A Brief History of BLC
As you may know, Brant Lake Camp was conceived and founded by three physical education teachers from New York City who had been counselors at Camp Paradox when they decided to break away and start a camp of their own.
The three young men, Bob Gerstenzang (Karen Gerstenzang Meltzer’s father), Jack Malloy and Joseph “Unc” Eberly borrowed from their families and began looking for a location for their new camp during the fall of 1916. In the course of their early scouting, they met a gentleman by the name of Fred Parker, who rented horses and carriages in the town of Horicon. (Years later that same Fred Parker established a motorized bus transportation company which served the camp for years to come.) Fred helped the three men find a farm owned by a Dave Barlett which was about 6 miles outside the hamlet of Brant Lake.
Mr. Barlett agreed to sell them his land for $5,000 and then stayed on to work for the new camp until his death two years later.
By the summer of 1917, several tents had been erected on the property and Brant Lake Camp was up and running. That first summer it had enrolled 32 campers and then began to grow steadily until the Depression.
In 1933, Joe Eberly abruptly sold his one-third share to his partners and resigned. Sometime around 1939, Jack Molloy sold his shares to an Irv Schwartz who sold them to Bob Gerstenzang some 5 years later– thus consolidating the ownership. In 1949, Bob Gersten, Uncle Bob’s nephew who had become Head Counselor and Director, was made a partner in the camp. Also that year, Bob Gerstenzang, who also owned Point O’ Pines and ran it, with the good help of his wife Pat, as a resort for BLC parents, sold it to real estate mogul Sam Lipman as it became a distraction from running the boys camp.
In the late 1950’s Bobby G became Executive Director of BLC and with Bob Gerstenzang’s declining health, his daughter Karen took over as Director, with assistance from her husband Laurie. Karen continues today as a Director/owner and is actively involved in areas such as the camp office, trips, transportation and administration.
Richard Gersten, Bobby’s oldest son, took over as Executive Director in 1998 and is responsible for the day-to-day running of BLC. Rich had held various positions at camp since the early 1970’s, was the Assistant Director under Bobby G, and has been a Director/owner for many years. Bobby G continues to be as active as ever advising in all areas and still staying very involved in our tennis program.
Continuing in this tradition, in 2013, Max Gersten (son of Richie and Mieks, grandson of Bobby Gersten, cousin of Karen Meltzer) became an Assistant Director of Brant Lake Camp and will be a future Owner/Director. We are thrilled by this news as it ensures a 4th generation of the Gerstenzang-Gersten family ownership/directorship which will ensure the one-family legacy of Brant Lake Camp well past our 100th year—which will be in 2016.
As an aside, in 1980, Brant Lake Camp started a Dance and Sports Camp, up the hill, which was directed by Sharon, Bobby G’s oldest daughter, with the experienced assistance of Bob’s wife Libbie who continues today to be the Camp’s Historian.
Mieks Gersten, who also had been involved with camp for many years, took over for Sharon as Director of the Dance Camp around 1990 and continues today as Co- Director, along with Rachel “Kerch” Kerchman, a former Dance Camper. Mieks also serves as an Associate Director at Brant Lake Camp and is involved in a broad range of areas.
The newest addition to the Brant Lake Camp family is the Brant Lake Sports Academy, founded in 2012, which is a 2+ week sports camp for girls which starts at the conclusion of the Dance Camp program. Under the leadership of Rachel Friedman Milim (the daughter of BLC Alumnus Joey Friedman), Brant Lake Sports Academy continues to grow into a wonderful short term program for motivated female athletes who also want to enjoy the many traditions and fun activities of a sleepaway camp.
Over the years, and coincident with the increase of enrollment to about 350 boys, with as many as 130 Senior campers, and about 65 Dance and Sports Academy girls, BLC has seen a great many additions to its beautiful facilities including the following: a large soccer field, the Robert Gersten indoor basketball arena, numerous additions to the famous Bunk L (now the KOOL complex), a fitness center, many new basketball and tennis courts, expansion of the waterfront, including a new small crafts building, an extensive renovation of the Senior Clubhouse, all new Soph bunks, a remodeling/expansion to all the bunks in camp, a girls clubhouse, the construction of an artificial turf, multi-sports athletic field with lights—among others. More recently, we have completed a total renovation and expansion of our Health Center (the former Infirmary) and a major remodeling and expansion of our dining room—both upstairs and down, which now includes rustic pine paneling, a covered outdoor eating area, a new sound system for music and announcements, and more.
If you haven’t been by camp in a few years, the new BLC still has the look and feel of the old BLC you know– but it’s better than ever. We do hope you’ll come by for a visit.