Camp Roosevelt

Camp Roosevelt Group Photo

A group photograph of the members of the first CCC camp 

“The CCC was a result of Senate Bill 598 that the President introduced March 27, 1933. The bill cleared both houses of Congress in four days and was on the President’s desk for signature on March 31, 1933” (CCC Legacy).  On the 17th of Aprilthe first CCC camp was officially opened in Luray, Virginia’s George Washington National Park.  Because of the time and dedication President Franklin D. Roosevelt had put into getting the CCC up and running, this first camp was named after him, Camp Roosevelt (CCC Legacy).  

Along with Camp Roosevelt, Virginia had more than 46 camps throughout the nine years of the CCC program being active.  Of those 46 sites, fourteen worked to build and rejuvenate the environment within national forests, six worked with national parks, two on other federal reservations, one focused on the revitalization of state forests, four in state parks, and nineteen CCC sites work on private land forests (PBS: American Experience).

When the CCC stopped receiving government funds in 1942, Camp Roosevelt shut down, for no men could afford to work without pay. Camp Roosevelt remained barren for 22 more years, until $55,000 was awarded for renovations in 1964.  Renovations that have since been expanded upon included 15 picnic sites, 10 camping units and two public restrooms (CCC Legacy and United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service.).


Camp Roosevelt: First In America

A sign in front of Camp Roosevelt, the first CCC camp

Civilian Conservation Corps’ Camp Roosevelt was located in Luray, Virginia.  This pioneer camp consisted of many buildings and areas including:

·         Parade Field was similar to a main square in town; it had walking paths that connected buildings and the Company Streets.

·         The headquarters building held the Military Office, where the management events took place and work projects were planned by the Project Superintendent.

·         The 6 barracks at Camp Roosevelt were of the Military kind.    Inspected weekly, the 45-70 enrollees living inside each barrack had to keep them tidy during their off hours.

·         The administration building was a multi-purpose building, acting as the Hospital for the enrollees and as sleeping quarters for the officers.

·         The pump house held the focal water source for all the different buildings.

·         In addition to the mess hall being a friendly place to eat, there were numerous other activities held there.  The education classes for the enrollees, dances, and more.

·         The recreation center was the place for enrollees to take a break from their hard work.  The rec center was prominently used for games, reading, and enjoying one another’s company.


 Commanding Officer Captain Leo Donovan and Project Superintendent Jim Wilkins

Portrait of Project Superintendent Jim Wilkins

Left: Commanding Officer Captain Leo Donovan

Right: Project Superintendent Jim Wilkins


“The Department of Agriculture and Interior planned the work for each state. The Army and Navy supervised the construction and operation of the camps (CCC Legacy).”  At Camp Roosevelt the enrollees were led by Commanding Officer Captain Leo Donovan, pictured on the left.  His counterparts in this first unit were William F. Train a 2nd Lieutenant and Richard B. Carhart also a 2nd Lieutenant. These infantry officers were in charge of 100-300 at a time; they were in charge of planning the camp’s daily activities and watching over the enrollees, making sure they were up by 4:00 am and fed by 5:00 am each morning. Pictured on the right is Project Superintendent Jim Wilkins, who organized and managed Camp Roosevelt. “[Camp officials] taught discipline, good work habits and a trade to many who had little skills or working experience. These proved valuable once the men left the CCC, especially if they entered the military (CCC Legacy).”


Henry Rich

A portrait of the first CCC enrollee, Henry Rich

Henry Rich was the very first enrollee for the CCC.   His first four years at Camp Roosevelt were spent in the mess hall as a cook.  After four years preparing food, Rich was promoted into a leadership position.  Rich and all other enrollees at Camp Roosevelt were young men between the ages 17 and 25.  Just as at all CCC camps at the time, they were all unmarried, out of school and unemployed.  “The men worked 40-hour, six-day weeks, in crews of 48.” As a prospective economic boost during the depression era, enrollees had to send $25 out of their $30 per month paycheck to their families at home or held in an account until they were discharged from the camp (CCC Legacy).

“In addition to the monthly salary, men were given food, clothing, shelter, and medical care (CCC Legacy).”  The enrollees were given physical, mental and vocational examinations (Gorham, Eric).  Over 110,000 of the men who were illiterate learned how to both read and write during their spare time at their camps (CCC Legacy).


Camp Roosevelt