What do crafts, sports, hiking, tenting out, telling stories, and swimming all have in common? They are all activities of your typical New England summer camp. Summer camps for children got their beginnings back in the late 1800's. Up until the mid 1800's, rural children typically went to school in both the Winter and Summer and had time off during the spring and fall to help the family with the spring planting and the fall harvest. Children living in the larger cities schooled for the majority of the year with only small breaks. As times changed, the summer months took hold as a good time of year to give students and educators a hiatus from their classrooms. Many of the early summer camps offered children from urban environments such as Boston and its suburbs the ability to 'get back to nature' for a week or two at a time during the summer months.
One such summer camp existed right here in Milford and gave thousands of children the opportunity to experience a great summer retreat. Camp Holiday was owned and operated by the Girls' Friendly Society of Massachusetts. The Girls Friendly Society was an organization associated with the Episcopal Church and originally began in England in the mid 1870's. Shortly thereafter, chapters of the Girls Friendly Society started to appear in the United States. The organization's primary goal was to provide recreation and friendship to "working girls" that were often forced to withstand miserable working conditions. The Massachusetts chapter was the first in the United States and benefited urban girls that worked in the industrial mill buildings of Lowell and other Massachusetts cities.
Camp Holiday operated at the top of Federal Hill here in Milford, NH for 89 years, from 1896 to 1985. The camp sat on 25 acres of land that spanned both the eastern and western side of Federal Hill road just after its intersection with Foster road when you are heading south towards the Hollis town line.
In the 1800's, today's Federal Hill was known as Ducklee Hill. It got its name from the farmer that lived at the top of the hill and on this property. His name was David Duncklee Jr. and was born in 1767 and died in 1832. During his life, he built a home on the east side of the main road. This home still stands today and was known as 'restcroft' at the camp. When David Duncklee died, the farm passed down to two of his sons, Porter and Joel Ducklee. Porter died in 1884 and Joel died in 1889. Joel was a selectman in Milford in 1854 and 1855. At some point, the farm and buildings were passed or sold to Lemuel Wright and his son Noah where they continued to use the buildings and land as a farm. Prior to 1896, the property was purchased from the Wrights by Reverend Hutchins of Concord, MA. (In researching this Rev. Hutchins, I have found 3 different accounts of his first initials. I have found H.C., C.H., and C.L.). For a few years, Rev. Hutchins continued to operate the 'Broadview' farm, but only in the summer. He spent the rest of the year tending to his duties back in the city. The building that became the primary facility for the camp was known as 'Broadview' and later 'Holiday House' and sat on the west side of the road directly across from Restcroft. Upon doing research on this building, I have once again found conflicting information. I found a source that indicated that this building was constructed by David Duncklee Jr. for one of his children. Another source indicates that this large building was built by Reverend Hutchins during his ownership of the farm to support his summer farming.
In the year 1896, Reverend Hutchins donated the land and buildings on the West side of the road the Girls' Friendly Society of Massachusetts. Architect E.M. Machado of Salem, Massachusetts drafted a plan to convert the old barn over to a home that would accommodate a large number of girls from the Friendly Society. With the conversion of this barn into what would then be known as "Holiday House", the 89 year run of operations of Camp Holiday were underway.
Upon entering the Holiday House from the front entrance, there were very large rooms. One large room was the library and reading room. There was also a large parlor room and a chapel room as well. In the rear of the first floor was the kitchen and dining area. The dining room would accommodate 60 girls at a time. The second floor of the Holiday house contained 27 rooms and all were bedrooms.
In 1899, four years after the donation of the Holiday House, Rev. Hutchins donated the property and house known as "Restcoft" across the street from Holiday House to the Girls' Friendly Society. In 1899, Holiday House was opened and Restcroft was formally dedicated on June 26th. With this additional property and facility, the camp had enough space to accommodate up to 60 girls at a time. Sometimes girls came just for long weekends, but it was more common for girls to come for a week or two at a time. The camp season typically ran from late June through the early part of September.
Though there were other smaller buildings at the camp, nothing was as big and grand as the Holiday House. Across the road to the South of Restcroft was another building called Bonnicroft. In later years, Bonnicroft was used as an arts/crafts facility. As of this writing in October of 2012, the Bonnicroft building is still standing, surrounded by trees, but can be seen on the east side of Federal Hill Road.
In the camp's later years, tennis courts, a swimming pool and other luxuries of modern day summer camps were installed. In the 1970's, the camp would be host to Boy Scout Camporees and other camping activities. Though I have seen some mention of new owners at some point in the camp's later years, I do not know who or when. It would appear that 1985 was the final year that the camp operated. As best I can tell and unfortunately not in my memory, the Holiday House building sat vacant and deteriorating for about 10 years before it was eventually taken down around 1995. Besides a couple of the out buildings of the camp, you really can't even tell today where the Holiday House physically sat. On the eastern side of Federal Hill road, directly across the street from where Holiday House sat, the Restcroft house is now a private residence. This was the original house build by David Duncklee Jr.
For 89 years, thousands of girls from the cities of Massachusetts came to Milford via train and automobile to 'get away from it all' for a couple of weeks in the summer at Camp Holiday in Milford. Across New England and the United States, I'm sure there are still shoeboxes full of pictures, scrapbooks full of memories, and generations of girls that frequently think back to the times they had at Camp Holiday. We would love to hear from you! Share your memories by leaving comments.
Camp Holiday Image Gallery
Click on any of the images below. These images are from post cards, original photographs, and some very generous people including Ali Sunderalnd Perry, who attended Camp Holiday in the mid 1970's. Please let me know if you'd like to include your photographs in the image gallery by sending me an E-Mail