Horseback riding was a popular attraction at Camp As-You-Like-It. The girls enjoyed a riding ring that the Park- way threatened when it was constructed. Miss Dwight successfully lobbied Parkway officials for an access road to link the camp with the ring on an adjacent ridge.
Shortly after Judge Heriot Clarkson established the resort community of Little Switzerland in 1910, others came with their vision of establishing summer camps in the beautiful mountain community. In 1914, a Charleston, SC resident, Miss Marie Gaillard Dwight, started what many believe to
be the oldest girls’ camp in Western North Carolina. This camp was called “As-You-Like-It”, and it was located on the west side of Osborne Knob off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Local residents, lead by Lester McKinney, helped build and maintain the camp while it was in operation. Miss Dwight’s goal was to provide approximately 100 campers each year with athletics, activities, and events designed to promote physical and mental well-being. For 31 years, she realized her dream of influencing the lives of girls through the camp. In 1945, the girls’ camp was taken over by new owners who changed the name to “Camp Glenlaurel”. The camp stayed open until 1968. Vandals destroyed many of the structures after the camp’s closing. Little evidence remains today of the once thriving camp, with the exception of some stonework that is now hidden deep in the woods.
In 1927, Miss Dwight’s brother, Charles S. Dwight Jr., opened a summer camp for boys on 200 acres of land that he leased from Boot McKinney in the Lake Laurel community. Camp Alpine offered many of the same activities as Camp As-You-Like-It such as archery, tennis, lifesaving, horseback riding, and swimming. Meals were a highlight at Camp Alpine. The camp kitchen was located in what is one of the oldest structures still standing today in Mitchell County. The Boot McKinney cabin, as it is known, was built shortly after the Revolutionary War. Camp cooks traveled with the campers on excursions to local attractions. Unfortunately, Camp Alpine did not survive the Great Depression and closed after the 1930 season.
Camp As-You-Like-It’s name comes from the famous Shakespeare play. Dramatics were also one of the activities, with the girls performing plays each season. This photo was taken in the 1920s before a performance in the playhouse. The entire community would come out for these live performances.
Local men, led by Lester McKinney, constructed and kept up Camp As-You-Like-It. Here, they are building a wall with rocks gathered from the Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain. The qual- ity of their work was outstanding, but vandals destroyed much of the stonework after the camp’s closure. Some examples remain hidden deep in the woods.
Each season, approximately 100 girls attended As-You-Like-It, enjoying activities from the years 1914 through its closure as Camp Glenlaurel in 1968. Community members were invited to plays, dances, and dinners, and the girls attended church services at the Church of the Resurrection and enjoyed ice cream courtesy of Pete Deal at the Switzerland Store. It was purportedly the first girl’s camp in Western North Carolina.
The main building at Camp As-You-Like-It in 1914. Marie Dwight added to a na- tive cabin to make the building when she opened in 1914. She operated it for 31 years, later selling to Jeanette Boone and Helen McMahon. They changed the name to Camp Glenlaurel and ran it until 1964. A series of owners then ran the camp until it closed in 1968.
Girls at Camp As-You-Like-It enjoyed comfortable accommodations in cabins located on the mountainside. The cabins had colorful names like Squirrel’s Nest, Tree Top, Owlette, and Trail’s End. Amid transplanted wild owers and ferns, lifelong friendships were made among the campers, as they enjoyed activities during one of two 4-week sessions each summer.
The end of the day brought quiet time in front of the re. The girls relaxed following sessions of arts and crafts, dance, horseback riding, and other pursuits. Each 4-week session was jam-packed with activites for the girls in a mountain paradise.
Camp Glenlaurel operated from 1945 to 1967 under two different owners. Initally, the camp continued as it was with Marie Dwight serving in an advisory capacity. Facilities were maintained in top-notch condition, with buildings being modernized as needed and the famous swimming pool, opened in 1915, continuing to be an attraction.
Pictured below, West Jacocks and Boot McKinney pose at Camp Alpine, the boy’s camp. McKinney sold his family’s property to Charles Dwight for the camp in 1927. It included a cabin constructed dur- ing Revolutionary War times by early Little Switzerland settlers that was used as a kitchen by the camp. The property reverted back to McKinney following the 1930 session due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression. Chow time was special at Camp Alpine, as the boys enjoyed a variety of nutritious meals. Bro- chures played up the quality of the food. Here, the guys relax with dinner on the grounds. In addi- tion to enjoying the camp’s kitchen, which was contained in the old log cabin, cooks traveled with the campers on excursions to local attractions.Between 25 and 30 boys attended each of the three summers at Camp Alpine. They enjoyed outdoor activities such as archery, tennis, lifesaving, horseback riding, and swimming. Overnight trips to nearby natural attractions by both automobile and horseback were common. The camp also boasted about its beautiful views and good food prepared by William, who apparently had a delicious fried chicken dinner. The cost to attend an 8-week session (from July 3-August 28) was $125; $75 for a 4-week session. This collage of photos from the 1929 camp brochure shows the boys engaged in several different pursuits.