The Resort Years

Unity Camp
Unity Camp, circa 1925
Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Unity Camp, probably Camp Director's cabin, circa 1925
Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Unity Camp, circa 1938
Credit: Maple Plain Museum

  

In 1897, Dr. Marion Shutter, pastor of the Unitarian Church of the Redeemer in Minneapolis, and his wife Mary founded Unity Settlement House in North Minneapolis. The Shutters owned 15 acres of property on Lake Independence, which they donated to the settlement house for two-week summer camps, first for boys and then for girls.

     Magazine articles published in 1908 and 1909 describe camp life in the early days: The children arrived by train from Minneapolis. The campers slept in tents and spent virtually all of their time outdoors. The 6:30 a.m. wake-up call was a cannon blast. Roll-call and flag raising were at 6:45 a.m., followed by breakfast. The campers’ days were full of activities: swimming, boating and canoeing, field races, basketball and more. Much time was spend exploring the woods and identifying birds and insects. Long walks might include berry-picking or visiting the animals at the neighboring farm. Books were available for rainy days.

     Communal meals were served under a large tent. All the fresh air and exercise stimulated big appetites; it was said that it was not unusual for a camper to gain 5 lbs. during his stay. After supper, the campers played games like “Run, Sheep, Run” and “Pull-away”. The day ended around a campfire, with storytelling, singing and roasting marshmallows. Taps sounded at 10:00 p.m.

     For most of these city-raised children, this was their first experience living outdoors surrounded by woods, and their first opportunity to swim or paddle a canoe. Campers’ diaries reflect their happiness as well as their reluctance to return home at the end of the session.

     In 1922 there were two buildings on the property: the mess hall and the camp director’s cabin. The campers and counselors were housed in portable canvas cabins with wooden floors.  That year Arthur Gertz was appointed Camp Director and his wife, Adele, was hired as the camp cook. The mess hall had long wooden tables and a huge native stone fireplace. All meals were eaten there and it was used for activities on rainy days.

     After Dr. Shutter died, Unity Camp was disbanded but the Gertzes continued living there in the summer. Sometime around 1940 Mrs. Shutter sold the property to Arthur Gertz and Kenneth Bollum. They divided the property into 15 one-acre lots which they sold for permanent homes.  Mr. Gertz then purchased Bohanon’s Resort, which was located south of the former camp.

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Credits:

October 10, 1908 edition of The Bellman, pgs 1132-1133, published in Minneapolis
https://books.google.com/books?id=wPlDeJ8mG-0C (search "Unity Camp")

June 19, 1909 edition of The Survey, pgs 440-441,  a sociology journal published by The Charity Organization Society
https://books.google.com/books?id=R9o-AQAAMAAJ (search "Unity Camp"

   

     Editor's Note: In 1977, Pat and Dick Wulff (2865 Lakeshore Ave.) purchased one of the former camp lots from George Pieh. The old mess hall building was still there – the Wulff’s disassembled it board by board, burned the wood in the huge fireplace, and then tore down the big chimney rock by rock, before building their current home. 

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DISCLAIMER: I have collected information from a variety of sources, some verifiable, some anecdotal. I've made every effort to ensure accurate information but I can't promise that all of the content is factual. If you recognize any errors, please let me know. Thank you.