Buying the Kirby Estate
In 1937, Girl Scout familes and supporters in Cuyahoga County bought the Kirby estate for the Cleveland Girl Scout Council.
Council officials spent years searching for a place they could turn into a permanent camp. The main qualification was that it have a lake large enough for swimming and boating. One committee member later recalled that real estate agents kept showing them abandoned farms with creeks that " could easily be dammed up to create a lake" and that they were all getting tired of crawling underneath barbed wire fences.
When they found the Kirby property in 1936, they were thrilled. Two lakes, a boat house, a dining hall, main house ( to be used for camp staff and adult trainings) and the farm buildings. As a bonus, there was a mill with a water wheel that was so pretty it would inspire arts & crafts.
The property was valued at $85,500.00 but Jim Kirby said he would take $48,500.00 since it was for the Girl Scouts. The committee calculated they would need to raise $60,000.00 to buy the land, establish tent sites, and outfit the dining hall.
Harold L. Madison, director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was in charge of the fundraising campaign. Eleanor Garfield headed up an advance "special gifts" division of the fund-raising campaign. The “Scout Family” division and the “Public” division planned an intensive campaign to run from February 9 - February 26. They persuaded newspaper editors to support the effort with frequent stories and updates. They got endorsements from respected pillars of the community. They developed a brochure explaining why the Girl Scouts needed the camp and why the place they had chosen was so perfect.
The official campaign kicked off with a banquet and entertainment at the University Club of Cleveland. Girls performed a "pantomime" called "Camping through the Calendar". Following the event newspapers and community bulletins kept up a steady stream of reports on how much money had been collected and encouraging people to give more.
At the time, there were only 3,626 Girl Scouts in the Cleveland Council. The economy was still in the grip of the Great Depression. But by the end of the campaign, 5,050 individuals donated toward the purchase of the camp. Amounts ranged from ten cents to ten thousand dollars. Donations came from "every corner of Cuyahoga County". The youngest donor was seven years old.
Endorsements for purchase of a camp for Cleveland GS Council 1937 came from
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Lou Henry Hoover
- Elliot Ness
- Junior Leauge of Cleveland
- Charles H. Lake
- Mrs. R.N. Rutledge
- Mr. & Mrs. Max Hellman
- Rabbi Abba H. Silver
- Dr. A Caswell Ellis
- Mrs. F.W. Reindel
- Mrs. E.L. Shupe
- Paul Bellamy
- Mrs. Robert H. Jamison
- Mrs. Frank L. Session
- Fred Ramnsey
- A.G. Knebel
- Edward D. Lynde
- Rabbi B.R. Bricker
Testimonials For the Camp
Abbie Graham, author of "Ladies in Revolt"
"I approve of the sort of campaign you are running in behalf of camping. I might buy a square inch of the proposed acreage..... one that would give footing for the young eyes to discover the excellence of an adolescent moon. Or I might purchase an apple tree whereof some incipient Eve might eat and awaken to a knowledge of her own stupendous importance. Or I could use words to seek to arouse potential contributors to realize the unusual opportunities which the Girl Scouts are now offering Clevelanders".
Junior League bulletin
"Safety Director [Elliot] Ness and his crime prevention bureau were troubled by the reports of juvenile delinquency in a city district. They sent out an SOS to the Girl Scouts to organize troops in the district. Modern law enforcement officers realize that what the juvenile gang spirit requires is direction into constructive channels.
But to cope with city streets, the Scouts must have camps where girls can learn the way of simple, adventurous activity out-of-doors during the adolescent years. Harold L. Madison, chairman of the camp planning committee for Cleveland Girl Scout Council, says: " If the children of a large city are to build healthy bodies, wholesome minds, and appreciative souls, the camp becomes a necessity. It is the one organized channel available to large numbers of children"
Now, after years of searching, the Girl Scouts have found what Mr. Madison characterizes as "the most desirable campsite within a hundred miles of Cleveland". Their necessity is urgent is urgent since the present site is woefully inadequate.
The proposed site covers 243 acres at West Richfield, southwest of Brecksville. It is 22 miles equidistant from the Public Square, Lakewood, and Cleveland Heights, and its well-constructed dam provides it with two lakes. It is not raw land but is already equipped with buildings remarkably equipped with buildings remarkably appropriate to the uses of the Scouts; a lodge for eating and recreation, a mill house for crafts, an 11 room heated house for winter weekends and a boat house.
