Remembering Rockwood

Did you ever visit Rockwood, the GSUSA camp located in Potomac, Maryland, from 1938 to 1978?

The Manor House. Photo by Mark Bowles.

The Manor House. Photo by Mark Bowles.

Perhaps you camped at Weston Hill, took a training in the Manor House, or bunked in Carolyn Cottage when your troop toured Washington, DC? Or maybe you attended a language camp, a selection weekend for Our Chalet, or a Wider Opportunity?

I fell in love with the place when my daughter camped there as a Brownie. The more I learned about the history of Rockwood, about the amazing women who built the original estate, transformed a country home into a national camp, and filed a class-action lawsuit to prevent its sale, the more I became enchanted.

I’ve blogged about Rockwood several times, and I am now writing a book about the Rockwood story.

I’ve spent several weeks going through the files at the GSUSA National Historical Preservation Center in New York, and I have many documents and scrapbooks from Washington-area Girl Scouts.

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I know the nuts and bolts of Rockwood. I have statistics on how many troops camped there month by month. I have diagrams of the woefully insufficient septic system. I have legal papers about the acquisition and sale of the camp and the process of turning part of it over to the Montgomery County, Maryland, park system.

But that is only part of the story. I need help from former Rockwood campers. What was the experience like? What memories have stuck in your mind over the decades? Was it the friends you made from other councils? A favorite meal in the dining room? Singing and skits in Brooke Hall? The sweltering cabins in August?

Most of all, I need photos. GSUSA has some photos, mostly exterior shots of buildings. Other than a few postcards and the images in the slideshow above, I’ve seen precious little of the interior. Few images have captions, either.

I’ve setup a Facebook page, Remembering Rockwood, with some of these photos. Please take a look and see if they trigger any memories. Add your recollections to the comments. Maybe you’ll recognize faces and places.

If you have photos, color slides, scrapbooks, or other related items, please contact me. I will cover shipping costs if you let me borrow and scan them. Rockwood is a wonderful part of Girl Scout history. Please help me tell it.

Unrolling Girl Scout Camp History

People often drop off donations for the council archives at my house. Usually it’s an old uniform piece or handbook, perhaps a pocketknife or handful of badges. I also have an enviable collection of random Girl Scout socks that regularly appear on my desk at the main office.

But buried inside the latest two boxes of musty, mildewed paper was a real treasure.

Camp history scroll

Camp history scroll

This hand-drawn paper scroll offers the camp report for 1960-1961.  Think of it as an early PowerPoint. You unroll just enough paper to see the next illustration, then move to the next “slide.”

Each camp is listed separately, with attendance levels,

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program offerings,

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and property development detailed.

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The delightful illustrations are hand-drawn with marker, and most of the draft pencil marks are still visible.

I have not measured the entire scroll, but it is at least 60 feet long.

The boxes came from the family of Anne Murray, who was on the National Capital Council Camp Committee in the late 1950s and early 1960s. (National Capital was one of five councils that merged to form Nation’s Capital in 1963).

The scroll will definitely have a featured place in the new Archives & History Program Center opening this fall.

Thank you Roxanne Beatty for arranging this donation!!

Empty Mansions and Camp Connections

I just finished reading a delightful book, Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., and was surprised to find it had a Girl Scout connection.

Empty_Mansions

 

The enigmatic Huguette Clark in 1943.

The enigmatic Huguette Clark.

 

The book tells the life story of Huguette Clark, one of America’s wealthiest women, who died in 2011 at age 104.  Huguette was decidedly eccentric. She was rarely seen in public, never met face-to-face with the lawyers, accountants, and household staff that she employed for decades, and spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room, despite being quite healthy. She married briefly — it lasted barely a year — and never had children of her own. Her father, copper and railroad baron W.A. Clark, was nearly 70 years old when she was born and had five children from his first marriage. However, she insisted she had a contented life, filled with painting, music, developing exquisite dollhouses for her huge antique doll collection, and sharing her wealth with a variety of charities and friends.

Huguette's childhood home had art galleries, a pipe organ, and an infirmary.

Huguette’s childhood home had art galleries, a pipe organ, and an infirmary.

