The History of the Manor House
The Manor House was originally constructed as a summer home for Frank C. Meehan. Born in Hinesburg, Vermont, Meehan was a farm laborer. By the time he was 25 years old, he was employed as a servant in the Brandon home of “speculator” James Hastings, and by the late 1880s had moved to New York City where in 1900 he is listed in the census as an “ice dealer.” Apparently this was a lucrative position for him, because in August 1898 (while living in New York City) he acquired twenty-three acres in the location of the Manor House. Frank Meehan died in 1906.
The 1904 USGS map below shows the Manor House and other buildings on the lake. These were some of the only buildings at the north end of the lake at the time.
After his father’s death Frank Meehan Jr. and his wife Lillian tried their best to turn the Manor into a resort. In 1915, they built Meehan’s Pavilion” and a baseball diamond. The resort didn’t work out as well as they had hoped, and in 1925, the Meehan’s sold the property, which included the pavillion, cottage and other buildings.
In 1926 the property was sold again, this time to William Zelenko and Hyman Tiplitz, who in 1927 established a camp for Jewish girls to be known as Camp Dunmore for Girls. (Zelenko had previously established a camp for Jewish boys that was located in what is now the Branbury State Park. That camp closed in 1931.)
The Manor House appears to have been only slightly altered to accommodate Camp Dunmore for Girls. Bathrooms and closet in between, which was a phone closet, likely date to the late 1920s or early 1930s. During the 1930s and 1940s, the camp was operated by Joseph Jacobson, who enlarged the campus with cabins and a mess hall to accommodate 180 girls.
In 1946, Jacobson’s son Edward helped establish Camp Dunmore for Boys, located to the west of Camp Dunmore for Girls. Three other camps opened on Lake Dunmore in the 1920s and 1930s. Other twentieth century establishments on the lake included picnic areas, campgrounds, a tourist steamboat operation, a tea room, stores, a dance hall and roller skating rink, a restaurant, a puppet theater, and riding stables. The boys and girls camps of Camp Dunmore operated until the early 1990s.
The 1945 USGS map of the area (below)shows the major escalation in development since the 1904 map had been produced, including at the lake’s north end, which at this point was mostly lined with buildings.
In 1995 The Keewaydin Foundation bought the Camp Dunmore campus to re-establish Songadeewin, the girls camp, previously located on Lake Willoughby, which had closed in 1975.
History of Songadeewin
The original camp Songadeewin– located on Lake Willouby – was founded in 1921 by Keewaydin Camps Ltd., a for-profit organization that that also started Keewaydin Dunmore and Keewaydin Temagami, and ten other summer camping programs in the beginning of the 20th century. During the Great Depression, Keewaydin Camps Ltd., sold off all of its camps to private owners. Songadeewin was sold to the Harter Family who operated the Lake Willouhby-based camp until financial issues caused the closure of the camp in 1975.
Camp Songaweedin closed in 1975 due to a mix of both financial troubles and lack of continued leadership. The property – far more valuable as lake front property than as a camp – was sold off privately. (This was the unfortunate fate of many northeastern summer camps in the latter half of the 20th Century. Some camps became non-profit foundations, like the Keewaydin Foundation, which has allowed the Foundation to protect the camps and help them continue in perpetuity.)
Songadeewin’s operation on Lake Dunmore started in 1999. It retains many of the buildings that were constructed for Camp Dunmore in the 1930s and 1940s including ten cabins, the library and the laundry house. It also uses four of the original buildings from Meehan’s original summer home. These include three Colonial Revival style buildings: The Manor House, Carriage Barn, and Wangan Room. Meehan’s Pavilion (constructed in the Rustic style of the 1920s), is now called Beenadeewin, where we host the “Saturday Spectacular,” an entertaining evening of music, skits and surprises the girls write and design.
Today, the Keewaydin Environmental Education Center (KEEC) also operates on the grounds of the Songadeewin Campus. From mid-April to June and from September to mid-October, students from Vermont Public Schools (and some out of state schools) come to KEEC for a week of intensive environmental education and community living.
For more than a century, the campus of what is now known as Songadeewin has provided fun and exciting activities to summer campers. In spring, 2018 the Keewaydin Foundation completed a renovation to The Manor House which is now the year-round home for the Keewaydin Foundation Staff. Educational and camp-related activities programming occur six months out of each year.
Looking for more history about the Manor House and our renovation? Check out the document below!