By William “Skip” Deegans
Shown in this undated photo is the lodge building at Camp Washington Carver. It is purported to be the largest chestnut log building in the world. Located in Fayette County, a short distance off U.S. Route 60, the camp opened in 1942 as the first 4-H camp in the United States for African-American children. In 1929, a study revealed that most counties in West Virginia had 4-H camps for white children but none for blacks. With funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the West Virginia Legislature, construction on the camp began in 1939 using Civilian Conservation Corps and Moundsville prison laborers. The camp opened as The Negro 4-H Camp and was administered by West Virginia State College. The name of the camp was changed in 1949 to Camp Washington Carver to honor two prominent African-Americans: Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.
In addition to providing summer recreation to 4-H club members, it was also available for children of African-American coal miners, Boy and Girl Scouts, and church camps. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregated 4-H clubs and camps illegal. The camp ceased being a 4-H facility, and in 1980 the property was transferred to the West Virginia Department of Culture and History. The camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is used for various festivals and private events.
Photo: Courtesy of the West Virginia University Regional History Center.
Sources: National Park Service, Society of Architectural Historians, Smithsonian, Hinton Daily News.