Camp Eagle Island, also known as Eagle Island Camp, was a resident summer camp located on Eagle Island in Upper Saranac Lake opposite Gull Point. It was operated as a Girl Scout camp from 1938 until the organization closed it in 2008. In 2015, it was purchased by a friends group, who plans for youth day camp in 2019 and overnight camp in 2020.
The camp occupies buildings originally built in 1903 as a summer retreat for former United States Vice-President and New York State Governor Levi Morton and designed by noted architect William L. Coulter; it was built by contractors Trombley and Carrier between January and June 1, 1903. The mainland camp now known as Pine Brook was previously owned by Morton. Camp Eagle Island was included in a multiple property submission for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, was listed there in 1987, and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2004.1,2
In 1910, financier Henry Graves, Jr. of New York City and Orange, New Jersey, bought the camp from Morton after leasing it for two summers. He bought it complete with its furnishings, including Gustave Stickley furniture and fine oriental carpets. Graves added a second boat house to house his four motorboats, four canoes and four guide boats. 3 In 1937, after their two adult sons died in separate automobile accidents, the Graves family gave the island to the Maplewood-South Orange, New Jersey Girl Scout Council.
Camp Eagle Island operated as a Girl Scout camp from 1938. In time that council became the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex County, New Jersey which merged with a Hudson County council in the late 1990s. Further mergers in 2008-09 created Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, which sold the property to the Friends of Eagle Island.
Camp Eagle Island offered sailing, canoeing, swimming, hiking, campcraft, and various crafts. The camp had many traditions, including the singing of particular songs and a sequence of evening activities during each two-week camp session that included staff introductions and a final night campfire and ice cream sundae party. 4
Camp Eagle Island did not open for the 2009 summer season, with the Girl Scout Council citing several safety issues with the camp that needed to be corrected. They announced that they hoped to reopen for the 2010 summer camp season, 5 but the camp did not reopen, and on October 11, 2010, the Council voted to sell the camp. 6,7.
In 2011 Friends of Eagle Island (now Eagle Island, Inc.) was formed to oppose the sale, and brought a lawsuit contending that the Graves family had intended that the island be used for a children's camp in perpetuity. In 2015, a donation allowed the Friends to purchase the island. There will be two one-week sessions of Day Camp in 2019 with plans for overnight camp in 2020.
New York Times, July 26, 1903
CAMP LIFE AT SARANAC INN.
Special to The New York Times.
SARANAC INN, N. Y., July 25.— Ex-Gov. Levi P. Morton has joined Mrs. Morton and Miss Morton at the new Morton camp, on Eagle Island, in the Upper Saranac Lake. The Morton camp is connected - with the outside world by its individual telephone and telegraph wires, which are carried in cables laid through the waters of the lake to the island. Another feature is an electric plant, which furnishes light for the buildings and supplies many large lamps along the boat landing.
Society Functions at Camps in Adirondack Mountains
…Miss Morton and Miss Mary Morton of New York, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Levi P. Morton, who are at their new camp on the Upper Saranac Lake, visited Paul Smith's Saturday, making the journey of about twenty miles through the forest with a guide in a rowboat. They were accompanied by Miss S. S. Savage of Montreal, who is a guest at the Morton camp…
AT SARANAC INN.
Special to The New York Times.
SARANAC INN, N, Y., July 2.—The new camp of Mr. and Mrs. Levi P. Morton on the Upper Saranac Lake has received many finishing touches this Spring, including the construction of a new sleeping cabin and the addition of lattice work of cedar poles underneath all the cabins. Mr. and Mrs. Morton are expected to occupy the camp late in the season...
New York Times, July 16, 1905
Mr. and Mrs. Levi P. Morton and Miss Morton are at their camp, Eagle Island, in the Upper Saranac, where they will spend the season. Mr. Morton's camp, which is perhaps one of the most elaborate in the Adirondacks, was completed this Spring.
New York Times, June 24, 1906
FISHING AT SARANAC.
