Early Camp History and Directors

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February 6, 2013 by Doug Webster

This ad was placed in an unidentified 1926 magazine (possibly an issue of Cornell’s Alumni News, since ads for the camp appeared regularly in that publication in its early years) to promote the Camp’s 16th year of operation, placing the opening of the camp at 1910.


And this mention of the camp appeared in Porter Sargent’s 1918 Handbook of American Private Schools, which listed a number of summer camps then operating, including Otter.


Both the ad and the listing make reference to Charles V.P. Young, an 1899 graduate of Cornell and the University’s Athletic Director, who ran Camp Otter in its formative years.  (More information about Young and his founding of Camp Otter can be found in the 1989 Cottage Life article posted elsewhere on this site.

Young became Cornell’s AD in 1904 as a New York Times article of January 4th of that year  reported on the pending interview that led to his hiring.

141904 NY Times CV Young

And thus, about six years after taking his post at Cornell, Young, who was a fervent advocate for athletics and physical exercise, launched Camp Otter in 1910.  This ad for the camp appeared in the 1911 Cornell Alumni News, promoting Otter’s second year and for decades, Otter drew heavily from its Cornell connections.

1911 Cornell Alum Ad Otter

This ad appears in the January 22, 1930 issue of the Cornell Alumni News.  Note that another Cornellian, R.C. Hubbard is now the director and budding author E.B. White is his assistant.  A more detailed post on the connections of White and James Thurber with Camp Otter can be found by clicking the above link and this Cottage Life article from 1989.

1221931 Alumni Otter Ad

I have located another ad for the camp from 1946 Alumni News, but the quality is too poor for posting here.  It lists Howard Ortner as the Director and promotes the camp’s 36th year of operation with the camp season running from July 3rd to August 26th.















Ortner was Head Coach of Cornell’s basketball team from 1919 to 1936 and retired with the most victories and winning seasons in Cornell basketball history with 159 wins and 7 winning seasons in 17 years.


This award of merit is among memorabilia forwarded by Howie’s youngest grandson, Robert Hoffarth and was presented in 1967 for a career spanning 27 years of coaching at Cornell and later at Nichols School in Buffalo.

HBO Lodge redo 003


HBO Lodge redo 004

He also was named an honorary lifetime member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches…

HBO Lodge redo 002

….and was honored as well by his former Cornell players and members of his fraternity for his career in Cornell athletics.  Note the date on this certificate lists the span of his coaching career as starting in 1920.

A 1940 Otter ad in the February 22nd issue cites Mr. Ortner as connected with the Camp since 1919 as a Counselor (the year he graduated from Cornell), Assistant Director and then Director and Owner as of 1931.

Ortner and his wife Edith ran the camp into the mid-50s when advancing age made it more and more difficult to maintain day-to-day Camp operations and sustain the detailed planning needed between summer camp seasons.  Recognizing that changes were needed, the Ortners, now living in the Buffalo area, hired Kenmore school teachers Charles Rogers and his wife Rachel to serve as Directors, starting in 1955.

The Ortners continued to spend summers at the Camp for some time after the Rogers began working for them.  With their deaths however, the Camp was deeded to members of the Ortner family and then sold, opening that side of Otter Lake to a new generation of cottage owners and ending the roughly 60-year history of the Camp.  Today, some structural elements of the Camp remain including the chimney of the Main Lodge and this cabin, which I believe may have been known as the “nurse’s cabin.”  Those with additional or corrected information on Camp history are encouraged to submit it for inclusion on the site via our ContactIMG_3242IMG_3245

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