By Frank Roche, President, Roche Realty Group, Inc.
Over the years, so many seasonal boys and girls camps played a significant role in the history and heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee. During the 1930s, there were as many as 72 established camps in the Lake Region. Many of these camps weathered the test of time, and still exist today while a majority have succumbed to increased expenses and a drop off in the number of seasonal campers. Today approximately two dozen camps are still in operation.
I can remember visiting a neighbor friend of mine who was a camp counselor at Camp Kehonka in the late 1960s. At the time, Kehonka was the longest continuously operated summer camp for girls in the country. It was founded in 1902 and it flourished in its days with over 12,000 campers who attended over its lifetime. The memories passed down through generations; however, times quickly changed. Kehonka for 83 years, weathered such hardships as two world wars, a depression, the devastating hurricane of 1938 as well as other tragedies. Today, if you drive by the sprawling lakeside setting, you will find an upscale mix of fine waterfront homes and water access properties, at Lakeside on Winnipesaukee, a high-end waterfront community. Yes, times have changed, instead of campers meandering the wooded site, you will hear the similar sound of families enjoying the lake experience.
Other prominent camps included the likes of Camp Belknap, Camp Idlewild, Camp Dewitt, Camp Lawrence, Camp Wyanoke and many others. Because of the deep rooted memories of so many thousands of campers, the name Lake Winnipesaukee has transitioned from a distant camp experience to what has become today a world class vacation home experience.
Another camp that comes to mind is Camp Samoset, which was located in Gilford near the Alton town line. Camp Samoset was established by Thomas E. Freeman in 1915 as a summer boys camp, along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.
So many young boys enjoyed all sorts of drills including water skiing, swimming, baseball, range shooting, workshop history and sang many camp songs by the fire at night. The camp included 23 acres with 850 feet of shorefront on the "broads" section of Lake Winnipesaukee. The gently rolling topography featured towering whispering pine trees, with panoramic lake and mountain views.
I personally started my career in real estate in 1976 in the Lakes Region. I remember the sale I made of this majestic lake front property, in late 1979. I sold the property to General Investment and Development Company out of Boston. I recommended that they retain Matarrazzo Design as the land planner and work with Sugarloaf Mountain Builders as their contractor. At the time we were operating under difficult marketing conditions, with very high interest rates from 1980 through 1982. Construction was started in April of 1982. A total of 137 condominium units were planned on the site, with an average of density of 5.96 units per acre.
When I look back and think of what I sold this property for at $250,000, I could only dream that I had bought it myself and held on to it. Today, just 1 average condominium within the community sells for the same amount.
Looking at Samoset in retrospect, the land planner, George Matarrazzo did a brilliant job with exceptional land planning, and award winning architectural designs. The design and colorations of the buildings combined with the sweeping lawn areas and wooded areas, flow beautifully. Considerable native vegetation was preserved. Basically the buildings "fit well" with the land. Each condominium was executed in subtle earth tones, with fireplaces, cathedral ceilings, screened porches and many with inspiring views. The interiors were contemporary, however the exterior styling was more traditional with hipped roofs and exposed wood finishes. The amenities include a tastefully designed award winning pool and clubhouse overlooking the lake, a sandy beach area, boat slips and moorings. An additional outdoor pool and tennis courts are set back further on the property. With 850 feet of prime shorefront, Samoset's location is ideal, within close proximity to Gunstock Ski area and all other Lakes Region attractions.
Today, there is a shortage of inventory at Samoset with only two units presently for sale out of 137 units. This is surely an indication of the demand out there for this quality lakefront community. With so many former campers out there who are now active Baby Boomers, it's no wonder that the they have returned to their roots, where they experienced fond memories as children. I like to think we're like birds – we flock to the places of fond familiar feeling and we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the same experiences we had. Thank you, Camp Samoset for the memories!
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Frank Roche is president of Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, NH, and can be reached at (603) 279-7046.
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