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Eden Wood to get a little TLC

Eden Wood to get a little TLC: Historic buildings at former site of Glen Lake Children's Camp

By Karla Wennerstrom, Editor Eden Prairie News
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In these Eden Prairie buildings, tucked into the woods along Birch Island Lake, the focus has always been health. In 1925, when it was established as Glen Lake Children's Camp, children who tested positive for tuberculosis, or who had been exposed to tuberculosis, spent summers there. In the '50s, ARC of Hennepin County operated Camp Indian Chief as a day camp for people with developmental disabilities. Its name was later changed to Camp Eden Wood.

Since 1995, Friendship Ventures has operated the camp as Eden Wood Center and serves about 450 children and adults with mental
and physical disabilities each year, according to a news release from Friendship Ventures.

A groundbreaking last week marked the beginning of an effort to give the buildings a healthy dose of TLC as well. The dormitory and dining hall buildings are set for a major renovation. The dormitory is under construction. The dining hall is scheduled for renovation this fall. Both projects are to be completed by early next year.

One person who experienced the site in its original form was Evelyn Froise, 80, who recognized the camp as one she had attended after hearing about it at a fundraising dinner. Froise's mother had tuberculosis and stayed at the nearby Glen Lake Sanitarium. Froise said she was "evidently not a very strong child." She had been exposed to TB, so she was sent to the Children's Camp for the summer about 74 years ago. She said she remembered wearing beige trunks on weekdays and "on Sundays we had colored shorts." "I remember walking over to the sanitarium to visit my mother," she said before the groundbreaking event. She recalled riding in a pickup truck to the lake to go swimming, crowding in and singing along the way. "We would go in the sun and lay on our back for a certain amount of time, then lay on our stomachs to get sun." She recalls spending time in the dormitory, which is now on the country's Register of Historic Places, playing jacks on the floor.
Of the renovation, Froise said, "I think it's wonderful. It makes me happy that the camp will continue to be used for such a good purpose."

Georgann Rumsey, president and CEO of Friendship Ventures said during the ceremony that with the renovations, the camp will be able to serve 50 percent more children and adults. Of campers today, she said, "They know when they come here they'll have the time of their lives." Ed Stracke, Friendship Foundation president, quoted a camper as saying, "Camp is like heaven but without the angels – just trees."

Betsy Adams, chair of Eden Prairie's Heritage Preservation Commission, said that from 1887 to 1899 20,000 Minnesotans died of tuberculosis. She said for children at the Glen Lake Camp, at the end of the summer "awards were given for the greatest weight gain and best tan."

City Council member Ron Case called the camp "one of the most richly historic spots in Eden Prairie," pointing out that it is one of only two National Historic Register sites in the city (the other is the Cummins-Grill Homestead) and that it is one of two intact historic tuberculosis camps in the country.

Darlys Westlund of Richfield, whose daughter Rachel has been attending the camp for 20 years, said, "My heart is so full of gratefulness." She described, as a parent of a child with severe disabilities, what the camp has meant to her.

"We must remember our history," she said, "remember, people with disabilities are more alike than different from the rest of us."
Stracke said the renovation is not just about restoring the buildings, but restoring "balance and accessibility" and, not just about preserving history, but a "future of endless possibilities."

‘Volunteerism and generosity'
Gifts from foundations, organizations, civic groups, individuals and "a hefty $400,000 commitment in labor and materials from the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council" have made the renovation possible, according to a Friendship Ventures news release.

Charlie Canesi of Ramsey, heading up the project for the Trades Council, said that over the last few weeks, "four of us old retired carpenters came out here and started working on the building – our average age is 62 and a half." The other three are Pete Nelson, Rollie McGhan and Dick Svoboda. They had been working on lifting and excavating under the building in preparation for foundation work before the groundbreaking event. Work will continue on the dorm this fall after breaking for the camping season, which starts June 1. Work on the dining hall is set to start this fall as well.

The project is to include repairing or replacing siding, painting, upgrading windows, providing ramps and connecting to city water, according to a news release. A year-round meeting and central lounge area are to be created, bathrooms upgraded and more private sleeping areas created. Plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems will be upgraded.

Mike Gust, past president of the Eden Prairie Lions, said Lions had long been involved at Camp Eden Wood over the years volunteering at the camp and helping to pay for the main building, trails and a van, to name a few items. The Lions are pledging $50,000 toward the project, hoping to secure a grant of $75,000 from the Lions Club International Foundation for the project. "We are asking other Lions to join us," he said. More than half the cost of the $1.1 million dollar renovation has been raised. "This kind of volunteerism and generosity is what I call a miracle of Friendship Ventures," said Cynthia Malmrose of Friendship Ventures.

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