s when that became unsustainable Joseph Lubeck, grandson of Morris Escoll, began the process of turning the camps into a housing development.
Several elements of the camp still remain. Along Pocahontas Rd near the guard shack are several stone pillars that welcomed visitors to the camps. Near the lake spillway is a circular stone campfire pit used by the girls camp. The benches at the lakefront were used by campers over 50 years ago. The parking area near the dock is an old tennis court. The red and green asphalt is still visible. And groves of tall evergreen trees can still be found around the lake. Escoll planted over 25,000 trees (red pine, white pine, spruce, hemlock, and larch) during the first years of the camp.
But the most prominent remnant of the camps is the large fireplace in the gazebo. This fireplace was originally part of the boys camp lodge, located on the opposite side of the lake. As the camp closed and prepared for development, Lubeck had the fireplace moved to its current location so that we could enjoy a bit of the camp still today.
Special thanks to Dr. Harvey Frankel for the photos and telling the history of the camps.
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