Louis W. Hill and the Fresh Air Rest Camp at North Oaks

From the Spring 2020 issue (Volume 55, Number 1) of Ramsey County History Magazine…

Women and Children First: The Volunteers of America and Louis W. Hill Build Fresh Air Rest Camp
Authors: Eileen R. McCormack and Aine C. McCormack

In the early 1920s, Irving and Martha Starr, a married couple employed by the Volunteers of America (VOA) approached St. Paul businessman Louis W. Hill with a proposition: They hoped to open and run a summertime Fresh Air Rest Camp for poor mothers and their children—on a portion of Hill’s North Oaks farm. Hill agreed wholeheartedly. Not only did he lease the land for $1 a year, he provided much of the funding to build cabins, administration buildings, two swimming pools, and more. Many of his wealthy friends and colleagues followed suit with their own monetary donations and services. For their part, the VOA provided wholesome meals, parenting and sewing classes, and indoor and outdoor entertainment and babysitting options for the children. The mother and daughter duo Eileen McCormack and Aine McCormack share the touching story of this community collaboration that gave young children and their tired mothers—most of whom worked as the primary breadwinners and caregivers—two weeks to rest, relax, and recuperate. The camp welcomed over 50,000 guests during its twenty-eight years at North Oaks.

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