Special to The New York Times. [...] Eagle Island Camp, the beautiful new summer home of Levi P. Morton, has been leased by Mr. Monroe Smith of Philadelphia. Mrs. Smith is now in camp.
New York Times, July 7, 1907
New York Times, July 17, 1910
SARANAC INN. Edwin Gould Guest of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Graves, Jr., at Their Camp.
Special to The New York Times.
SARANAC INN. N. Y., July 16.—
Edwin Gould, with his mother-in-law, Mrs. George F. Schrady, came up in a private car and spent the week-end as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Graves, Jr., at Eagle Island camp. Mr. Graves met them at Saranac Inn and took them to camp in his new fifty-foot racer boat. Mr. Gould was delighted with Upper Saranac Lake, and inspected a nearby camp with the possibility of leasing it for the remainder of the season.
New York Times, July 9, 1911
Deer Get Their Luncheon by Poaching on Private Gardens.
Special to The New York Times. WAWBEEK, N. Y. July 8—
Henry S. Graves. Jr., and the members of his house party at Eagle Island camp are favored this season by the visits of a large bald eagle, the first of its kind to visit Adirondack resorts in many years. Mr. Graves's island home received its name from the eagles who nested there years ago, when it was the property of Levi P. Morton. This summer's visitor has been seen by a number of the campers and passing water tourists, and is an unusually large fellow, with black body and wings and snow-white head. The bird has a nest in one of the tall dead pines on Eagle Island.
Newark Sunday Eagle, August 29, 1937
Girl Scouts Given Adirondack Showplace Camp for Oranges Has Replacement Value of $1,000,000
Officials of the Girl Scouts of the Oranges and Maplewood Council announced yesterday that they had accepted a gift of a fully-equipped 20-acre island site on Upper Saranac lake, N. Y., for use as a Scout camp, to replace the present location on White lake, near Blairstown, where Oranges girls have gone for five years.
The site, known as Eagle Island, is the gift of Henry Graves, retired New York executive, who formerly made his home in the Oranges. It is one of the showplaces of the Adirondacks, and the replacement value of the property and buildings is said to be more than a million dollars.
Original council plans were to offer $20,000 for the site, but, while negotiations were in progress, Mr. Graves made the donation. It was in memory of his two sons, Henry 3rd and George Coe Graves, who have died.
The camp was accepted last week in the name of the council by Mrs. William F. Campbell, Girl Scout commissioner.
For 30 years, prior to 1936, the place was used as a summer home by Mr. Graves, and is in excellent condition. Prior to that it was the summer home of Levi P. Morton, who was Vice President under Benjamin Harrison.
It will accommodate 100 girls easily, the officials said.
Present plans are to open the camp next season, relieving crowded conditions that have existed at the White lake quarters. The present camp houses 86 girls, but more than 200 have attended this season, taxing the capacity tremendously.
Upper Saranac is a long, narrow lake, one of a chain used for summer resorts and private homes. The altitude is 1,500 feet and it is free from mosquitoes most of the year. Eagle Island is wooded with large pines and white birch. It contains 14 buildings of log cabin style, and these will be used for camping activities. Council heads said the arrangement of thebuildings will fit in with the Girl Scout plan of unit housing.
Has Two Beaches.
The island contains a sandy cove for swimming beginners and a lake front for experienced ones. Many canoes and rowboats with which the camp is equipped, will be used by the latter. There is a large and ornate boathouse.
Paths through the woods lead to the various buildings and points of interest, including a large Adirondack shack equipped with glass-enclosed dining porches and furnished with Oriental rugs and other trappings, a picnic point and tennis court. The main buildings are equipped with electricity and plumbing. A large kitchen is in a separate structure. The island is less than half a mile from land and can be reached by a large launch. The camp is also equipped with a speedboat. A caretaker who has been on the site many years will remain.