She left an estate of $300 million that triggered a huge rush for treasure among her far-flung relatives, lawyers, accountants, and private nurses. Clark also left three luxury apartments (42 rooms) on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan; Bellosguardo, a 22,000 square foot estate in Santa Barbara that was kept staffed and ready for a visit at 48 hours’ notice, although she hadn’t been there since the 1950s; and Le Beau Chateau, a 42-room mansion in New Canaan, CT, that she never bothered to furnish, much less visit.

Bellosguardo, the Clark summer home in California.

Bellosguardo, the Clark summer home in California.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington also became ensnared in the complicated estate. Huguette and her father both were patrons of the gallery and serious art collectors. Clark left his enormous collection to the Corcoran upon his death.  She left a portion of her estate to the Corcoran as well as the proceeds ($24 million) of the auction of Claude Monet’s Nympheas water lilies painting, which had hung in her home since 1926.

Claude Monet's Nympheas hung in Huguette's living room for decades.

Claude Monet’s Nympheas hung in Huguette’s living room for decades.

What is the Girl Scout connection?

I bought the book while I was in New York doing research at GSUSA. This was during the great blizzard of January 2015 and with all the dire warnings of lost power, I realized I had no actual book with me. If my computer lost power, I would be bored silly in my hotel room.  I left GSUSA and walked up Fifth Avenue to a Barnes and Noble, where I purchased Empty Mansions.  Little did I know that I had passed Huguette’s apartment building at 907 Fifth Avenue and came near the site of her childhood home at 77th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Pretty weak Girl Scout ties so far, right?

Agreed.

But perhaps you are familiar with Huguette’s older sister, Andrée Clark? As in Camp Andrée Clark, the first national Girl Scout camp?

Andree Clark, Huguette's older sister.

Andree Clark, Huguette’s older sister, died of meningitis in 1919.

It is the very same girl. As the story goes, Andrée was a quiet and withdrawn girl who joined the Girl Scouts. She’d had a hard time adapting to New York after living in Paris for many years. When she died a tragic death just shy of age 17, her parents read her diary and discovered how much Andrée loved her troop and the friends and activities it offered. In her memory, Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Huguette donated 135 acres of land in Briarcliff Manor, NY, for a camp.

Huguette, left, watches her father, W.A. Clark present the deed for Camp Andree Clark to Jane Deeter Rippin, National Director.

Huguette, left, watches her father, W.A. Clark present the deed for Camp Andree Clark to Jane Deeter Rippin, National Director.

As for Huguette, she never joined the Girl Scouts, and the biography does not explain why. Perhaps her life would have taken a different turn had she been a Girl Scout.

For more about Huguette and photos of her homes and artwork, see the ongoing series of articles by NBC or the book’s website.

Princess Pat Out of Her Tree

We’ve all heard of the Princess Pat, and most of us know that she didn’t really live in a tree.  But who was she?

Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Born in 1886, Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her parents were Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. After a lengthy career in the army, the duke served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. Because her mother was in poor health (she passed away in 1917), Patricia served as her father’s official hostess in Canada. Patricia was very popular and highly respected for her work for the Red Cross.  She was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the newly formed Canadian Light Infantry in 1918 and personally embroidered the regiment’s first official colors — their flag. Colonel-in-Chief is a ceremonial role, similar to a sponsor or patron.

Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (http://dukeofconnaught.yolasite.com/).

Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (http://dukeofconnaught.yolasite.com/).

The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry was formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and will celebrate its centennial next month.  Members are affectionately known as the “Princess Pats” or the “Patricias,” and their annual magazine is The Patrician. It is a highly decorated unit that served with distinction in both World Wars, Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.

The popular “Princess Pat” camp song is said to be a variation on the regiment’s own marching song, with lyrics that have become increasingly garbled over time. Like a game of telephone, the phrase “light infantry” has transformed into “lived in a tree.” The word “rigabamboo” (or rickabamboo) refers to the red, gold, and purple regimental flag and is “Ric-A-Dam-D00” in the original.

Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops.

Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops (www.birthofaregiment.com).

I’ve come up with at least three versions: the Scout Tree song, the Scout Light Infantry version, and the Regimental lyrics.  Although I could not find a definitive statement, the regiment supposedly has asked that the song not be sung with the irregular lyrics as they regard it as disrespectful.

