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Soon after the establishment of the School of Forestry and Conservation in 1927 it was decided that the organization of summer instruction in forestry should be undertaken without delay. Accordingly, in 1928, Professor Robert Craig, Jr., was assigned the task of finding a suitable site for a camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

As a result of the summer's investigation, Beaver Lake Basin in Alger County was selected for the proposed development. Because of the complicated ownership of the Basin and financial limitations, the University was not able to obtain immediate possession of it. At the suggestion of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, it was decided to use a temporary site generously offered by that company.

The University opened its first forestry camp in June 1929, at an abandoned logging camp eight miles west and south of Munising in Alger County, and one mile south of the Eight-Mile Corner on the road between Munising and Forest Lake. It was named Camp Filibert Roth in honor of Professor Filibert Roth, one of the pioneers in forestry in the United States and head of the Department of Forestry at the University of Michigan from 1903 until his retirement in 1923. Robert Craig, Jr., was appointed Director and continued in that position through 1947, when Associate Professor John Carow succeeded him.

The available buildings left much to be desired. They were a group of abandoned tarpaper shacks. The only source of water was a well 165 feet deep with a hand pump which required seventeen strokes to bring the first water to the surface. Washing and bathing accommodations consisted of the open-air "shelter" afforded by two buildings, which joined each other at right angles. Benches with buckets of water from the well were the only equipment. When camp closed in the fall, everything had to be packed in boxes and hauled into Munising for storage in the paper mill. The mattresses were rolled, tied, and stored in the mothproof compartments in which the mill kept its woolen supplies.

In the fall of 1934 another inspection was made of some of the sites considered in the earlier survey. One of these was in Iron County on the west side of Golden Lake, some fifteen miles west of Iron River, where the Von Platen-Fox Company had built an unusually good set of camp buildings in the hope that some club or organization would use them after logging was completed. A careful inspection of the camp and the surrounding area led to the decision that the site had the natural advantages to make it a desirable permanent location.

The camp was on a beautiful lake entirely surrounded by timber, mostly hardwoods, but interspersed with some conifers. The buildings already there were large enough to meet immediate needs with a minimum of remodeling. The area around the camp would grow in value because it had been logged on a selective basis. In the meantime, the students could learn much from such a demonstration situation. It was within the boundaries of the Ottawa National Forest, and the Michigan Department of Conservation was active there, thus making it possible to observe how the state handles its forestry problems. There were also many wood-using industries within easy reach.

Through the interest and generosity of M. J. Fox, president of the Von Platen-Fox Company, 10 acres were obtained. Purchases of 90 acres in 1942 from the Von Platen-Fox Company and of 114 acres in 1943-44 from the Lindahl Brothers of Iron River brought the area owned by the University to its present total of 214 acres.

The move from Alger County to the beautiful new site in Iron County was made in June 1935. The buildings at that time consisted of a cookhouse, three bunkhouses, a shop, two garages, a large barn, one cottage, and a small office. The cookhouse was used with little alteration. One bunkhouse was converted into a classroom, and the other two were used as dormitories. The two garages were remodeled, the smaller one being used as an instrument room and the larger as a camp "Michigan Union." The only construction undertaken that first year was of a new toilet and a central washroom. The latter had an elevated tank into which the boys pumped lake water by hand, thus affording "running water." There were also a small stove and a system of pipes to provide both hot and cold water for washing. Kitchen and drinking water came from a shallow well. Although no trouble could be traced to the water, the Iron County health authorities never officially approved its use.

When the 1942 building program was begun, Professor Frederick O'Dell of the College of Architecture and Design was employed to draw plans for the new buildings. After 1943 the University Plant Department took over this work, which has since been under the immediate direction of Robert Aitken. The first student cabin was built in 1942.

The student cabins, of which there are eighteen, measure approximately 13 by 32 feet. Each includes three rooms, a small bedroom across each end and a study room in the center. Each bedroom has a double-deck bed and adequate shelves and cupboards for its two occupants. There are also two full-sized windows, one at either end of the room, and two 12-by-18-inch windows so placed that one comes about even with the top of each deck of the bed.

The study room has five full-sized windows on one side and three windows and a door on the other, all adequately screened. A large study table is on either side of the room, and over each table is a fluorescent light fixture with two 40-inch tubes. Against one bedroom wall are two large bookcases, and at the other end of the room is a wood-burning space heater. The bedrooms are lighted with incandescent lights.

The floors are of matched hard maple, and the window and door frames are of pine. The walls are finished with No. 2 common shiplap. Vertical cedar slabs cover the outsides of the cabins, and seams are calked with asbestos roof cement.

Five faculty cabins fully equipped for family living have been built along the lakefront north of the camp. As a result, faculty families are independent of the camp mess hall and kitchen. These cabins are of the same general construction as the student cabins but vary in size.

In 1944 a telephone line was brought eight miles from Beechwood, and in 1946 Wisconsin Power and Light Company put in electric power lines, also from Beechwood. The buildings are all electrically lighted, and the caretaker's house and faculty cabins have electric refrigeration and water heating.

In 1952 the much-needed kitchen-dining room was finished in time for the summer session. It has a seating capacity of about 116. Bottled gas is used for cooking and water heating and there is a large electrically operated walk-in cooler. A hot-air wood furnace is used for general heating. The basement has excellent living quarters for the kitchen personnel and also affords ample space for food storage and kitchen laundry.

It has been the aim of instruction at the camp to make it as practicable as possible, using the laboratory facilities afforded by the extensive forest areas in the vicinity.

Camp Filibert Roth has grown in a surprisingly short time from a few tarpaper shacks in the cutover slashings to a beautifully situated and strictly modern camp; from thirteen students in 1929 to seventy-three in 1950 (the largest enrollment to date). There are now twenty-eight new buildings.

Robert Craig

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey, Wilfred B. Shaw, editor, pages 1596-1598

History of the University of Michigan

Camp Filibert Roth