Camp Caravan

In 1998, Millers River Educational Cooperative purchased the Camp Caravan property in Royalston, Massachusetts for use as the site for the future home of the Village School, and as an ideal campus for practical adult education. There are several large buildings on the main campus of the property, suitable for meetings, Gurdjieff Movements, and cultural and community activities. Guests are lodged in the small cabins on the main campus of the property, surrounded by miles of pine/oak/maple forest and wetlands, home to many species of native plants and animals. The grounds include extensive highbush blueberry patches (Vaccinium corymbosum) fields of native wildflowers including rarely-seen bluets (Houstonia caerulea), vegetable and flower gardens, and lots of areas in need of renovation, providing excellent opportunities for practical work. In the summer evenings look for fireflies, an unusually clear night sky with visible stars, and a symphony of birdsong throughout the dawn.

For those wishing to support Camp Caravan financially, contributions for building materials for site improvement for renovations are tax deductible and put to good use, with the value increased many fold through voluntary labor contributions of group participants and friends.

History of the Camp Caravan Property

In the late 1800’s, Camp Caravan was a large 32 room inn, famous for its view of Mt. Monadnock, and frequented by Boston residents in the summer. After it burned to the ground in 1906, the present building was erected, originally the main farm building, and then used as a girls’ high school, run by the Lemon family. In 1946, the Caravan Society purchased the property as a place for a summer camp for handicapped, impoverished, and special needs children from the Boston area, with Ed McCarty from Somerville as the head. Ed McCarty was one of the first in the educational world to see the need for special needs departments, and started one of the first, in Somerville high school. Out of that experience, he saw and responded to the need for poor, and as it was described at the time, handicapped and mentally retarded children to enjoy summer camp and a wonderful community experience. Camp Caravan for Children opened in 1947. Children rode the trains out from Boston and stayed for 3-6 weeks. Many alumni of the camp describe the experience as one of the great positive forming experiences of their lives. The camp closed in 1985 and was derelict until purchased by MREC in 1998.

Lumber used for the Auditorium stairs

Building update

by Walt Thornton

I've been asked to write a story about the seven-year renovation of the "Girls' Dorm" at Camp Caravan, but first, here's a little philological history.

When the Millers River Educational Cooperative acquired the Camp Caravan for Children property in 1998, one of our first orders of business was to determine a new name for the property. After much discussion, it dawned on us that "Caravanserai"–which is the name used in central Asia for a place for travelers and seekers to rest and recuperate – was the perfect name. As the English translation of Caravanserai is Camp Caravan, we were set. The names of the various buildings also then tended to remain the same as they were noted on various maps of the facility.

Building history

From 1916-1936, the property housed the High View Conservatory, a school for girls. The dormitory was built in approximately 1916 to house the students, becoming known as the Girls' Dorm.

From 1947-1984 the facility was known as Camp Caravan for Children, and the Girls' Dorm building was used primarily as a dormitory for boys. After the Camp closed in 1984, no maintenance was performed on the facility, and the roofs of many buildings, including the Girls' Dorm, began to leak. In 2005 it became clear that if work wasn't done soon, the building would die. That year we began work on the building, including demolition of the interior, replacement of the roof, and repair of the foundation.

Over the years we've continued to work on the project. We've completed interior reframing, added a second egress stairway, a new porch, five new bathrooms, new rough plumbing, rough electrical, insulation, doors and windows, and interior drywall.

The Dormitory today

Presently, drywall work and painting is in the final stages, and once completed, work remaining will be finish carpentry, finish flooring, installation of plumbing and electrical fixtures, and the addition of a handicap accessible ramp. At that point the building will be able to house up to thirty people for seminars with the first floor being fully wheelchair accessible. Once we install the new septic system to service this building, the five cabins, Movements Hall, the Girls' Dorm will once again be fully functional.

Summer Camp Historical Timeline (Before the MREC)

Provided by Janet Laughton

The original founders were: Edward M. McCarty and his wife Jessie C. McCarty from Somerville, Ma. and Marion A. Coffee from Acton, Ma. Marion Coffee died in July, 1962. Jessie C. McCarty died in August, 1981. Edward M. McCarty retired from the position of Executive Director in March, 1980.

Initial Charter Members were teachers, educators and others who were interested in initiating services for Retarded/Physically Handicapped children. At this time there was a need for summer camping facilities in the Commonwealth for handicapped children that were away from the inner city environment.

In 1944 and 1945 Camp Caravan was located in rented facilities from the Middlesex T. B. Association in Sharon, Ma. (125 children were serviced each summer)

In 1946 Camp Caravan was located at the Hospital Cottages in Baldwinville, Ma. in loaned facilities.

In June 1947 The Caravan Society for Children, Inc. purchased the Lemon Estate in So. Royalston, Ma. from Mini Lemon, daughter of George Lemon (a minister who has passed away). (60 campers were serviced the first year) When purchased the property contained the following:

Main House
Two Story Dormitory Bldg.
Bar be cue Bldg.
Maple Sap House (now Mohawk Cabin)
Carpenter's Shop (now Ala Ba Mu Cabin)
Ice House (now Chan ya ta Cabin)
Turkey Brumer House (now Men's Dorm)
Wood Shed (now the Office)
Two Car Garage (one half now the freezer room)
Large Barn (Destroyed in fire of 1957)
Carriage House (Destroyed in fire of 1957)


1947 - Old well was drilled (located on front lawn in front of Office Bldg.)

1948 - Whitker Dining Hall was added to the Main House

1951 - Nature Lodge was built by the Somerville Rotary Club for $4,000

1957 - Barn and Carriage House which were used as Recreation Hall and Arts and Crafts facility were totaled in fire. The fire area was cleared and a new Staff Recreation Hall built on the site. Two circus tents were used for Arts and Crafts facilities and a Recreation Hall for the remainder of the 1957 season.

1955 - Pond was created for fire protection. New Arts and Crafts Building and Recreation Hall were constructed.

1961 - The swimming pools were installed.

1976 - Edward M. McCarty retired as Director of Special Education Services from the City of Somerville Public School System.

1984 - Ramps were installed on all buildings to provide for a barrier free accessibility.

1985 - The 41st consecutive camping season was the last year that Camp Caravan was in operation. Jane M. Laughton, who had worked in various positions at Camp Caravan from 1954 through 1985, was the Executive Director

January 17, 1987 - Ata Real Estate Auction, 117 wooded of the total of 167 acres of land owned by the Caravan Society for Children, inc. were purchased by a gentleman from Royalston, MA. This land was on the west side of Route 68 across from the Nature Lodge.
Also, on January 17, 1987, Edward M. McCarty died at Heywood Hospital, Gardner, MA from emphysema and congestive heart failure. He was 79 years old.

1999 - Mary Lou (McCarty)Serra-Sheehan died at age 61 after a long illness with breast cancer. She was the only child of Edward M. and Jessie C. McCarty.