Great Hall Camp Ouachita Girl Scout Camp Historic DistrictGreat Hall Camp Ouachita Girl Scout Camp Historic District
The Little Rock Girl Scout Council was chartered in 1928. With the leadership of Sue Worthen Ogden, a national GS Inc. board member, “After months of looking at prospective sites in the Ouachita National Forest, Ogden contacted Forest Supervisor A. W. Hartman in April 1935 to express her interest in a site along Narrow Creek at a location called “the Narrows,” where a dam could be built to create a small lake. Sue Ogden then coordinated with three federal agencies—the Forest Service, CCC, and WPA—and recruited Perry County to serve as the “official” sponsor of the WPA project (because only governmental entities could sponsor WPA projects, and the Girl Scout Council did not qualify because it was a private organization). By April 1936, Ogden had the necessary permits for a 30- acre Girl Scout camp on the north side of what would become Lake Sylvia. Undoubtedly, Sue Ogden’s “good connections” enabled her to gain the support of influential people who helped her project get federal funds.
Construction of the camp coincided with the construction of the Narrow Creek Dam. Although it was an integral part of Camp Ouachita, Lake Sylvia was not built specifically for the Girl Scouts. Prior to Sue Ogden’s interest in the area, the Forest Service had already planned to create a recreational lake in the vicinity. In 1936-37 the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Narrow Creek Dam and cleared the lake site for the U.S. Forest Service. The 35-foot dam created a 22-acre lake. By June 1937, the dam was completed and the lake filled. The Forest Service named the lake “Sylvia” at the suggestion of Sue Ogden, who had attended a 1934 Girl Scout conference in Boston, where she heard a speech about the ideal Girl Scout entitled, “Who is Sylvia? What is She?” One end of Lake Sylvia was used by the Girl Scouts, and the other end was a public recreation area managed by the Forest Service. The Works Progress Administration provided much of the funding and labor for the construction of Camp Ouachita. Three separate WPA work projects were approved, one each in 1936, 1937, and 1938. Altogether, more than $64,000 in WPA funding went into Camp Ouachita, more than 2/3 of it for labor. By the end of the third project in 1940, the combined expenditures of the WPA and the Girl Scout Council totaled almost $75,000 (equivalent to about $1.2 million today). After receiving the first WPA grant in 1936, the Girl Scout Council hired the well known Little Rock architectural firm of Thompson, Sanders & Ginocchio to design all of the buildings for the camp. Frank Ginocchio was the supervising architect on the project, and his drawings were completed in September 1936. When the last buildings were completed in 1940, the layout of Camp Ouachita was similar to the original site plan, but some modifications were made.
In keeping with Forest Service guidelines, Ginocchio designed the camp buildings in the Rustic style of architecture with battered (sloped/angled) fieldstone walls; broadly-pitched, gabled roofs with hand-split cypress shingles; and exposed hewn-log framework. In early 1941 the CCC built a rock retaining wall and rock steps at the swimming area to control erosion. The last summer of use by the GS’s was in 1978 and abandoned in 1979 due to water supply problems, strained relations with the Forest Service, and cost of maintenance. Between 1982 and 1985, the Forest Service authorized demolition of some deteriorated camp buildings, including the Atihcauo unit house, the boathouse, and a couple cabins and the bathhouse in the Echo Valley camping unit.
Between 2001 and 2007 reconstruction of the Great Hall with state and local funds was accomplished and is available to rent for family reunions, meetings, weddings, conferences other groups.
The hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walks through History Camp Ouachita Girl Scout Camp Historic District AR Hwy. 324 near Thornburg, Perry County November 9, 2013 By: Rachel Silva
Project originally submitted by Andrew Laverdiere on July 11, 2017.
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