Dedication of the new site will be held in the fall, it was said. Council officials, including Mrs. Campbell, Miss Hazel Chapman, national staff councillor, and Miss Katherine Hammett, national camp adviser; Miss Mary E. Chidlaw, council director, and Mrs. J. Franklin Perry, local councillor, inspected the site recently.
Plans are now in progress to transport groups of girls from the Oranges and Maplewood to the camp, at a reduced rate during the camping season.
Arrangements are also being made to lodge those who will be unable to go, at the Montclair Girl Scouts camp in Stokes State Park or in another local camp
New York Times, August 30, 1937
BIG ESTATE IS GIVEN TO THE GIRL SCOUTS
Eagle Island in Saranac Lake Presented by Henry Graves to Oranges and Maplewood
WAS LEVI MORTON HOME
Value of Gift Is Estimated as High as $1,000,000—Facilities for Above 100 Campers'
Special to The New York Times.
ORANGE, N. J., Aug. 29.—Henry Graves, formerly identified with large cement interests, has made an outright gift to Girl Scouts in the Oranges and Maplewood of an improved twenty-acre island in the upper part of Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, it was disclosed today by Girl Scout leaders here. Estimates on the value of the gift range from $100,000 to $1,000,000,
Known as Eagle Island, the site, which several decades ago was the Summer home of the late Governor Levi P. Morton of New "York, was officially accepted by Mrs. William F. Campbell of South Orange and Mrs. Franklin Terry of Maplewood. The former represented the Girl Scouts Council of the Oranges and the latter Temple Wood Council.
Story Started Month Ago
The story behind acquisition of the island begins about a month ago, when a search was started for a new site to replace the present camp at White Lake, near Blairstown, N. J., used for the last five Summers by members of the Oranges and Maplewood Councils. Mrs. Archer Bachman of South Orange, chairman of the camp committee, and her husband, who is acquainted with Mr. Graves, learned Eagle Island might be for sale.
They later reported that the Saranac site could be bought for what was called "the astoundingly low figure of $20,000." Mr. Graves, who occupied the island for thirty years, ceased vacationing there last year. Negotiations were started after Mrs. Campbell and camp experts of both councils had visited the site. Plans were mapped for a drive to raise funds—and then came the surprise gift.
Recently representatives of national headquarters inspected the island to determine whether official approval should be given to its purchase. The approval was quickly forthcoming. Several days later leaders here were notified that Mr. Graves had decided to give the island and everything on it to the Girl Scouts in memory of his two deceased sons, Henry Graves 3d and George Coe Graves. Mr. Graves formerly lived in the Oranges.
Contains Large Lodge
About a half mile from shore the island contains one large Adirondacks lodge, fourteen small buildings of log-cabin style, picnic grounds and a tennis court.
Each building is fully equipped with electric lights and water and sanitary facilities. There are twenty-four large bedrooms, with a bath for every two or three rooms. It is estimated that accommodations are available to house easily more than 100 campers. Facilities at the present camp at White Lake have been taxed beyond capacity.
New York Times -- June 12, 1938
...Among developments within the Adirondack region this season will be opening of Eagle Island, a beautiful twenty-five-acre estate on the Upper Saranac Lake, as a vacation camp for the Girl Scouts of Orange, East Orange, West Orange, South Orange and Maplewood, N. J,
Girl Scout Choir To Sing Sunday at The Island Chapel
The choir of the Girl Scout Camp of the Oranges (N. J.) will participate for the first time this season at services in the Island Chapel on Upper Saranac on Sunday morning, July 14, at 11 o'clock.
The choir is under the direction of Miss Marion Roberts of Mt. Vernon, N. Y., and numbers about 26 Girl Scouts now in camp on Eagle Island. Rev. Robert G. Andrew, counselor to the Protestant students at Columbia University, will preach. The picturesque little Island Chapel opened for its 47th season last Sunday.
Ogdensburg Journal, August 13, 1947
Miss Peggy and Jeanette Ward, daughters of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Ward, Greene St., are spending two weeks at the Girl Scout Camp of Eagle Island on Saranac Lake. The camp is sponsored by the Orange, N. J., Girl Scouts;.