In addition to her needlework talent, Princess Pat was an accomplished painter whose work was widely exhibited. She married Alexander Ramsay, a Naval officer who worked for her father in Canada, in 1919. Now known as Lady Ramsay, Patricia traveled the world with her husband as he rose to the rank of admiral. They had one son. Lady Ramsay passed away in 1974, but Princess Pat lives on in hundreds of Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Guide camps around the world.

Want to learn more about real princesses? Check out my new patch program, Real Princess.

My Real Princess patch program.

My Real Princess patch program.

Roaming around Rockwood, part two

Thirty-five years ago, on May 22, 1978, GSUSA announced it would sell the Rockwood Girl Scout National Center to developer Berger-Berman for $4.1 million.  The developer planned to build 180 luxury homes on the site.

At the time,  membership had fallen from 3 million to 2 million nationally, and the movement faced a $300,000 annual budget shortfall. Ultimately, the national board decided that one of the four national centers must be sacrificed. Rockwood was chosen because it duplicated many services provided by the Edith Macy National Center in New York state. “We had these two centers serving the same area and needs and we were incurring a six-figure loss on our properties,” said GSUSA spokesman Richard Knox. “The difference between them is substantial. Rockwood has 92 acres and is in the midst of suburban development. Macy has some 270 acres with 114 adjacent acres being leased to the New York Girl Scout Council for a camp.  We could not maintain both.”

Local Girl Scouts disagreed.    Loudly.    Very loudly.

They argued that the sale violated the provisions of Carolyn Caughey’s will, which stipulated that should the Girl Scouts “abandon” the property or cease to use it for a “character building” purpose, it would revert to the Esther Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. (GSUSA paid the Esther Chapter $150,000 for its rights to the property.)

They also argued that the sale violated the Girl Scout Law’s commitment to “protect and improve the world around me” and “to use resources wisely.”

They further argued that Rockwood and Macy were not interchangeable, as “It is difficult to show girls the people and buildings of the Nation’s Capital while encamped in New York.”

But above all, they argued that the decision to sell should not have been made without consulting individual Girl Scouts.

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Rockwood fans banded together as the “Rescue Rockwood Committee” to save the camp. (The name later changed to “Friends of Rockwood, Inc.”)

In October 1978, GSUSA President Gloria Scott and CEO Frances Hesselbein met with concerned local citizens at a forum in Bethesda, Maryland. A few weeks later, delegates to the National Council Session voted 907-736 to ask GSUSA to “cease negotiations and reconsider the sale of the Rockwood property.”  GSUSA continued with plans for the sale.

Nine Nation’s Capital Girl Scouts filed a class-action lawsuit against GSUSA  in Montgomery County, Maryland, court in January 1979 to block the sale. The Rockwood nine included seven adults (Anne Pomykala, Jean Moore, Jo Reynolds, Wilma Jean Crompton, Patricia Cornish, Charlotte Myklebust, and Dorothy Heisey) and two girls (Kendra Moore and Christina Cornish). Maryland State Attorney General Stephen Sachs soon joined the suit on behalf of the nine Scouts.  The local council, Nation’s Capital, was not part of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the developer applied to the Montgomery County Council for sewer and water service for the camp. The Council deferred a decision until the lawsuit was resolved.

As legal fees mounted (over $25,000), Committee members raised funds through garage sales, letter-writing campaigns, bake sales, and selling patches and other items.  Marian Corbin Aslakson, a member of Juliette Gordon Low’s original Savannah troop who had moved to Bethesda, Maryland, donated a pair of antique leaded glass windows and a dozen sterling silver goblets to be auctioned off.  Actress Elizabeth Taylor, then married to Virginia Senator John Warner, donated a framed, autographed photo to be auctioned.

In May 1979, the Rescue Rockwood group marched in front of the White House to attract the attention of First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Honorary GSUSA President.

As the trial date approach, Helen Zelov (see part one) planned to travel to Maryland to testify.

Instead, an out-of-court settlement was reached in 1981, whereby 20 acres and most of the buildings went to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the rest to Berger-Berman Builders.  Before the deal was final, the Montgomery County Council needed to approve the developer’s request to rezone the land for residential use.  The park commission and local Girl Scouts also had to work out arrangements that would allow both Girl Scouts and the public to use the facilities.

Today, Rockwood is a popular venue for weddings and other events.  Girl Scouts can camp overnight in the dormitories, but there are no cooking facilities available to them.  Next door is Woodrock, the neighborhood of homes built on former Girl Scout land.