In 1915, two St. Louis women named Alice Orr Clark and Francis “Kidy” Woodward Mabley hatched a plan to open a girls’ camp in Door County. The women selected a site in Peninsula State Park, an abandoned farm on Shore Road that provided the perfect location for the camp. Several existing buildings were easily converted; the barn became the “One-Hundred-Foot Lodge,” with a recreation area, kitchen, and dining room, and several cow sheds were converted to cold storage buildings. With the arrival of a five-seater outhouse, the construction of wooden platforms for tents, and the addition of a diving raft and clay tennis court, the camp was ready to open.
Camp Meenahga opened in the summer of 1916 with the arrival of 30 girls, ages 12-20. By 1921, the number would increase to 144 girls. Many came from St. Louis, but as the camp grew more popular, campers arrived from Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Louisville.
A day at Camp Meenahga began with the ringing of a bell, rousing the girls from their tents for a 6:45 a.m. dip in the bay. This was followed by morning exercises, breakfast, and chores, including washing dishes, making beds, and sweeping floors. After a morning assembly, the girls went off to their various activities, including photography, arts and crafts, drama, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, sailing, tennis, basketball, and baseball, with a break from noon to 3 p.m. for lunch and a rest period reserved for napping or relaxing in front of the lodge. Evenings were reserved for performances, readings, dances, and parties, with lights out promptly at 9:00 p.m. for younger campers in the Junior Camp (established in 1921) and 9:30 p.m for the older girls.
Alice Clark remained in charge of the camp from beginning to end, while Kidy Mabley retired from her leadership role at Camp Meenahga in the early 1930s and moved to Iowa. By the mid-1940s, Alice Clark’s advancing age, changing lease terms, and a rent increase signaled the end of Camp Meenahga. When the camp closed after the 1948 season, it had operated for 33 years.
Learn more about Camp Meenahga in the latest EHF exhibit Two Roads Diverged: Camp Meenahga and Camp Peninsular in Peninsula State Park, opening June 17, 2016 in the Anderson Barn Museum.
Guest Blogger Emily Irwin