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Group hopes to acquire historic camp on Upper Saranac Lake

A plan hatched late last year by a friends group to purchase an historic Girl Scouts camp in the Adirondacks is gaining momentum.

In December 2010, the Friends of Eagle Island announced that they would seek to acquire Camp Eagle Island.

The group held a meeting in New Jersey earlier this month, and members say their dream of reopening the famed camp is moving closer to becoming a reality.

Camp Eagle Island is a 32-acre estate on Upper Saranac Lake. It consists of 11 buildings and was originally built in the late 1800s for Vice President Levi Morton, who served under America's 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison.

The camp was designed by William L. Coulter, a renowned Adirondack architect who came to Saranac Lake in 1896 to cure his tuberculosis. He ended up staying, masterminding the designs behind some of Park's most celebrated great camps - including the Knollwood Club on Lower Saranac Lake and the Porcupine on Park Avenue in the village of Saranac Lake.

In 1937, the estate's second owner, Henry Graves Jr., gifted the camp to a Girl Scouts organization from New Jersey. Over the decades, the camp provided a variety of wildlife experiences for visitors in a setting that remained relatively untouched, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004.

But in 2009, the camp's owners closed it down and announced they would sell the property. That prompted a group of individuals who spent some of the formative years of their lives at Camp Eagle Island to get together in an effort to acquire the property and reopen the camp.

Beth Rubin is a spokeswoman for the Friends of Eagle Island.

"Yes, we'd like to acquire the island and reopen the camp on the island, primarily for youth and preferably for girls and young women, because that's been the tradition," she said. "But we also need to raise money, and are raising money, for an endowment to keep the camp going."

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