A Camp for Everyone
"Camp Greentop is a place I will always remember."
Decades after their first stay, many visitors return to glimpse the camp that left an indelible mark on their lives. It hosts the oldest camp in the USA for children with disabilities. It was home to the Frederick County Outdoor Schools. It housed and trained OSS operatives before their deployment in World War II.
The Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA) had been intended from its start to provide recreational opportunities to the most needy populations. Nonprofit organizations were tapped to operate the cabin areas. When the Maryland League for Crippled Children stepped forward to support the construction of the Catoctin RDA, they stayed one summer at Camp Misty Mount to test and review its construction. Following the lessons learned from that summer, the park continued with construction of a novel accessible camp, dubbed "Greentop."
Rescuing the Trees and the Nation
The Recreational Demonstration Areas (RDA) and the Works Progress Association (WPA) grew out of the New Deal as a means to lift the nation out of the dust bowl and Great Depression. Camp Greentop was one of four cabin camps originally approved for the Catoctin RDA. The WPA constructed the cabins using the materials and skills at hand.
One abundant material on Catoctin Mountain during the 1930s was lumber from the blighted American chestnut. WPA builders salvaged the dying trees in an effort to preserve the memory of the former king of the forest. The dark, aromatic wood beams remain stout today as a testament to the chestnut's majesty. Campers may doze in the early morning light tracing the squiggly bores of the trees' killers, reminders of the blight that still prevents the chestnut's return.
Admirers of the cabins' rustic charm might be surprised at the great pains the park took to make them look so simple. Planning documents show the effort taken to design the "NPS Rustic" architecture, sometimes known as "Parkitecture." The cabins reflect local building styles so that they feel comfortable and timeless. The layout of the camp itself follows the natural features, so that it seems to blend in to the environment.
Frederick County Outdoor Schools
From 1957 through 1996, every student in Frederick County enjoyed the opportunity to make a national park their school. Students stayed in the cabins for up to two weeks.
Rather than opening drawers and textbooks to see preserved specimens and photographs, students learned about real living things in a real environment. They traded their slide projectors for binoculars, their slide rules for tape measures, and their playground slides for trees.
The Office of Strategic Services
The Maryland League for Crippled Children had only just settled in to their new summer home when World War II required use of the park. During this time the League relocated to French Creek (aka Hopewell Furnace) in Pennsylvania temporarily, and returned in 1948.
Last updated: May 8, 2020