About This Location
Camp Nepaug in Burlington, Connecticut, offers a window into the past, a glimpse of a bygone era when it served as a refuge for those affected by the Great Depression. Nestled within the 1,352-acre Nassahegon State Forest, this now-abandoned camp holds a unique historical significance and an air of mystery that beckons to be explored.
The adventure begins along Stone Road in Burlington, which cuts through the expansive Nassahegon State Forest. The forest offers a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, bird watching, and hunting. However, it also hides intriguing remnants of a time when Camp Nepaug played a vital role in providing shelter and work for those struggling during the 1930s.
The small stone building, which can be seen in ruins by the side of the road, is one of the few remaining structures of Camp Nepaug. To truly appreciate this place, it's essential to delve into its history. Camp Nepaug was established during the Great Depression by the Federal Transient Bureau, an agency created to address the issues of homelessness and unemployment. This camp primarily served older, single men who were hit hard by the economic hardships of the era.
The camp offered a simple bargain: for 24 hours of work per week, a man could secure a clean bed, three meals a day, and a small salary. However, it also came with strict rules, and any disruptions, such as fighting or drunkenness, could land one in the camp's holding cell. While not a typical jail, this holding cell served as a means to maintain order among the residents.
Camp Nepaug boasted more than just a holding cell; it comprised two barracks, a dormitory, an ice house, an incinerator, a garage, a pump house, a director's home, a log cabin, a dining hall, and a classroom. The camp was managed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal program that employed millions during the Depression.
In 1936, Camp Nepaug ceased its operations, and many of its residents were left to fend for themselves in Hartford. Over time, many similar camps from that era were razed, with only remnants like concrete foundations and fieldstone chimneys surviving as evidence of their existence. Remarkably, Nepaug's old jail, the last remnant of the camp, escaped demolition.
Exploring the grounds of Camp Nepaug today offers an opportunity to imagine the lives of the men who gathered here to work, eat, sleep, and hope for better times. Despite the graffiti and signs of neglect on the jail's interior, the mortar and fieldstone walls along its side and back remain relatively untouched, preserving the historical essence of the camp.
While the old jail is a prominent remnant, there are other traces of Camp Nepaug to be found deeper in the forest, such as ruins of barracks, dormitories, an ice house, a dining hall, and a pump house. Though only foundations and chimneys remain, they provide a tangible connection to a challenging period in American history.
Walking through the woods and exploring the remains of Camp Nepaug offers a unique blend of adventure and reflection. It allows visitors to step back in time and contemplate the struggles and resilience of those who sought refuge here during one of the nation's most challenging times. Camp Nepaug is not only a testament to the past but also an invitation to rediscover history hidden within the wilderness of Burlington, Connecticut.