Onteora Scout Reservation:
A brief history


Besides being a great place to camp, Onteora has a lot to offer to the amateur historian. When I first set out to explore the trails, I was fascinated to find the remnants of sawmills, villages, ancient toll roads, quarries and more. I thought others might be interested in knowing more about the region and how Onteora became a Scout camp. A great place to get started is a history of the region written in 1967 - click here to read "Walking Through Time". You can also find a short history of Onteora here, and some stories from old magazines and newspapers here.

I've put together a brief timeline of some of the events in Onteora's past, but would love to get more details if anyone can help. If you know the year a particular shelter or campsite opened, for example, please send along the details!

  • The Lenni Lenape Indian tribe lived on what is now known as Onteora. They traveled between the Hudson and Delaware rivers on the Sun Trail, which later became known as Hunter Road.

  • 1708 - Queen Anne grants 2,000,000 acres of land to a group of property owners, including a John Hunter and the Livingston family.

  • The Livingstons built a manor house on the shores of the Willowemoc, which is now the site of the town of Livingston Manor.

  • 1811 - John Hunter increases his holdings through marriage.

  • 1815 - Hunter hires Able Sprague to clear a road along the path of the Indian Sun Trail. The Hunter Road, as it became known, was a major factor in opening the area to commercial development. The road became the main route through what is now Onteora, and can still be readily traveled today on foot.

  • 1880's - Stoddard ("Todd") Hammond builds a manor home overlooking the lake, and develops the stream for trout fishing.

  • 1889 - Julius "June" Smith builds a dam and enlarges Alder Lake.

  • 1895 - Hammond builds a fish hatchery on the Orchard Lake property, spending more than $18,000 on the project. It was built by Julius "June" Smith, who had previously built the dam at Alder Lake.

  • 1899 - Samuel Coykendall buys Alder Lake. His new manor home there is completed in June, 1900.

  • 1899 - Orchard Lake is in the news when a poacher is shot and seriously wounded by a watchman. The poacher is later awarded $15,000 in damages in 1900. A lengthy series of appeals followed, but the outcome is unknown..

  • 1900 - The Orchard Lake property was logged by the Resherif Lumber Company. They built a small town with five houses, a logging camp and mill in what is now known as the Al Nassau (Marshall Lesser) section of camp.

  • 1907 - The deed to the property was transferred on Sept. 17, 1907, from Carrie K. Hammond  to the Orchard Lake Trout Preserve, Stoddard Hammond, President.

  • 1911 - Coykendall offers to supply trout eggs from the Alder Lake hatchery to restock the depleted lakes and streams of the area.

  • 1911 - The deed was transferred again, this time on March 24, 1911, from Carrie K. Hammond to the newly formed Orchard Lake Club.

  • 1913 - Mongaup Pond, formerly also owned by Stoddard Hammond, is sold. The article mentions that when the Orchard Lake property had been sold earlier it reduced Hammond's overall mortgage by $12,000, providing an indication of the 1911 sale price.

  • 1915 - A local news story shows the Orchard Lake Club has approximately 60 members and owns 5,000 acres.

  • 1933 - Another transfer of the deed, on Feb. 21, 1933, from The Orchard Lake Club to Orchard Lake Development (1,957 Acres)

  • 1942 - The property is sold for $20,000 to Charles R. Vose, who used it as a private retreat.

  • 1943 - The deed is transferred on Nov. 3, 1943 from Orchard Lake Development to Trout and Skeet Club, Inc., commonly known as the Trout & Skeet Club of New York &/or The Orchard Lake Club.

  • 1955 - The deed is transferred on June 6, 1955 from the Trout & Skeet Club to Tropical. On October 11, 1955 the deed is transferred from Tropical to Nassau County Council, BSA, Inc. Nassau County Council buys the property now known as Onteora Scout Reservation with a donation from Alfred H. Capery. 

  • 1956 - Eighty Explorers are at Onteora at the Explorer base Camp for the first season of summer camp.

