Historic Camp Greentop

Camp Greentop Dining and Recreation Halls
Camp Greentop Dining and Recreation Halls.

Volunteer John Zuke

 
Cabin with accessible ramp
Cabin with accessible ramp

Volunteer John Zuke


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.

 
Two boys on crutches walk between 2 totem poles
Some of Camp Greentop's earliest campers. The totem poles remain a tradition, being replaced every generation.

NPS photo


The League

"The camp proposed is designed for the use of the Maryland League for Crippled Children, a state wide organization that has exhibited keen interest in the project from the first." G. B. Williams, Project Manager, Catoctin RDA, letter to E. M. Lisle, NPS Regional Office, December 11, 1936.

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."

 
WPA Hewn and Stacked Chestnut Logs to Cabin
Hewn and Stacked Chestnut Logs to Cabin

Volunteer John Zuke


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 School students in the 1950s
Frederick County Outdoor School students in the 1950s.

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.

 
OSS Recruits jumping out of truck in front of Camp Greentpo Office
OSS Recruits jumping out of truck in front of Camp Greentop Office

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

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Mailing Address:

6602 Foxville Road
Thurmont, MD 21788

Phone:

(301) 663-9388

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