Harvard University Archives
Summer surveying camp at Squam Lake
Prior to 1895, all classroom instruction and field work in engineering took place during Harvard’s regular academic year. Growing concern about sufficient time and proper conditions for field work led to the establishment of Harvard’s first summer engineering camp on Martha’s Vineyard in 1895, on land belonging to Professor Nathaniel Shaler, who served as Dean of the Lawrence Scientific School from 1891 to 1906. The Engineering Camp relocated to New Hampshire in 1901, where it continued to operate for many years.
Harvard president Charles W. Eliot wrote about the camp in his 1901-02 annual report:
The instruction in surveying and railroad engineering, which must be taken by students of engineering, is now given altogether in the summer, but is required of the students just as much as any of the instruction given in term time. After a five years' experiment, beginning in 1895 on the estate of Professor Shaler at Martha's Vineyard, the University acquired, through the generosity of Mr. Francis L. Higginson, an establishment of its own for this summer teaching.
The Engineering Camp is situated at the eastern end of Squam Lake in New Hampshire, on an estate comprising nearly three hundred acres, and having a frontage on the lake of nearly two miles. The shore is mostly wooded; but large portions of the tract are open, and the general surface is irregular and rough. It is a territory very well adapted for field-teaching of the elements of surveying and earth-work.
Four wooden buildings have been erected near the lake, which provide living rooms and drafting rooms, a dormitory, a kitchen, a dining room, and servants' quarters. A grove nearby affords room for tents, many students preferring tents to the dormitory. Most of the tents are 12'X 15' in area, and are provided with wooden floors. Such a tent accommodates four students.
In summer the camp is reached by a launch from Ashland, across the lake; and Mr. George W. Weld of Boston last summer gave the camp an excellent launch, suitable for the transportation of both freight and passengers. The camp may also be reached from Centre Harbor by road.
The programme of study comprises six weeks of land surveying, two weeks of geodetic surveying(with night work), and three weeks of railroad surveying; so that the camp is open for eleven weeks. Students divide themselves into working parties of four, each party acting under the direction of one of its members as chief.