There may be no more iconic image of Camp Alleghany than what’s known as The Cottage. Alum will of course know what the Cottage is but for those of you new to camp or reading in from the camp industry, let me tell you about it briefly.
The Cottage house was on the land before camp was established in 1922. It was the original farmhouse when the land that became camp was a farm.
We know that The Cottage was built sometime from around 1880 until the end of the 19th century. Originally it may have just been a 4-room house, and then later, as the custom was, four more rooms were added to probably accommodate a growing family and demands of the farm.
And that’s kind of all we really know about the history prior to our family acquiring the land and buildings. However, even later than that, my grandfather added a small addition to include a little kitchen and two bathrooms.
We’ve always been interested in doing some more research in town on the history of the structure but we haven’t gotten around to it.
I remember as a young child living in the Cottage (before I was old enough to be a camper). My brothers and I played on the upstairs porch all the time and it’s full of our childhood summer memories.
I also remember sleeping out on the porch, and my Aunt Marion did as well when she was younger. And when my son Mason spent his first summer at camp four years ago as a baby, we set up all his toys and everything on the upstairs porch, including a swing that hung from the rafters. Clearly it’s been a special family place as long as camp has been in the Dawson (and now Dawson-Shreckhise) family.
The bottom porch has been used for meetings and gatherings of all sorts for decades, making it “home” to family and friends and staff and associates and visitors! We know how dear the Cottage is to so many people.
Four years ago when I was setting up Mason’s baby swing on the porch I knew the porch was getting old but I talked it over with our Facilities Director Garrett O’Dell who assured me then that it was safe. And it was!
But that day always comes when old buildings show their age, and over the past four years the porch has really gotten in terrible shape. In fact this summer Garrett said no one was allowed on the upstairs porch at all.
Yes, it was that serious. I mean, it wasn’t going to come down on anyone, but out of great precaution, it just didn’t need to be used at all until its issues could be addressed.
So this summer we had five family and staff kiddos at camp and, unfortunately for them and the continuity of porch history, they had to stay on the bottom porch to play! 🙁 Not only that, but two of the three sides of the bottom porch were in such rough shape that the kids were confined to playing on one small side.
Even the adults had to take our lumps — those of us living in the Cottage rarely used the downstairs porch for our few leisure moments because it was in such bad shape. This was something we noticed every time we took the view in from the Dining Hall. From there we could most readily see the damage on the roof of the porch, and how badly it was sagging.
The details were hammered home to us in a few unforgiving ways. The roof leaked on top all the way through both levels of porch, so when it rained the whole porch was wet. Not a great place to hang your towel to dry or to stand to escape a storm!
Tending to the Cottage
After a few meetings about the porch situation we finally decided that it really needed to be prioritized for a fix. Yes we wanted a good place for the kids to play but the safety reasons extended to anyone who happened to be on the porch.
So, about a week after Family Camp ended, Garrett and his crew got to work and pulled it down. Though he was sad to pull it down there always comes that time when safety trumps all and this needed to be addressed before a troubling situation turned truly dangerous.
So now the work begins to put a new porch back on! We’re very excited about this and hope that you’ll follow along as we put a face lift on an old friend, ensuring that for many years to come the Cottage porch plays host to family, friends, staff, alum, and visitors for a long time to come!
—Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls