History & Tradition | Camp Mohawk

Mohawk became a camp more than 80 years ago, but our site’s history stretches back nearly 300 years! In 1720, our property was part of a Colonial farm, and George Washington’s Continental Army fought the Battle of White Plains right at the base of our hill. As you walk down the gravel road toward our farm, you’ll see the original stone walls that divided the crops, and, if you look closely, you can even find a couple of iron rings to tie up your horses.

Many of our buildings are rich in history. When the original farmhouse at the base of Old Tarrytown Road was demolished in 1969, it was the second oldest continuously lived-in building in Westchester. (Steve looked into literally moving it up to the camp property…but that turned out to be rather difficult.) Several of our current buildings, including Little House (built before 1820), Main House (1850) and Treetop House (the former stables, built in 1860), were constructed with wood pegs and hand-hewn nails that can still be seen today.

In the late 1800s, the property was used as a children’s hospital, and in the early 1900s as a school for “wayward boys.”

Mohawk Day Camp, then and now…

Mohawk was founded in 1930 by the late Glenn and Eleanor Loucks. Mr. Loucks was a physical education teacher at White Plains High School, and one of the most famous high school football coaches of all time. Glenn started Mohawk with a handful of campers, using his football players as counselors. Can you guess which smiling, white-haired Camp Director got his start this way?

In its first two years, Mohawk used a field in Scarsdale. In 1932, it moved to the Roger Askem School, the current site of Scarsdale’s Kol Ami Synagogue. Campers went swimming twice a week, driven by bus to Playland and Rye’s old Oakland Beach pool.

Next came World War II. Glenn joined the Navy, leaving Eleanor to direct the camp. When he returned in 1946, they decided that they wanted a place of their own and, you guessed it, moved the camp to Old Tarrytown Road. The Home School, also at the Roger Askem School, was invited to lease space, and in 1948 Glenn and Eleanor purchased the school as well.

When Steve Schainman – one of Glenn Loucks’ most promising student-athletes – first became a Mohawk counselor in 1951, there were only two lifeguards (now there are 75!), and the only Activity Specialists in camp were a handful of counselors who did “double duty” leading pony rides, woodshop, nature, dance and arts & crafts. While Steve was a Head Counselor in 1953, his sister was a General Counselor, and she had a then-unknown-but-fated camper in her group named Barbara Baskind. But more on that later…

After college, Steve joined the Army, attended graduate school, worked in business and teaching, and soon realized he was always happiest at camp. Partnering with three prominent sleepaway camp directors, he became “Big Chief” Steve, Mohawk’s new Director, in 1965. He is also known as “Mohawk Man” during Carnival – our own superhero with red tights and cape. And while it was traumatic for his two children growing up to have their father parade in front of their friends in red long underwear, Mohawk Man’s appearance is a camper favorite every summer!

 

During that first summer as Director, Steve coyly invited the aforementioned Miss Baskind – his best Head Counselor – to help with after-camp phone calls from parents. In 1967, Barbara was promoted to Co-Director, which may have had something to do with the fact that she married the boss that same year! They lived in the “Camp Apartment,” a converted hayloft over the one-time stables. Over the years, Barbara and Steve had two children, built four more pools and acquired a few alpacas.

For Ken, Steve & Barbara’s son, growing up at Mohawk meant weekends picking blackberries and fresh eggs from the farm with his dad, and rescuing the occasional camp turkey off a neighbor’s roof – as well as a Mohawk horse or two from the Bronx River Parkway!

In 2010, Ken became an owner as well as a director at Mohawk, and is looking forward to continuing to work with Barbara and Steve (nope, no plans to retire!) as they create the next chapters in Mohawk’s rich history.