Summer Camps

Hiram House Camp

Hiram House Camp is a year-round camp located in Moreland Hills, Ohio. It originated as a branch of the Hiram House Settlement. The settlement house was established in 1896 by recent graduates of Hiram College. They began a summer camp in 1897, initially utilizing farms and fairgrounds. In 1902, they acquired 172 acres in Moreland Hills, which became the Hiram House Camp, and is the location of the camp to this day. 

In the first half of the twentieth century, Hiram House Camp was promoted as a fresh air camp. The late 1870s brought forth the fresh air movement, which had children from cities taken to rural homes and camps during the summertime. These were called fresh air programs, named after the belief that urban environments had “stale air,” which was damaging for children’s development, and that the “fresh air” of the countryside was a necessity for good health. The ideal in the fresh air movement was to have children spend their summers with a family in the countryside. However, many children did not have access to these rural getaways. These children went to the fresh air summer camps, like Hiram House Camp. Fresh air camp advertisements emphasized how urban children had never seen grass or hills or living cows or chickens before. They portrayed children of America’s cities as completely ignorant of things that are commonplace in nature, like blue skies, flowers, or bushes full of berries. According to these advertisements, the children experienced such a wonder upon seeing a non-city setting that it was akin to stepping onto another planet. Hiram House Camp heavily utilized this trope in their newspaper ads. One advertisement referred to the rural camp as an “oasis”, and states, “Here leaf green shadows replace the city air… and wooded trails are substituted for city streets and whizzing automobiles.” Another stated that the camp is for “healthy children who had never seen a woods or a farm animal.”

Even more than it was advertised as a fresh air camp, Hiram House Camp was promoted as being interracial and non-denominational. As the black population in Cleveland grew, Hiram House Camp became safe spaces for black people to experience fun and community. Prior to 1945, Hiram House allowed all races to utilize its facilities, but they were typically kept separate from one another. In 1945, Hiram House then publicly stated that they were going to make a concentrated effort to gradually break down the “seemingly insurmountable barriers” that made up and divided their neighborhood. They did this in a couple of ways. The first was by making sure they had a racially diverse staff, many of whom ended up being Western Reserve University students, along with having all activities desegregated and/or purposefully mixed race. The second was having the staff work alongside the Council Educational Alliance (CEA), a precursor of the Jewish Community Center. Once a month, Hiram House staff members and members of the CEA would hold meetings to discuss the needs of the community, what they had already done to meet those needs, and what else they needed to further accomplish.

At the camp, children would go hiking, have campfires, do arts and crafts, and spend nights camping in the woods. In the summer, children would stay overnight for two week cycles. The camp was active year round, with children doing things like hiking or camping even during cold months like February. There were groups specifically for teenagers, both coed and gender segregated. The camp was also used for adults to socialize and hold charity events. Churches would host events at the camp, such as worship sessions. The charity events, which were often organized by Hiram House’s settlement, included fundraisers to help people with disabilities and socializers for the elderly to partake in group activities (such as knitting groups) and receive care. 

In 1948, the Hiram House Settlement merged with other settlement houses on the east side of Cleveland. However, Hiram House Camp was not included in this merger. Hiram House Camp is still in operation in Moreland Hills to this day.

Glenville children at Hiram House Camp throwing snowballs, December 30, 1959 | Cleveland Memory Project, CSU Special Collections
New campers waving away the old campers returning home | Call & Post, August 10, 1946
Children on a summer hike, most likely to go camping in the woods | Call & Post, August 10, 1946
Children in line for showers | Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23, 1942


  • “Hiram House.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • “Hiram House Camp Like Oasis.” Call & Post. August 10, 1946.
  • “History.” Hiram House Camp.
  • “Line Forms Here For Showers.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 23, 1942.
  • Morton, Marian J. “Saving the City Hospitals, Homes, and Settlement Houses, 1860-1930.” Women in Cleveland: An Illustrated History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
  • “New Branch of Hiram House in Mt. Pleasant Area Opens Door to All Races and Nationalities.” Call & Post. November 10, 1945.
  • “New Social Work Play May Merge Central Area’s Three Settlements.” Call & Post. December 13, 1947.
  • Shearer, Tobin Miller. Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017.
33775 Harvard Rd, Moreland Hills, OH 44022

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