  • 1956 - 1st Operation Igloo.

  • 1957 - Rangerís Home built. Bill Donaghy moves from Carle Place to become the Camp Ranger. Main entrance road from new Ranger's home down to the lake replaced old one-way road leading past the dam and waterfronts.

  • 1958 - The Long House is built despite a major snowstorm. The Manor House serves as Office, Health Lodge and Trading Post.

  • 1960 - The Council House dining hall opens. First Junior Leader Training Camp program at Onteora. Nassau County Council purchases Alder Lake property. Earliest known date for the three chapels.

  • 1961 - The Archery range opens. Last season for the Explorer base Camp.

  • 1963 - The Long Island Trading Post opens. The Carriage House is torn down.

  • 1965 - The Manor House, former administration center, is torn down. The new Administration Building and Blauvelt Health Center open.

  • 1966 - Earliest known date for the JLTC Shelter.

  • 1967 - The stables move to the Archery Field, later known as the Rifle Range Field. Al Nassau Program Shelter opens. The A Frame houses are built.

  • 1968 - Buckskin Camp is opened, including the camp's third waterfront. The loop between Ute campsite and the Teddy Roosevelt Shelter area is opened. New campsites are built there and along Sprague Brook. The camp is enjoying the busiest period in its history.

  • 1969 - Ken Heim retires from Nassau County Council and finishes his leadership of Onteora. Last confirmed year for National Camp School at Onteora.

  • 1972 - A full program of summer camping is held at Alder Lake Scout Reservation. With the acknowledgement that the planned Buckskin Camp was unlikely to be built as planned, several changes were made in how campsites were assigned to Program Shelters. The original Bobcat Program Shelter was renamed the F. Howard Covey Program Shelter and assigned to Tribes Camp. The former JLTC shelter became the new Bobcat shelter and was assigned to Chiefs Camp. This was to maintain the tradition of shelters named after individuals in Tribes Camp and animal names used in Chiefs Camp.

  • 1973 - The last season for the F. Howard Covey Program Shelter.

  • 1974 - The last summer for four camping periods. Due to declining attendance, some of the staff is sent home after the third period. The former F. Howard Covey Program Shelter is used as the Conservation Shelter. It was later used as the Hiking Shelter before being demolished. Last season of Alder Lake as a full-time camp.

  • 1975 - Last season for the Council House Dining Hall, which was used in following years as the Craft Lodge and a storage facility.

  • 1976 -The new Rifle Range opens with a concrete slab in place. The horses are moved to the former JLTC/Bobcat Program Shelter.

  • 1977 - A shelter and trap range are added to the Rifle Range. The old stables are torn down.

  • 1978 - Bill Donaghy retires as camp ranger and is succeeded by Herb Conrad.

  • 1979 - The Commissary/Bakery building becomes the Maintenance building.

  • 1980 - Alder Lake Scout Reservation is sold to New York State. Last summer for the Bobcat Program Shelter and the Country Store. Glenn Gabbard becomes the third camp ranger. The Catholic and Protestant Chapels are moved to a new location behind the maintenance area.

  • 1982 - First season for the Joseph Shields Memorial Campfire Ring. 

  • 1983 - Last season for the Joseph Shields Memorial Campfire Ring. Last season for the Bobcat Program Shelter.

  • 1984 - First season for the Arthur K. Woodcheke Shelter on Orchard Lake (used for waterfront activities). First season for the Kenneth Heim Memorial Campfire Ring, built by the Order of the Arrow.

  • 1987 - Last season for the Otter Program Shelter.

  • 1991 - Onteora closes for summer camping at the end of the season.

  • 1997 - Onteora reopens!!!!!

  • 1998 - The James E. West Shelter is rebuilt on the site of the original shelter.

  • 2000 - The Dan Beard Shelter is torn down.

  • 2001 - The barn is torn down.

  • 2002 - The Dan Beard Shelter is rebuilt on the site of the original shelter.


That's the end of this history lesson, so, when you're ready, please head back to the main Onteora page.