WPA Today   

Western Md 4H Center

Entry sign to the 4-H center.

Western Maryland 4-H Education Center
(See Photos Below!)

      The Western Maryland 4-H Education Center sits alongside Lake Cunningham, near the town of Bittinger (Garrett County).  The center "offers seasonal activities and accommodations for groups of all kinds."  For more information about the center, see here.  And for more information about 4-H, see here.

     The history of the Western Maryland 4-H Education Center (formerly called "Pleasant Valley Recreation Center") is not entirely clear.  However, according to a report prepared for the Maryland Historical Trust in 1980:

     "Between 1936 and 1938, the Work Projects Administration (actually still called the Works Progress Administration during these years) constructed twenty-four buildings on this Pleasant Valley tract near Cunningham Lake...In conjunction with this building project, the WPA constructed in addition, a dam and roadway...The cabins are frame constructed; the lumber employed is local chestnut...These twenty-four camp buildings, constructed by Franklin Roosevelt's Work Projects Administration, represent an important development architecturally as standardized camp architecture and socially, as the durable product of an organized labor effort resulting from a specific social program."

     Unfortunately, the report is light on details and, as of January 2012, I have yet to find a supplemental report referenced in the narrative.  Also, there is some indication that the CCC may have been involved in the development of this recreational area.  This would make sense, since there were CCC camps nearby (e.g., camps at Savage River State Forest and Swallow Falls State Park).  Furthermore, it is quite possible that the CCC and WPA worked alongside one another on this project, as they did at Catoctin Mountain Park, Patuxent Research Refuge, and many other areas.

     If the Western Maryland 4-H Education Center was indeed a WPA project, it is one of the most impressive, still-existing WPA creations in Maryland, and will hopefully be preserved.  Interestingly, 4-H emphasis on things such as youth development and community service are similar to ideas that existed within the Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA (e.g., consider the WPA's special work program for high school and college students--the National Youth Administration).  Therefore, the preservation of historic structures at the Western Maryland 4-H Education Center seems especially appropriate.  Fortunately, 4-H is very interested in preserving its history (see here), and the camp director and superintendent of the Western Maryland 4-H are diligent and knowledgeable caretakers of the facility. 

     Again, as you're looking at the pictures below, remember that the history of the Western Maryland 4-H is not (as far as I can tell) fully documented.  But, based on the Maryland Historical Trust report, the structures were built by the WPA.  

Photo credits: Unless otherwise noted, all black and white photos were taken by the WPA, are in the public domain, and provided courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.  All color photos--unless otherwise noted--were taken by Brent McKee.  Click here for more information on photo credits, permission to use, and exhibit descriptions

Above: These cabins sit on an upward slope...very picturesque.

Above: One of the larger cabins at the 4-H.  Note the addition of a handicap-access ramp.

Above: This is one of the small-size cabins at the 4-H.  

Above: This is the kitchen at the 4-H, one of three large structures in the camp area.  The other two large structures (not included in this photo exhibit) were built years after the initial development of the camp.

Above: This bell--on the kitchen building--has been at the camp for quite some time (from the 1930s?).  Also note the chimney; there is a very large stone fireplace inside.

Above: This bathhouse is not in the camp area, but on the "public side" of Lake Cunningham (Lake Cunningham divides the public area from the camp area).  The public can use this building while swimming at the lake.  The 4-H camp area is not routinely open to the public because it is an area that is booked for youth camps and various group meetings. 

Above: This picnic pavilion is a few hundred yards from Lake Cunningham and can be used by the public.

Above: This structure is near the administrative and maintenance area of the center.

Above: This is the most "house-like" structure at the center, and once served as a residence for a superintendent.  It is not in the camp area, but is instead the first structure you will see after turning onto the center's main road (4-H Camp Road) heading towards Lake Cunningham.  It is not currently open to the public.     

Above: A view of Lake Cunningham during warmer months.  Photo taken sometime between 2006 and 2009, and provided courtesy of the University of Maryland.  For more pictures, see here.
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