PINECREST DUNES 1931-1970 ~
UPDATE - WINTER 2015
a new biography of the
founder of the first camp
on the site of Pinecrest Dunes, Luvia Willard!
UPDATE - WINTER 2011
wonderful felt banners were hung with a campers small
patches mounted on them came in this past winter.
A really nice find and something that we had not seen
before from the camp. They date to 1952-1953.
In addition was a felt banner with the name of cabin on
it - "Hillside," anyone out there who stayed in that
UPDATE - OCTOBER 2009
image at left is one of the last Totem Poles to be made
for Pinecest Dunes by Ken Schold, c. 1960s. It
came to auction in October 2009.
ended up being too expensive for the Society to purchase
and keep here in Southold. It seems headed for a
wealthy couples backyard for their daughter to play
According to Greg Munson: "I
think in the early 1960s that the large totem pole out
on Soundview Avenue rotted away and Ken Schold made a
new one. It was carved on top of a telephone pole as is
the totem you just posted. I'll bet this is the
replacement for the old one that is probably at the
front entrance still today. Uncle Greg."
- 2009 UPDATE:
Click HERE to listen to the
Pinecrest Dunes Camp official song from the 1963 Camp
record "Piney Tunes of Pinecrest Dunes!"
- I - N - E - C - R - E - S - T
Ring out a cheer for PINE-CREST
Long may its na-me gr-ow
And we will be loyal friends and campers
Most whom we all must know, ow, ow, ow
Where our ideals and honor guide us forever more
And we will pledge ourselves to thee,our camp
PINECREST DUNES Good bye!
The Society will hold an exhibition of camp photos this
Spring (2009) at the Katherine Mayne Gallery - watch for
2007 UPDATE: 1937
Campers Photos Restored!
Twelve images of the campers,
counselors, and two large group photos are now available for viewing at the
Society due to the generosity of former Dunes camper William M. Curtis!
Want to help?
Campers in the Mess Hall,
Pinecrest Dunes, 1937
HELP SAVE THE PINECREST DUNES NEGATIVES!
The Society owns nearly 750
negatives that show campers, activities, events, and scenes taken at Pinecrest
Dunes from 1932-1952. These negatives are deteriorating and in a few more
years will emulsify and disappear forever. Most have never been printed
before. To save them and to print them for future generations will cost an
estimated $55,000. If you wish to help fund the preservation of these
images, please contact the Society at 631 765-5500 or send a check with a note
in the memo area that reads "Pinecrest Dunes Negative Restoration." You
can mail your donation to: Southold Historical Society, P.O. Box 1, Southold, NY 11971
Pinecrest Dunes: A
Summer Camp for Southold
By Geoffrey K. Fleming,
Director, Southold Historical Society (Updated 2009)
Pinecrest Dunes was one of
Southold’s most successful summer camps almost from its inception. This humble
institution had its beginnings in New Jersey, where its founder was born and
raised. It was unlike the other camps that were located on the North Fork –
these included Camp Annunziata (Catholic girls), Camp Molloy (Catholic boys),
Camp Mineola, and St. Thomas’s Beach Camp (for the less fortunate parishioner’s
of St. Thomas’s Church in Manhattan on east 60th Street) in East
Marion – because so many had been founded by religious, and not secular forces.
Pinecrest Dunes would be the place where anyone could attend, regardless of
religion or social class.
of the camp’s wonderful history was made by its founder W. Thomas Ward. Born in Patterson, New Jersey, Ward was graduated from
Patterson High School in June of 1925. By 1929 he was on Long Island, living
and working in Valley Stream where he became the director of the first-ever
physical education program at Central High School. He worked there for many
years while spending his summers managing Pinecrest Dunes. In 1945 he quit his
position as head of physical education in school district No. 24 to devote his
time fully to the management of his camp in Southold.
This was not his first time at camp, so to speak. Ward had
a long association with summer camps as a young man. In 1918 he was a
“tenderfoot” at Camp Alhtaha in Patterson and at the Boy Scout Camp in Greenwood
Lake, New Jersey. From 1919-1920 he was the official bugler at Camp Alhtaha and
in 1921 he became the swimming director. From 1921-1923 he worked at the YWCA
Camp at Greenwood Lake and then returned to Camp Alhtaha in 1924. He even met
his future wife, Lois, at one of the camps he worked at in New Jersey.
this experience led him to found and become the director of Camp Wanaque for
Boys located at Greenwood Lake, New Jersey, a position he occupied from
1925-1929. He became director of Fireplace Lodge, another camp for boys located
in East Hampton, in 1930. Fireplace Lodge was a Christian boys camp originally
organized by Dr. Gates Perham and his wife, and which was located on what they
called “Captain Kidd’s Treasure Grounds.” In 1931, Tom and his wife purchased
land in Peconic to be the permanent site of their new camp. The land was
located on the Sound, just west of Great Pond along Soundview Avenue. The sandy
dunes overlooking the Sound with their scraggily pines must may been the reason
the couple christened their new location “Pinecrest Dunes.” The summer of 1932
would be their first season.
