The History of LincolnFarm Camp & Timber Lake West
Several times a summer, former campers of LincolnFarm Camp (which became Timber Lake West in 1987) show up at our gate and ask if they can show their spouse or children or grandchildren where they went to camp. It is always interesting showing them around and hearing the history of our facility. LincolnFarm Camp was founded by Harold Loren, an industrial arts teacher in the New York City Public Schools and his wife Bea.
In December of 1954 they purchased an abandoned farm*, formerly owned by Lincoln Kettle, hence the name LincolnFarm. Harold opened the next summer in 1955 with a program helping teenagers develop skills through work education programs, while promoting the exchange of staff members and children with camps in many parts of the world. The camp was built by the campers who came to an empty lot and slowly built the camp by hand. Usually one of the first things these former camper say is, “I helped build that building.” (*Author’s note – details on the owner(s) prior to Harold and Bea Loren are from the stories handed down to us by our guests)
The camp had two buildings the first summer Harold and Bea opened: The Art Barn and the old Main House, which was the original Farm House of Lincoln Kettle. The current canteen was the original dining hall those first few years and the camper lived on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Old Main House until the bunks or “motels” were constructed.
Harold’s original program model consisted of Farming, Forestry and Construction along with a weekend tripping program. Back then seat belts were not mandated and in fact, apparently neither were seats, as campers traveled in open rack trucks, pulling over under bridge overpasses when it rained. Is it any wonder the camp newspaper was called The Tractor. In later years, the focus shifted to the arts, dancing, sculpting, welding, music and crafts. For our Timber Lake West Campers, the tractor mounted at the base of girls side, the picture below shows it in use, during its LincolnFarm Days.
After 32 years in the Camping Industry, Harold and Bea decided it was time to retire and sold the Camp to Jay Jacobs, owner and director of Timber Lake Camp. At Timber Lake Camp, “campers had the option of going for four or eight weeks. The re-enrollment for the eight weekers was 70 percent, while for July campers it was 10 percent and for August campers 25 percent. It was clear that we weren’t satisfying our four-week campers, but many children were not ready to go away for eight weeks, so I decided to start Timber Lake West as a separate four-week camp. I thought it would be a great feeder for campers to eight weeks, but it didn’t work that way because children had such a good time that they wanted to go back with their friends to Timber Lake West.” (Jay Jacobs, New York Times, April 5th, 1998)
At Timber Lake West, each session has a beginning, middle and end. We power-pack everything a full season general, traditional camp program has to offer into four weeks … and do it twice!
Oh how have times changed!