Camp Wilbur Herrlich

Camp Herrlich had its origin in 1922 when a dying 12-year-old boy named Wilbur Herrlich made a request to his father that children from New York City be able to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the family farm in Towners. The Herrlich Farm was located on Deacon Smith Hill Road, which parallels NYS Route 311 starting at Fair Street. Wilbur's request was granted, and in 1922 the farm was donated to the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of New York and Brooklyn. The Mission Society would operate the farm as a camp for inner city youth.

The Wilbur Herrlich Memorial Home at Towners opened on July 2, 1923. Several hundred children from the New York City area were brought to the camp over the summer to enjoy country life. The Camp was able to accommodate 75 children at a time, who stayed at the camp for two-week periods. Departing children would leave the Home on Mondays, and a new group would arrive on Tuesday mornings. The Camp was open to youngsters aged 5 years to 12 years, and they enjoyed activities that included hiking, swimming, competitive sports, story telling, and educational programs. Herrlich Memorial Home consisted of 40 acres, much of which was operated as a farm and supplied fresh vegetables to be used at the Home.

A special celebration was held on July 4, 1923. Evening fireworks closed the celebration. On August 4, 1923, an anniversary open house was hosted by the Camp, and was attended by people in the immediate Patterson area as well as from the metropolitan New York City area.

Religion was an important part of the Camp experience, and each Sunday the children were brought to the nearby Patterson Baptist Church for Sunday morning services.

Several views of the Camp Herrlich complex from postcards probably dating from the early 1940s. The first shows the Camp buildings. The second shows a popular activity, canoeing on the lake. The third is the swimming area and is dated 1942. In the bottom row, the first photo shows the recreation hall. The second photo shows the view from the Camp. The third postcard photo shows one of the dormitories.

In 1950, the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of New York and Brooklyn became Lutheran Social Services (LSS). The organization expanded the Camp Herrlich facilities to accommodate a greater number of children. In 1978, the management responsibilties of the Camp were given to the Mount Tremper Outdoor Ministries, which also managed its own camp, the Mt. Tremper Lutheran Camp. Camp Herrlich had been vacant in the early 1970s, and it was thought that Mt. Tremper could re-energize Camp Herrlich. In 1981, Mt. Temper sold its own camp, and devoted its efforts to Camp Herrlich. By 1984, Camp Herrlich was offering such diverse programs as a BOCES (New York State Board of Cooperative Education Services) certified environmental education program. The town of Patterson used Camp Herrlich for its day camp program starting in 1991. In 1998, Camp Herrlich received the Presidential Points of Life citation for its contributions to the community. The citation recognized Camp Herrlich among the nation's top fifty organizations or individuals to make a lasting contribution of service to country.

The many successes of Camp Herrlich almost came to an end in 2003, when Lutheran Social Services terminated its lease with Mt. Tremper because of financial difficulties. With increased development in Putnam County, large stretches of vacant land became very valuable, and LSS considered selling the property. Mt. Tremper was given one year to purchase Camp Herrlich before the Camp would be closed. In 2004, a major fundraising effort was launched by Mt. Tremper to purchase the 200 acre site. New York State money was added to the watershed money that Putnam County received from the City of New York, with more to be raised by Putnam County through a bond. In May, 2006, Putnam County announced its purchase of the Camp. Under the new ownership arrangement, Mount Tremper Outdoor Ministries announced that it would lease Camp Herrlich from Putnam County and continue to operate the Camp.

Camp Herrlich continues to offer the summer camp experience to over 4,000 children each year, as well as offering environmental education, church, school, and community retreats, after school programs for local school districts, and other programs for families and children.