The camp was initially set up to be used by both boys and
girls. The girls’ section was associated with the Young Woman’s Christian
Association (Y.W.C.A.). Initially, the boys’ would occupy the camp from June
through mid August, and the girls would occupy the camp from mid August to early
September. At a later date the girls section was abandoned and the camp became
wholly occupied by boys each summer. This would continue for a number of years
until the camp was re-organized to house both boys and girls, co-ed so to speak.
A number of buildings and outdoor facilities were erected
at the site along the Sound to accommodate campers. They included the dining
hall, senior and junior cabins, guest house (for parents and friends when
visiting), administration building, assembly site, athletic field, clock golf
course, camp store, aquatic headquarters, infirmary, parking space, archery
range, council ring, handicraft shop, stables, Oscar’s villa, Mr. Brooks’
headquarters, the power house, lake dock, diving tower, tennis court, nature
headquarters, Cochrane’s cabin, swimming float, senior beauty parlor (for the
girls), junior beauty parlor (for the girls), apiary (a shed containing a number
of beehives), spring-water pump, nature trail, Uncle Tom’s cabin, rifle range,
boardwalk, and totem pole.
camp included an official Ranger Lodge of the Boy Rangers of America from the
date of its opening. The Boy Rangers were founded by Emerson Brooks (1860-1948)
as a way to teach young boys (those aged 8-12 years) about the Native American
way of life and to instill the values and wisdom of those early cultures. At
its height in the 1920’s, the Boy Rangers of America occupied more than 700
lodges in 47 states and had 8,000 members. Brooks was a regular visitor to the
camp in its early years and even had his own headquarters from which to teach.
The Boy Rangers would later be replaced by the “cub scout” section of the Boy
Scouts of America.
The camp offered a myriad of activities to choose from.
During the 1930’s-40’s typical daily activities included swimming, diving, life
saving, boating, canoeing, sailing, pioneering, archery, boxing, fencing,
horseback riding, nature, woodcraft, hiking, dramatics, rifle, trips, building,
library, tennis, quoits (a game in which a ring of iron or circle of rope or
horseshoes are thrown at a stake in the ground in the hope of encircling it),
fishing, Indian-craft, leather-craft, orchestra, field events, etching,
baseball, basketball, soccer, metal-craft, crew, scouting, animal-care, track
events, and kickball. By the 1950’s and 60’s airplane rides (with parents
permission) were also added to the camp activity list. Days began between 6:40
and 7:15 am with a break for lunch and a rest hour (12:30-2:30) and a break for
supper (5:45-7:15). Juniors went to bed at 8 pm and seniors at 9 pm.
The total cost for the season varied over the thirty plus
years the camp was operating. In 1932 expenses were equal to $25 a week plus
extras (1-2 dollars a week for horseback riding, etc.). By 1934 the camp had
gone to an all-inclusive fee of $200 for the eight week program, everything was
included except laundry (an additional $6 per camper per season). In 1943 the
cost was $175 for the full eight week program, and by 1949 it had risen to
$425. It was not a cheap adventure, during the 1930’s the depression hit most
of America quite hard, and only those with extra money could afford to send
their children to a camp like Pinecrest Dunes. During later years of the
camp it apparently became more affordable as many local children from the North
Fork were able to attend.
The camp had decades of seasons up on the dunes and was a
true success story. In 1969 Pinecrest Dunes celebrated 36 years of
operation and in 1970 it closed for good - taken by the County of Suffolk for
their purposes. At this time the Markel family (local auctioneers and
antique dealers) were invited to clean out any material they thought of value.
Many of the original papers were initially saved, including tons of letters from
families and campers. Unfortunately there was no market for the papers and
no historical institution was interested in the material at the time. Not
long thereafter these items were sent to the Southold dump and lost forever.
Today the site is now occupied by Peconic Dunes County Park
which continues the tradition of Tom Ward’s camp with an environmental education
center and annual summer camp. But for those who remember the great
summers spent in Peconic, there will never be anything like Pinecrest Dunes, one
of the premier camps ever created on eastern Long Island.