1903 - TODAY
In 1903, former U.S. Vice President and Governor of New York, Levi Morton built the Adirondack Great Camp on Eagle Island. The buildings were designed by preeminent Great Camp architect William L. Coulter and are clustered in a small area that enjoys particularly beautiful and advantageous views over the lake and mountains beyond. One characteristic feature of a Coulter design is the extensive porches that connect the main buildings.
In 1910 Morton sold Eagle Island to Henry Graves, Jr. an industrialist from Orange, New Jersey. The Graves family enjoyed spending summers at Eagle Island for many years. In 1937, following the tragic deaths of their sons George C. and Henry III in separate automobile accidents, Henry and his wife Florence generously gifted Eagle Island to the New Jersey Girl Scouts of the Oranges and Maplewood in memory of their sons. Henry Graves Jr.’s wish was that Eagle Island would be a place to keep the spirit of childhood alive.
The Girl Scout Camp opened in 1938 after minor renovations, including an enlarged dining hall and the reinforcement of the Lodge floor in anticipation of folk dancing activities. The Great Camp buildings otherwise have remained largely unchanged, as campers were housed in platform tents grouped into units throughout the wooded areas of the island.
In 2004, Eagle Island was designated by the National Park Service as a “National Historic Landmark”, its highest distinction for historic properties of national significance.
In 2008, the owner of Eagle Island, the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex and Hudson, was merged with two other councils to form the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ). In June 2009, after 70 years of continuous operation, Eagle Island Camp was closed and the Board of Directors of GSHNJ voted to sell the property in October, 2010.
In November of 2015, Friends of Eagle Island, Inc. acquired Eagle Island through an extraordinary donation. This purchase completed the first phase of FEI’s vision of ensuring that “children may always play” on Eagle Island.
Following acquisition, FEI immediately began planning and fundraising. Professional assessments of the island’s historic structures and systems were obtained, while funding and grant committees were formed to reach out to supporters and foundations. Despite the lack of running water, the summers of 2016 - 2019 included MANY volunteers sent time on the island to begin initial clean-up, stabilization and repairs. More extensive work has been completed by contractors with water, septic and electrical upgrades to the Main Camp area to be ready for the 2020 season.
In 2017, Friends of Eagle Island, Inc. changed its name to the more inclusive Eagle Island, Inc. With no change in management or overall mission, Eagle Island, Inc. remains committed to restoring Eagle Island to again be a unique summer camp for youth.
2019 saw campers return to Eagle Island with 2 one-week sessions of all-gender Day Camp (see photos). 2020 programming plans are in development and include girls overnight camp, all-gender day camp, family camp and women’s weekends.
Links to historic articles:
President Harrison connection was VP Morton, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 10, 2018
Click here for current (2010-2019) media coverage
Click here for the Eagle Island Newsletter past issues