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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 12, 2016

Shelly Angers, N.H. Department of Cultural Resources
(603) 271-3136
shelly.angers@dcr.nh.gov
Twitter: @NHCulture

Peter Michaud, N.H. Division of Historical Resources
(603) 271-3583
peter.michaud@dcr.nh.gov

Chocorua Island Chapel named to National Register of Historic Places

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is proud to announce that the Chocorua Island Chapel on Church Island in Holderness has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places for its key social role in Squam Lake’s summer community and as a significant historic landscape with a rustic open-air chapel.

Church Island itself has two sections: the former site of Camp Chocorua – considered the first summer youth camp in the country – and the camp’s open-air chapel, which faces Mt. Chocorua.

Camp Chocorua was founded by Dartmouth College student Ernest Berkeley Balch in 1881. Balch believed that outdoor activity built character, confidence, self-sufficiency and good health, and that introducing boys ages 8–15 to rustic, active life in the backwoods – there were no servants – would help transition them into the world of men. Campers helped design the site using local, natural materials, minimally impacting the island.

Religious studies and services were an important part of daily living at Camp Chocorua. Virtually all of the chapel section’s primary features – an altar and a lectern created from stones found on the island, crosses set in stone bases, wooden benches, a bell and bell tower, an organ encased in a shed, and a robing hut – were installed between 1881 and 1920 or are appropriate replacements of features that had existed there earlier.

Camp Chocorua launched the youth camp movement that spread across New England and beyond. By 1895, there were 11 camps in the United States; five were in New Hampshire and three were on Squam Lake. Today, summer camps are a rite of passage for many, and elements of Camp Chocorua – including rustic living, outdoor recreation and religious services – are still integral parts of the summer camp experience.

Although Camp Chocorua lasted only nine years, non-denominational services have remained open to the public and the site continues to be a social institution for generations of Squam’s summer community. The chapel area, expanded to seat 100 in the early 1900s, can now accommodate 425. Since 1903, weekly collections have benefitted local non-profits, including Emily Balch Hospital (now Speare Memorial Hospital), food pantries and local churches.

Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.

Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as education tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.

In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).

For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact Peter Michaud at the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3483.

New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources, the “State Historic Preservation Office,” was established in 1974. The historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural resources of New Hampshire are among its most important environmental assets. Historic preservation promotes the use, understanding and conservation of such resources for the education, inspiration, pleasure and enrichment of New Hampshire’s citizens. For more information, visit nh.gov/nhdhr or call 603-271-3483.

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