Eagle Island History
In 1903, former U.S. Vice President and Governor of New York, Levi Morton built the Adirondack Great Camp on Eagle Island. The buildings were designed by preeminent Great Camp architect William L. Coulter and are clustered in a small area that enjoys particularly beautiful and advantageous views over the lake and mountains beyond. One characteristic feature of a Coulter design is the extensive porches that connect the main buildings.
In 1910 Morton sold Eagle Island to Henry Graves, Jr. an industrialist born in Orange, New Jersey. The Graves family enjoyed spending summers at Eagle Island for many years. In 1937, following the tragic deaths of their sons George C. and Henry III in separate automobile accidents, Henry and his wife Florence generously gifted Eagle Island to the New Jersey Girl Scouts of the Oranges and Maplewood in memory of their sons. Henry Graves Jr.’s wish was that Eagle Island would be a place to keep the spirit of childhood alive.
The Girl Scout Camp opened in 1938 after minor renovations, including an enlarged dining hall and the reinforcement of the Lodge floor in anticipation of folk dancing activities. The Great Camp buildings otherwise have remained largely unchanged, as campers were housed in platform tents grouped into units throughout the wooded areas of the island. The Great Camp complex includes 11 historic buildings and 4 historic structures, as well as 6 ancillary buildings and numerous structures such as tent platforms.
In 2004, Eagle Island was designated by the National Park Service as a “National Historic Landmark”, its highest distinction for historic properties of national significance.
In 2006 Girl Scouts USA embarked on a major realignment of its Councils, reducing the number of Councils by half. The owner of Eagle Island, the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex and Hudson, was merged with two other New Jersey councils to form the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) effective October 1, 2008. At that time, GSHNJ and other Girl Scout Councils across the country were faced with many challenges, including balancing program value with property investment and changes in leadership. In 2009, after 70 years of continuous operation, Eagle Island Camp was closed. . Citing a number of similar challenges in owning and continuing to operate Eagle Island, the Board of Directors of GSHNJ voted to sell the property in October, 2010.
In November of 2015, Friends of Eagle Island, Inc. acquired Eagle Island from GSHNJ, through the extraordinary generosity of an anonymous donor. This purchase completed the first phase of FEI’s vision of ensuring that “children may always play” on Eagle Island. In the short time since then, the organization has focused on positioning itself for the restoration and revitalization of the island’s historic Great Camp buildings and other facilities.
Links to articles:
- National Historic Landmark Nomination and Designation - Aug. 18, 2004
- Girl Scouts Given Adirondack Showplace -- Newark Sunday Eagle -- Aug. 29, 1937
- Girl Scouts Given Adirondack Showplace (cont.) -- Newark Sunday Eagle -- Aug. 29, 1937
- Big Estate is Given to the Girl Scouts -- NYTimes -- Aug. 30, 1937
- Adirondack Retreats Add New Facilities --NYTimes -- June 12, 1938 (camp opens)