“A lovely spot among the hills,
A sky of blue above,
And trees that bend in graceful form,
These make the camp I love.”
-Mary Mitchell Westall
Camp Dellwood was established in the 1920s to afford girls aged 9-19 a summer filled with outdoor sports, arts and crafts, socializing, and fun. Under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. George Mason Swift, it was located near Lake Junaluska in Haywood County. Among its enthusiastic campers was Mary Mitchell Westall of Asheville, whose relish of camp life is well documented in her poetry, journal, photograph album, autograph books, camp logs, and other camp publications. A study of these materials provides a complete picture of camp life during that period, 1928-1933.
The camp was constructed on the slope of a mountain at 3200 feet elevation, “insuring delightful days and cool nights.” It consisted of a lodge for group activities, a dining hall and kitchen, a craft building, and a nature den. Campers’ cabins, called kiosks, were lit with electricity. Modern plumbing with hot and cold showers was provided, along with “a splendid cuisine to assure the health and comfort of the girls.”
A spirit of friendly rivalry was encouraged among campers, who were divided into two teams named the Speedies and the Swifties. They competed in sports activities, which included horseback riding, canoeing, archery, basketball, tennis, hiking, and swimming.
Campers also participated in craft projects, interpretive dancing, dramatics, and nature study. Camp fire meetings were held for singing and storytelling and to give the leaders a chance to speak. “Tonight we had a pajama party in the lodge,” Mary Mitchell Westall wrote in her journal on July 15, 1930. “I hope that everyone is getting as much out of camp as I feel I am and that they love it as much.”
Walpurgis Night was a much-anticipated annual event held near the end of the summer session. Costumed campers portrayed Peter Pan, a Fairy Queen, witches, brownies, and more fairies who sang, danced and play acted in a carnival atmosphere. This photo montage appeared in the Camp Dellwood publication sent to prospective campers.
Summer camp is all about fun and friends, “like a lovely big family,” wrote Mary Mitchell Westall. Her autograph books also testify to the importance of friendship among campers, many of whom returned to Camp Dellwood year after year. Photos such as these from her album show the jokes and hijinks that filled their days.
“Because it is a lovely place
With friends so kind and good,
Because it gives me all things fine,
I love dear Camp Dellwood.”
-Mary Mitchell Westall
Mary Mitchell Westall, later Mrs. E. K. Large Jr., was the daughter of James F. (“Jack”) and Mary Mitchell Wiley Westall of 44 Westall Avenue in Asheville. The North Carolina Room is grateful to her daughter, Catherine Large Wetstein, for the donation of the Westall family collection.
-Blog post by Laura Gaskin, volunteer