Post by Tereasa of Camp Wandawega
One day we woke up and decided to rescue my husband’s Childhood summer camp.
It was originally a 20’s-era speakeasy that had concurrently lived lives as a modest Midwestern vacation resort, and later church camp for refugee Latvians. David had grown up dreaming of making it his ‘home’, and had asked the managing priest to let him know if he ever decided to sell. Flash forward 35 years – we got the call that ‘it was time’… and there was no time to waste. Within days, we became the proud new owners of a near-condemned summer camp.
It had been colossally neglected by the time we started the resurrection (picture Camp Crystal Lake meets Blair Witch). Throwing all rationale thought to the wind, we began the biggest undertaking we could never have imagined. A short 6 months after buying camp, we would get married in the old chapel between the pines. It rained all day, (to the cheers of a ‘woodstock-esque’ group of friends, I wore my yellow rubber wellies down the muddy aisle, tying a wet knot destined to be bound for a lifetime).
Then the real work began.
We would spend the next dozen years of our lives joyfully researching and resurrecting every possible historic detail. We would scavenge every barn sale, yard sale, flea market and tag sale within 50 miles of camp. All in an effort to bring back the summer camp of our (and our grandparent’s) childhood. Room by room, building by building it started to take shape – proof positive that nothing is ever too far gone.
But what happened next was a gift that could only have come to be by the power and will of a creative community. Quite organically, Camp Wandawega would draw more artists, makers and nature lovers. Chefs would collaborate with furniture builders. Jewelry makers with florists. And photographers and filmmakers would capture it all, rebuilding a new generation of unlikely camp-goers. The culmination is a current-day creative retreat for young and old.
The end result is not the end, it will continue to be a labor of love until our four year old Charlie is in retirement herself, and hopefully beyond. If all goes as planned, it will be a place for new friends to come create, share and let their inner creative child streak with wild abandoned.
We like to say that we aren’t the owners of this place, just the current caregivers in a long and strange line of innkeepers – all who had one timeless thing in common; To reconnect by disconnecting on a little summer-camp on a tiny lake called Wandawega.
In June of 2015, The United States Department of the Interior placed Camp Wandawega on the list of National historic Places. An honor we are dedicated to live up to with 100% of our hearts.
On weekends, Tereasa Surratt is the proprietor of Camp Wandawega – during the week- she is a SVP/Creative Director at ad agency, Ogilvy. In her spare time, she’s a contributing stylist to a handful of lifestyle mags, just signed her third book with Random House – and lives in Chicago with her husband, 4 year old daughter Charlie and mutt Frankie.