Photographed by Jeremias Lewin, copyright Charles A. Miller

The Camp Catawba Fund

Camp Catawba was an exceptional summer camp for boys that operated from 1944 to 1970 near Blowing Rock, N.C. Bounded by the Blue Ridge Parkway on one side and the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the other, the Parkway now owns the grounds of the camp, along with its near century-old chestnut lodge. Through an anonymous donor, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has established the Camp Catawba Fund in order to assist the Parkway in interpreting the camp to the public.

Most of Camp Catawba’s campers came from northern cities. They were suddenly surrounded by towering pines and groves of rhododendron. Their outdoor activities were typical of American camps, if in a special location. They played ball games on a sloping field, swam in a spring-fed pond, took riding lessons at the Blowing Rock Horse Show grounds, and went on hikes in the Cone Estate and on Grandfather Mountain.

It was the camp’s cultural program, however, that made Catawba an astonishing institution. The camp’s director was Vera Lachmann (1904-1985), a professor of classics who had fled Germany in the late 1930s and found a refuge and haven in the Blue Ridge Mountains . She told the campers The Iliad one summer, The Odyssey the next. She directed the boys in plays by the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. She led nondenominational services on Sunday mornings. The camp’s music director, the composer Tui St. George Tucker (1924-2004), conducted the choir in music ranging from Gregorian chant to Bach and Negro spirituals. Several of Catawba’s arts counselors became known internationally in painting and sculpture.

The Blue Ridge Parkway acquired the grounds of Camp Catawba primarily to fend off private development on land wedged between properties it already administered. But it finds itself in possession of an important cultural resource. Through the Camp Catawba Fund, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation looks forward to assisting the Blue Ridge Parkway in telling the story of one of America’s most remarkable summer camps.

The Camp Catawba Fund was established by an anonymous gift of $5,000 in 2005.  For more information about this fund, call the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation — 336-721-0270.