Lake Placid News, November 2, 1951
CARNEGIE MEDAL POSTHUMOUSLY TO MILFORD DEITZ
Cited For Effort to Save Life of Keene Youth in Upper Saranac Lake.
Milford Deitz, 40, former speed skating star and all-around athlete, was one of four men and one woman from New York state awarded Carnegie bronze medals for heroism. Deitz was cited posthumously.
A building contractor, Deitz died June 29, I960, when he tried to save R. Douglas Reed, 17, of Keene, from drowning in Upper Saranac Lake. Deitz was a member of the U.S. Olympic speed skating team in 1982.
In addition to the medal, the commission said that Deitz's widow, Ruth, a chamber of commerce worker, would receive death benefits of $70 a month.
On June 29, 1960. Deitz, accompanied by Reed and George Walton, also of Keene, were in a boat heavily loaded with rocks and cement proceeding from the mainland of Upper Saranac Lake to Eagle Island, where Deitz was erecting a recreation building at a Girl Scout camp. When the boat was about 360 yards from the island it sank when swamped by rough water. Walton made his way to a nearby island, but Reed, who could not swim, had to be towed by Deitz, who was a strong swimmer. Deitz towed Reed 75 feet toward an island, and in advancing that distance" the citation said, "Deitz and Reed several times became separated and submerged briefly. Within five minutes both sank and were drowned."
Witnesses at the Girl Scout camp said they "believed Deitz could easily have saved himself."
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 24, 1952
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 27, 1957
Open Air Service, Chapel Isle, Upper Saranac Lake 11 o'clock Service Eagle Island Girl Scout Camp in event of rain. Rev. William Clark, pastor.
[Note: The chapel of Chapel Island burned in 1956 and was re-built during the summer of 1957.]
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 13, 1961
Jersey Group 'Rescues' Camp Without Power
A power failure at the Girl Scout Camp of Eagle Island at Upper Saranac Lake has been corrected by the efforts of a West Orange engineer and a New Jersey firm.
The camp, operated by the Scout Council of Essex County, lost all power for water, sewage and lighting recently through a freak accident as lightning struck the power cable from the mainland. If nothing else, the accident forced on the girls more "primitive" camping than anticipated. For nearly two days, the girls, ranging in age from 10 to 17, hauled buckets of water from the lake, purified it with special tablets and built outdoor latrines. No hardships were encountered, and all were in good spirit throughout the "emergency."
A portable generator was located on the lake and borrowed by the camp, but a new cable was needed for permanent electrical supply.
Miss Marjorie Vance, camp director, sought help from Lawrence Sovulewski when the special cable type could not be delivered by area plants. (Earliest date for delivery would have been mid-September, after the camp's closing.)
Sovulewski and William Penfield commercial manager of Public Service Electric and Gas Company, New Jersey, located a cable in a downstate warehouse.
The cable was rushed to Newark Wednesday afternoon, and was picked up early Thursday by truck from the camp. It was installed over the weekend by a crew of volunteers.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 8, 1966
The Rev. and Mrs. Millard R. Farrell of Lower Lake, William Allen and Mrs. Christine Brown attended services at the Presbyterian Chapel on the Island in Upper Lake Sunday, There were many Girl Scouts from Eagle Island present, filling the small church to capacity. The choir of five girls, accompanied by the organist, a tiny organ and part of the service conducted by a Boy Scout, was very impressive. [sic] Farrell is minister at the Presbyterian church in Eastchester; the Bronx.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 24, 1972
EAGLE ISLAND TO GET NEW DIRECTOR
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Thad P. Alton, Jr., has been appointed director of Camp Eagle Island, the Girl Scout camp on Upper Saranac Lake, it was announced today by Catharine Davis, program-services director of the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex County, N. J.
A teacher at the Short Hills Country Day School, Aton holds a degree in government and sociology from Oberlin College and has spent two years as a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh.
