Bert Adams casts a long shadow.
Even if you didn’t know the man — which is likely. He died in 1926 — you know his name, especially if you raised boys.
His name is synonymous with the Boy Scouts. The 1,300-acre campground in Covington is the Bert Adams Scout Camp. It has a large lake, hundreds of campsites, miles and miles of bike and hiking paths, a shooting range, a pool and, perhaps most importantly on those hot summer days, an air-conditioned dining hall.
That’s just a few of the amenities. The Bert Adams Scout Camp is camping done right.
But who was Bert Adams, and why does his name resonate more than 90 years after his death at the relatively young age of 47? And why is this a story in the Neighbor Newspapers when the camp is Covington?
Answering the latter first, the Bert Adams Scout Camp was in Vinings from 1927 to 1960. It was just to the north of Mount Wilkinson, which in time became part of the camp’s 250 acres. Many Atlanta lads spent their first nights in the woods there, learned to canoe on Darby Lake, or swim sans suit in the swimming pool. Swimming in the buff made the pool easier to clean, or so the campers were told.
Its origins can be traced back to a nomadic summer camp started in 1916 called Camp Friendly. After World War I, finding a permanent home became a priority.
Among those leading the effort was Albert “Bert” Adams of the Adams-Cates Realty Co., who was the president of the Rotary Club of Atlanta and a past president of Rotary International. He also served as the president of the Atlanta Council of the Boy Scouts.
Adams was known to be a brilliant man and snappy dresser with a good sense of humor. He took it upon himself to find a suitable site for the camp. He found the perfect spot 11 miles north of Atlanta. The Boy Scouts purchased the 84 acres in Vinings for $3,000 with the club’s help.
Just as the Scouts acquired the land, Adams was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given months to live. He was just 47. He resigned as council president due to his health, but wrote letters to friends urging them to help build the camp so he would live to see it.
He died Dec. 31, 1926.
A proclamation by the Boy Scouts of America dated Jan. 17, 1927 named the camp the Bert Adams Boy Scout Reservation. His son, Albert Adams Jr., lifted the first shovel of dirt, breaking ground April 3, 1927. It officially opened in June, welcoming 106 Scouts for its first week.
There were 10 cabins, named for animals alphabetically from Antelope to Jackal, in which the campers competed for cleanliness, participation at camp fires and more. There was a nature center, home to many turtles that could be “borrowed” for races, and a five-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
More than 20 activities were offered, from swimming to nature to handicrafts to model airplane building. There was a camp store, called the Trading Post, which sold Coca-Colas and candy.
A dam created Darby Lake, named for Dick Darby.
Campers learned to swim in the lake until it became too polluted. In 1929, the council installed an Olympic-sized pool in a ravine near the headwaters so it was somewhat hidden.
Still, whenever ladies were present, a counselor would run down, calling “LIC,” ladies in camp. Those who were in their birthday suits put on their clothes.
Over the years, the camp grew, acquiring additional acreage until it expanded to 250 acres, including Mount Wilkinson, from where Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman first spied the city of Atlanta in 1864.
The camp served an untold number of Scouts over the years, but as the area grew, it proved to be too small. In 1960, the new Bert Adams Scout Camp opened in Covington with its thousand acres, state-of-the-art facilities and larger lake.
But there is a hint of the old scout camp in Vinings.
The lake, now an amenity for the Stonewall Condominiums, which occupy the former camp site, is Camp Bert Adams Lake. It is small tribute to a man who looms large in the world of Scouting to this day.