Camp Marbury on Lake Champlain

by Eileen Leary on April 15, 2016

photograph album coverWe’re very proud of our Lake Adventure Camps for kids here at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, but did you know that we aren’t the first summer camp to operate near Basin Harbor? Almost a century ago, the Sleeper family opened Camp Marbury, a summer camp for girls. Named for Anne Marbury Hutchinson, the camp’s beautiful and expansive lakeside grounds offered young women the opportunity for both physical activity and creative expression.

The Roost at Camp Marbury, Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society
1927 photo 23
Swimming in Lake Champlain, Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

After many years as counselors at Aloha Camps in Fairlee, VT, Mary Peet and Henry Sleeper set out to open their own camp on Lake Champlain. Assisted by Professor Hugh Worthington and his wife, both of Sweet Briar College, the Sleepers opened Camp Marbury near the Basin Harbor Club in 1921. Although it isn’t clear what facilities existed at the camp at that time, we do know that by 1942, Camp Marbury boasted six permanent buildings, a tennis court, a riding ring, and a dock on the lake.

In any given summer, the fifty girls at Camp Marbury might enjoy swimming, canoeing, tennis, archery, baseball, handicrafts, and horse-riding, in addition to their musical and artistic pursuits. Their lengthy days (starting at 7:10 AM and stretching until 9 PM for older girls) did contain opportunities for rest and relaxation, but the vast majority of their time would be spent on and in the water where they might learn to swim and row, in the craft house where they could weave and make jewelry, or learning to play on one of the four pianos owned by the camp. Singing and acting were popular pursuits as well, as were more strenuous physical activities – several photographs from the camp show girls hiking in the mountains around Lake Champlain.

1922 photo 11
Image Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

Sadly, rationing reduced the Sleepers’ ability to obtain supplies for the camp, and Camp Marbury ceased its operations as a girl’s camp in 1942. One of its buildings, affectionately named the Roost, is still standing today and has been incorporated into the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum campus. We here at LCMM remember it fondly as part of a tradition of exciting Lake Adventure Camps that we have continued today!

To find out more about Camp Marbury, explore the resources at the Vermont Historical Society, or pay us a visit!