Protecting a natural legacy
For the public good
|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
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
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.
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
‘Volunteerism and generosity'
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.
Sponsored by The Friends of Birch Island Woods. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.