Children’s camp on the Lake Ontario shoreline shares a long history with Oswego County families

A 1946 photo of the Camp Hollis facility. Located on Lake Ontario in the town of Oswego, the camp will celebrate its 75th year of operation in 2021. Photo courtesy of the family of the late Judge Eugene Sullivan

OSWEGO — Oswego County officials have named a committee to create a series of events to honor the 75th anniversary of Camp Hollis, the county’s children’s camp located in the town of Oswego. The camp will celebrate its 75th summer of operation in 2021.

Owned by Oswego County, Camp Hollis is operated under the direction of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. Camp Hollis normally provides an overnight camping experience for boys and girls, but due to coronavirus restrictions during the summer of 2020, it successfully offered a day camp program.

Among the committee members is town of Oswego historian George DeMass. DeMass is well aware of the camp’s long history, including the fact that the campground actually began serving children years before the start of Camp Hollis in 1946. In the 1920s, Oswego County chose the town of Oswego to establish a health camp which would serve as a summer respite for children at risk of contracting tuberculosis, then a deadly disease with no cure.

As DeMass explained, “The original camp was selected because of its location on Lewis’s Bluff, which overlooked the Lake Ontario shoreline. The bluff was named after one of the town’s first settlers in the early 1800s, Simeon Lewis, from Rhode Island.”

The county’s Health Camp operated at Lewis’s Bluff until 1943, leaving a legacy in the town.

“In the 1940s and ‘50s,” DeMass explained, “the present day West Lake Road was known as Health Camp Road because you originally entered Camp Hollis from it, then proceeded down a private road owned by Joe and Vernice McConnell Glerum and crossed a very narrow bridge to reach the camp’s main building.”

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, DeMass is applying to the Pomeroy Foundation for a grant. “The foundation places historical markers throughout New York State, and the Town of Oswego plans to place one at the camp’s entrance, marking this important historical site.”

DeMass noted that the Town of Oswego presently has five such markers, “including one honoring a prominent town resident, Dr. Mary E. Walker. Dr. Walker was desirous to have a tuberculosis sanitarium at her home on Bunker Hill Road in our town, and she would be happy that ten years after her death such a place began at the Health Camp.”

DeMass plans to have the marker honoring Camp Hollis placed in the spring of 2021.

Helping him prepare for this and other events are Camp Hollis 75th Anniversary Committee members Oswego County Legislator James Karasek, chairman of the Legislature’s Health Committee; Oswego County Coordinator of Parks and Recreation Zach Grulich; and former Camp Hollis staff members Jim Farfaglia, Elizabeth Filkins, Joe Glerum, Jim Hooper, Linda Knowles and Brandon Morey.

Anyone who would like to get involved in organizing the 75th anniversary celebration may contact Jim Farfaglia at 315-402-6164 or email sjimf903@twcny.rr.com.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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