Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak: a history of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau Schools and the Homestead

Michael Huey in the last couple of days of a Kickstarter project to fund Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak. This new book will tell the history of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau Schools, and the Homestead in Glen Arbor from their beginnings around 1920 until 1963. Richly illustrated, the book makes use of the Leelanau School Archive as well as the extensive private archives of the Beals and Huey families to draw back the curtain and tell a behind-the-scenes tale; as such it is a personal journey back through the development of the camp, the school, and the Homestead, told chiefly through vintage photographs, the detailed timeline, and individual short essays. It will be of interest to all who love the Leelanau peninsula and its history and, in particular, to those who have attended – or now attend – Camp Leelanau and/or the Leelanau School, as well as those who summered at or nearby the Homestead or live on the premises now.

Head over to Kickstarter for all the details, and watch the video and read about the project below!

Skipper & Cora Beals and Major & Helen Huey in the Early Years of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau Schools, and the Homestead in Glen Arbor. Volume One: 1921-1963

Beginning in the 1920s, two sisters from Madison and their adventure-minded husbands boldly create a utopian boys’ camp on an idyllic site in the Michigan wilderness. Out of the camp grows an unorthodox boarding school, which, in turn, leads to the founding of a popular summer resort. The three ventures – originally conceived as the “legs of a three-legged stool” – still exist independently today. Organized along a year-by-year timeline, Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak follows the arc of change in the peaceful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore region from its late 19th- and early 20th-century fishing/farming beginnings toward the development of the vacation industry that marks it today.

In the initial years, campers and students are taught self-reliance and encouraged to figure things out on their own: in between Latin and history lessons they build boats, study aeronautics, and help grow vegetables and raise animals to feed themselves. At the same time, they are led to see that “they can camp in the woods all summer and still be real gentlemen.” The spirit of learning in and from nature is carried forward into the later years – when campers, students, and guests no longer arrive by steamer from Chicago. The book’s 1920s boys’ camp snapshots are reminiscent of the world of Thomas Eakins, while its later professional photographs prefigure the work of contemporary artists such as Bruce Weber. Caught in between is the family itself, appearing in staged “private” photos that define their exceptional role as a symbolic family to which campers, students, and sometimes even summer guests belong, but also as a constant thread – from the Twenties through the Sixties – in the history of the camp, the school, and the resort.

The costs of offset printing (not digital publishing!!) a stately book of this size with superb graphic design are high: for a print run of 1,000 books around $40,000. (The original Homestead Building itself – built for around $15,000 in 1929 – was a bargain by comparison!) The reality of publishing today is that the author bears these costs. If funded, this book will become available to a much wider audience; unfunded, it need remain restricted to a private limited edition for the family and a small circle. Thanks to all who care deeply enough about this important piece of local history to bring the project to fruition and the story of Leelanau into the spotlight.



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