The Scouts ask us to consider these facts:
1. Permanent possession of this site will make it possible to train 1400 more girls each year and to take care of younger girls.
2. The new camp will be open 52 weeks in the year.
3. Present facilities make it impossible for all the agencies for girls to serve more than 10 per cent of the girls in Cuyahoga County.
4. Cleveland is the only city in the region that does not have its own Girl Scout camp.
5. Figures from Akron, Dayton, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus show that the cost of the camp and its necessary equipment is less than those cities have had to pay for a similar set up.
The goal for the Camp Fund Campaign is $60,000; part for the land purchase, the balance for the necessary remodeling, the erection of tents and other necessities to operate the camp on a year-around basis. Mr. Warner Seely is chairman of the campaign: Mrs. Benedict Crowell , vice chairman.
Since the soliciting organization is not a large one, Interested Junior League members will be doing their Scout-leader friends a very great favor if they don't wait to be called on, but step right up with their contributions.
- Mrs. Carlton W. Bonfils was chairman of banquet arrangements
- Mrs. Alexander C. Robinson was program chairman, assisted by:
- Mrs. John A. Kiggen Jr. ( publicity chair)
- Mrs. Stanlee Orr ( chairman of hosteses)
- Mrs. Fred Harroff
- Mrs. J. Jones Hudson
- Mrs. E.A. Fisher
- Mrs. George Jones
- Mrs. Normal Siegel
- Mrs. W.A. Roberts
- Mrs. F.O. Fleming
- Mrs. Howard Dingle
- Mrs. Edwin Parkhurst
Professor Henry Miller Busch of Cleveland College was the keynote speaker
GS Troop 89 (captained by Mrs. Clifford Jorns) and GS troop 120 ( captained by Mrs. William C. Russell) took part in the " Camping Around the Calendar" skit.
Girls Jo Anne Galberach, Elizabeth Izant, and Peggy Camplejohn were pictured in the Plain Dealer laying logs on a pretend fire in the skit
Mrs. Clifford E. Jorns - author of skit lyrics
additional entertainment by radio stars Delma Lee and the Kay sisters
a motion picture by Mrs. Warner Seely of the new campsite was shown
According to the Cleveland NEWS, the following accepted invitations to sit at the speakers' table:
- Mayor & Mrs. Harold H. Burton
- Mr. & Mrs. Edward D. Lynde
- Mr. & Mrs Hal Griswold
- Mr. & Mrs. James R. Garfield
- Mr. Harold Madison
- Mr. George Green
- Banquet attendees pictured in the Cleveland Press report:
- J.B. Kirby
- Mrs. Benedict Crowell
- Menry M. Busch
- Mrs. Henry Friede
- Mrs. Hal Griswold
- Harold L. Madison
- Miss Grace Courtade
- Miss Mary Driver
- Miss Fay Stein
- Miss Jean Warwick
- Mrs. Stanlee Bates
- Warner Seely
- Mrs C Bonfils
- George E Greer
- Mrs Rudold Garfield
- Mrs B.F. Quate
- Miss Ann Wright
- Stanlee T. Bates
support also came from
Mrs. Cleaveland Cross
From the Financial Report of the Capitol Account Drive. Cleveland GS Council February 26, 1938
Campaign Executive Commitee
- Mrs. Henry Friede , Comissioner
- Mr. Warner Seely, General Campaign Chairman
- Mrs. Rudolf [Eleanor] Garfield, Special Gifts Chairman
- Mrs. B.F. McQuate, Public Division Chairman
- Mrs. Clifford Jorns, Scout Division Chairman
- Mr. James B. Garfield, Treasurer
Camp Construction Committee
- Mr. Morris A. Black, Chairman
- Mr. Alexander Robinson, III
- Mr. W.F. Schickler
- Mr. E.A.Fisher
- Mr. Gilbert R. Osterland
- Mr. James B. Kirby
- Mr. Henry Friede
- Dr. R.W. Markwith
- Mr. Harold Madison
- Mr. John Homer Kapp
Special mention was made to Glidden & Co., The Electrical League, The Ohio Edison Co., Walsh & Co., and the newspapers for their invaluable publicity
The estate of Mr. & Mrs. James B. Kirby became the property of the Cleveland Girl Scout Council on April 7, 1937
Sources: 1938 CGSC report / 39 clippings provided by Farnham Publicity Service 1937
GSNEO history committee archives