Vermont state park used to be home to French girls summer camp

Kingsland Bay State Park in Vermont used to be home to an all-girls French summer camp known as Ecole Champlain.

Use of the state park property on Lake Champlain dates back to the 1790s when the Howley House mansion still standing on the site served as an inn for travelers. The camp was established in the 1920s when the property was purchased from the Catholic Church (Howley House had been used as a monastery) and Middlebury Colege French language professor Edward Collins created the camp.

28640_1410135126386_190765_nThe camp served girls ages 5 to 17 until its last season in 1973. Howley House was used for a summer stock theater and restaurant but was sold off after a few years to the state of Vermont and private property owners. The park operates today on 264 of the original 350 acres.

Former staff members at the camp include world renown violinist Alba Rosa Viëtor, who taught at the camp in 1952, supervising the performance of her ballet composition “The Bluebird Suite,” according to this site.

American newspaper columnist, author, political commentator and humorist Molly Ivins spent the summer of 1960 at the camp as a camper and assistant counselor. She called the camp “a fancy French language camp for genteel young ladies which resides on a particularly sheltered corner of Lake Champlain.”

Elizabeth Claire Prophet, an American New Age minister, religious figure and self-proclaimed prophet was a camp counselor in the summer of 1958.

One former camper who attended camp from 1970-72 maintains a website cataloging photos and other memories at ecolechamplain.wordpress.com. Oscar-winning screenwriter David Franzoni (Amistad, Gladiator) spent two winters and a summer at Ecole, according to a post on the site and in a Facebook group for the camp.

Local newspaper the Addison Eagle recently ran a story on the camp, which brought the camp to my attention.

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Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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