Camp Downer is in the Downer State Forest
in Sharon, Vermont. The 800 acre forest was
donated by Charles Downer to the State of
Vermont for the purpose of educational study,
primarily of forestry. Charles Downer was very
interested in forestry and went so far as to
import trees from around the world, including
some Norwegian firs that never arrived because
they went down with the Titanic.
Why a camp at all?
In the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) built the pond which we use today for
boating. They also built many of the buildings
which we use today. We're doing some
research into Camp William James (CWJ),
and will write more about that here later.
So then what happened?
Camp Downer was originally incorporated in
1945 as Downer 4-H Camp, Inc. Its stated goal
was to provide an affordable summer camping
experience to 4-H members of Washington,
Addison, Caledonia, Windsor and Windham
counties. Originally the staff was provided
by each of the counties for the campers from
those counties. Cabins did not exist at first
but CWJ left behind dormitories which housed
male and female campers.
During the late 1950's and 1960's, the
4-H clubs in the various counties contributed
toward the construction of the cabins. Many
of the cabin signs indicate which county club
provided which cabin. Other cabins, notably
the original director's and nature cabins
were turned into Cabin 13 and Old Nature for
campers as time went on.
Sometime in 1964 or 1968, one of the
original dormitories collapsed in the middle.
The ends that were left standing became the
nurses cabin and directors cabins that remain
in use today.
In 1974 the camp fee had risen to the
astronomical fee of $40.00 per week. There
were multiple stay over weekends that were
staffed on a rotating basis. Most campers
went home on the weekend, but every
other weekend about 20 campers would stay
behind. Swimming all weekend. What a great
In 1977, Camp Ingalls closed and our Nature
cabin was built with a grant from funds
from the Ingalls closing. Located at the edge
of our pond, it gives a great view of a family of
great blue herons that have nested there on
occasion over the years.
Recent changes have included the addition
of the Downer Olympics during the
single remaining two-week session. In the
mid-1980's the camp added a photography
2004 was a year which had a huge impact
on Camp Downer. Approaching its 60th anniversary,
Downer, along with the other three
4-H camps in Vermont, was notified that the
University Extension Service was severing its
ties with 4-H camping.
Taking up this challenge, Downer 4-H
Camp, Inc. formally changed its name to
Camp Downer, Inc. Our commitment to providing
affordable camping experiences for all
remains decidedly unchanged. We look forward
to camping and campers for many years