Summer camps for children in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York have been a fixture now for over a century, but perhaps none quite so extraordinary, controversial, and unique as the Gardiner-Doing Camp, founded by its two female proprietors, Gail Gardiner and Ruth Doing.
It began in the early 1920s, shortly after World War I, when Ruth Doing—a former dancer and disciple of the legendary Isadora Duncan—joined forces with her business partner and life partner, Gail Gardiner, to establish a camp for young girls and boys, emphasizing the arts and progressive education.
Nestled against the tranquil mountains of Upper St. Regis Lake, and surrounded by the affluent, private residential camps of New York’s elite society, the Gardiner-Doing Camp thrived for decades as an oasis of creative expression. Based on the teachings of Isadora, who had established her school for young girls just outside of Paris, Ruth and Gail set out to continue the cause, particularly where dance was concerned.
Andrea King’s own mother, Belle McKee, was also a disciple of Isadora Duncan, having danced with her in New York and Paris. Belle knew Ruth Doing from those earlier rewarding days, and she joined in at the camp as a dance instructor every summer for many years. They would teach Isadora’s method of rhythmic exercise, or “rhythms” or “eurythmics,” as they were often called back then.
Andrea, known then as Georgette, would attend the camp each summer. She loved every minute of it, and when her younger sister Anne McKee was old enough, she too attended the camp.
Decades later, when Gail and Ruth began to sell off sections of their serene waterfront campgrounds, Belle bought her own special part of it, right on Chickadee Creek. Belle’s private camp became her favorite spot in all the world. She held onto it until she was 91 years old.
The Gardiner-Doing Camp as it appears today, now known and operated as Camp Regis-AppleJack:
Read more about the history of the Gardiner-Doing Camp, its controversial yet brilliant proprietors, and Belle’s many summers spent in the Adirondack Mountains of Upper St. Regis Lake in “More Than Tongue Can Tell,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.