He is presently a scoutmaster of Boy Scout troop 6 in South Orange and has had considerable camping both with the scout and as a counselor and assistant director of the Lake Placid Club Camp, Lake Placid.
In addition Mr. Alton has served in the armed forces as an Army intelligence staff officer in Vietnam.
Eagle Island, a gift to the Scouts from the Graves family of New York City and Orange, is in four two-week sessions from June 29 through Aug. 23. It is open to girls 10 to 16. Activities range from beginning sailing to overnight canoe and backpacking trips. Advanced sailing, waterskiing and the creative arts are also included.
Assisting Alton is Lois Fishbeck of East Orange. A Spanish teacher in the Gettysburg, Pa., school system, Miss Fishbeck will be returning to Eagle Island far her fourth season and her second as assistant director.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 30, 1978
Exempt properties burden on taxpayer
A little realized part of our tax structure in the Adirondacks is the huge negative impact on the tax base of tax exempt property…
...Camp Cherokee, owned by the N.Y. Conference of the Seventh Day Adventists, valued at $110,000; the Young Life church-owned camps valued at $500,000 and the and the Girl Scout Camp on Eagle Island valued at $100,000…
Ogdensburg Journal, May 17, 1987
Camp Eagle Island, a Girl Scout Camp, on upper Saranac Lake, has job opportunities for counselors. Campers including non scouts from ages 5-15 participate in a general camp program or specialize in canoeing, camping, sailing, or water skiing.
Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat, March 16, 1988
Camp Eagle Island, located on an island on Upper Saranac Lake, is a Girl Scout camp. The campers, including non-scouts, range in age from eight to 15. The camp provides a general camp program as well as a chance to specialize in canoeing, sailing or water skiing. Positions are open for counselors and especially for qualified waterfront staff.
Plattsburgh Press-Republican, September 17, 1989
Bartlett Carry Dam repairs
Franklin County Attorney Richard Edwards said that opponents of a proposed tax district designed to pay for repairs to the Bartlett Carry Dam gathered enough petition signatures and filed them with the county in time to force the issue to a referendum. Upper Saranac Lake resident Molly Sheren, who led the petition drive, said that the tax district would force area residents to pay a large part of the $100,000 that would be collected each year because organizations in the region such as the Girl Scout's Eagle Island are tax exempt.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, May 29, 1991
Girl Scout camp in 55th year on Upper Saranac
Summer resident camp has helped children raise their self-esteem, their self-confidence and develop their social skills. For over 54 years, Camp Eagle Island has been helping girls achieve these goals. Owned and operated by the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex County, NJ, Camp Eagle Island boasts 32 pristine acres on Upper Saranac Lake in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
This turn of the century "Great Camp" is open to girls entering grades three and up and offers the best in summer fun. Many programs such as aquatics, waterfun and sailing are water-related, however, there are also general sessions which include outdoor cooking, star-gazing, hiking, games, crafts and, of course, Girl Scout badge work.
Girls need not be Girl Scouts to attend Camp Eagle Island. Openings are still available in many sessions. For information, please contact Tricia Hawley, camping administrator, at (201) 746- 8200.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 18, 2018
In Howard Riley's column he mentions "Tom Dacey, who was caretaker at the Girl Scout camp on Eagle Island," no date given.
Touring Eagle Island, A look inside a once and future summer camp, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 12, 2016
1. National Historic Landmark Nomination: Eagle Island Camp
2. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Great Camps of the Adirondacks
3. Stacy Perman, A Grand Complication, Atria Books, 2013, pp. 102-113.
4. An early version of this article appeared on "Wikipedia" as Camp Eagle Island; its edit history there reflects its authorship. It is licensed under the GDFL.
5. Upper Saranac Lake Girl Scout camp is closed for repairs this summer
6. Girl Scout Heart of New Jersey
7. Plattsburgh Press Republican - Eagle Island Camp for sale