Publication Date


Committee Members

Sidney Wolf, Chair - John Mullin, Member


In 1989, I was asked to research the origins of the Rangeley Lakes boat by the Rockport Apprenticeshop, a boatbuilding school in midcoast Maine. The apprentice boatbuilders were completing one of these wooden, lapstraked craft for a sportsman who had fished the Rangeley Lakes in the western mountains of Maine for years. Along with his Rangeley, the gentleman wanted to know when and how this boat designed for pursuing brook trout and landlocked salmon had evolved. My search for the Rangeley's origins lead me to a backwoods institution I had not previously been aware of: the sporting camp. A sporting camp is a complex of structures in a forested setting on a lake, river or stream erected to accommodate sport fishermen and to a lesser degree, hunters. Traditional sporting camps date from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of this century. It was in these 19th century retreats that the Rangeley Lakes boat had developed, as the first sporting camps were established in the Rangeley Lakes region in the 1870s.

Once the Rangeley Lakes boat had been documented, I turned my attention to sporting camps. Little had been written about them in the recent past and they had never been the topic of an historical and architectural survey. Yet, the state preservation agency acknowledged that sporting camps were a dwindling cultural resource. With funds from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, I have been able to visit and document many of Maine's sporting camps over the past five years. In the face of diminishing numbers, the goal of the survey has been to research and record traditional sporting camps still extant and to make the case for their cultural significance to Maine. A result of the survey will be the preparation of a multiple resource nomination of Maine sporting camps to the National Register of Historic Places. Acceptance by the National Park Service of such a nomination would protect sporting camps from any proposed state or federal actions and heighten their importance among the public and the private sector.

This paper has several intents: 1. To recount the origin of sporting camps and document their place in Maine's history by way of establishing their importance as cultural resources. 2. To characterize how sporting camps have been planned for in the comprehensive plan of a Maine state agency, the Land Use Regulation Commission. 3. To offer additional planning approaches based on field experience which can help to preserve the character of these cultural resources and their viability as small businesses.