There was a special evening held recently at Ferrwood Music Camp to celebrate the 50th anniversary since the music camp was first held at Ferrwood. The event included a blessing and dedication of the historic marker commemorating the camp as a National Register of Historical Places property.
Father Anthony Generose of Queen of Heaven Church, Reverend Earl Roberts lll of Lattimer United Methodist Church and Richard Kline, Chairman of the Ritual Committee of Agudas Israel Synagogue, blessed the plaque at the music camp during a ceremony that included a resolution by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives presented by Representative Tarah Toohil’s office. It was followed by an open-air concert that featured performances by the 250 student musicians.
This year the members of the community were the benefactors of 84 “camperships” made available to children that do not have the means to attend. The donors that made this possible included:
CAN DO Community Foundation
Chic Sacco Committee
Clyde Ritter Memorial
Colleen Shea Children’s Foundation
Commission on Economic Opportunity
First Federal Charitable Foundation
Friends and Family of Robbie Poltrok Jr.
Friends and Family of Ryanne Cara
Hazleton Area Community Members
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield
North Penn Charitable Foundation
Security Savings Charitable Fund of the Luzerne Foundation
Sophia G. Coxe Charitable Trust
Yenchko Scholarship Fund
Contributors to this year’s camp included:
Hamister Group, LLC/Carla Thaller
Sweets by Deliciosa
The music camp has been the venue for music instruction and outdoor activities for youth since 1967. It is tucked away in Drums on Middle Road near the Drums Elementary Middle School.
Founded on the basis of giving children music education and making them better citizens, the camp today, in addition to music education, provides outdoor recreation, arts and crafts, nutritious meals, “Healthy Choices” tips, exercise and just plain fun.
The Reverend Joseph Ferrara initially founded the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society and later started Ferrwood Music Camp as a complement to the orchestra. The camp was originally founded in 1927 as the Luzerne County Fresh Air Camp for children predisposed to Tuberculosis. The camp operated throughout the 1950’s. Father Joe, upon inquiring about the need for a facility to hold a music camp and perform for the community, was alerted about a potential site. Left abandoned and overgrown over the many years, on the first search it could not be located. Once found and following an investigation into its ownership, the County Commissioners agreed to lease the camp to the Philharmonic Society. The site is located on the former Kislyn tract in Butler Township. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Robert J. Lagana, President of the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society said of Father Joe, “He was extremely dedicated to his vocational duties and responsibilities, to be sure. However, he found a way to marry his vocational calling with his talent as an accomplished musician and the result was nothing less than spectacular.”
Inscribed on the bronze roadside marker is:
FERRWOOD MUSIC CAMP
NAMED AFTER “FATHER JOE” FERRARA WHO ESTABLISHED FERRWOOD MUSIC CAMP
“WHILE I MAY NOT TURN EVERY CHILD INTO AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN, THROUGH MUSIC, I CAN CREATE A BETTER PERSON FOR LIFE”.
THIS CAMP WAS ORIGINALLY FOUNDED IN 1927 AS THE LUZERNE COUNTY FRESH AIR CAMP FOR CHILDREN PREDISOPOSED TO TUBERCULOSIS.
THIS PROPERTY WAS PLACED ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES IN 2004.
The 25th anniversary of the CAN DO Community Foundation was also celebrated at this event. The CAN DO Community Foundation “adopted” Ferrwood Music Camp in 2000. In accordance with its mission of “CPR – Conservation, Preservation and Reclamation – Breathing New Life into our Community” the foundation pursued the restoration of the camp and having it placed on the National Register.
During the ceremony, Gary F. Lamont, foundation president, said “The preservation of Ferrwood is important to the heritage of this community and the foundation’s effort enables the use of the camp for generations to come. The members of the foundation are proud to work with the many individuals, businesses and organizations to continue to have Ferrwood Music Camp as an integral part of the Greater Hazleton community.” The stewardship of operating the music camp has now been passed onto the CAN DO Community Foundation, a wonderful legacy that continues following Father Joe and the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society’s stewardship.
Under the direction of Phil Latella, the volunteer music director, the instruction and activities continue to expand. Latella, who was taught by Father Joe, works with an army of volunteers, some of whom attended the camp to make Ferrwood come alive. Chris Stamatopoulos, Nancy Stasko and Pat Gendler lead the management, administration and financial responsibilities for Ferrwood.
Rich in history, Ferrwood was built by the predecessors of the Luzerne County Board of Commissioners in 1927 as a fresh air camp for approximately $12,000.
The camp was used by children with symptoms of tuberculosis, part of a movement in which doctors, schools, social service agencies and volunteers worked together to meet a community health need. This movement was the precursor to the American Lung Association. The CAN DO Community Foundation was successful in having Ferrwood listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the Library of Congress.
The camp ceased operations after it was successful in achieving its objective and was reopened as a music camp by its founder, the Rev. Joseph Ferrara, in 1966. “Father Joe,” as he was widely known, became aware of the abandoned camp and negotiated a lease for $1 with the county commissioners to establish the camp. It was Ferrara’s belief that although all students may not grow up to be musicians, educating others in music would enrich their minds, bodies and spirits, giving them a lifelong gift. His gift, therefore, became one that improved society by expanding a world of thought and possibility, where people regardless of social status could influence themselves and society in a positive way. The Ferrwood restoration project honors Ferrara’s memory.
Although tuberculosis no longer threatens young lives as it did when the camp was originally established, today Ferrwood continues to enrich area youth. The Philharmonic manages the music camp with the help of an army of volunteers.
This is yet another example of the overall community support for the camp. Without this support the camp would have faded into warm memories of a once-lively camp. Preserving Ferrwood links the heritage of our community to its future greatness.
Restoration at the camp followed strict Department of Interior guidelines. The main building, which includes boys’ and girls’ dormitory wings, is being restored, as are the kitchen, dining hall, gathering room, showers, bathroom and an expansive screened porch. The 115 windows in the facility, installed when it was a fresh air camp, have been restored along with the band shell used by music camp students.
For more information, visit the Ferrwood Music Camp website, http://www.ceomusiccamp.org/ferrwoodnew/