Camp Mad Anthony Wayne is a rustic park that's a popular spot for weddings, family reunions, church groups and other get-togethers.
Located on Spring Valley Drive just 20 minutes or so from downtown Huntington, the park's historic lodge and cabins are perched on an 80-acre wooded hillside that's just down the road from the Huntington VA Medical Center.
The park is named for General Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero who later defeated the Native American tribes at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers. The general acquired his less-than-flattering nickname of "Mad Anthony" due to his daring ways and hot-headed temper. Wayne County, where the park is located, is also named for him.
"Camp Mad Anthony Wayne is a great get-away spot that's not far from town," said Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, which owns and operates it.
"We probably do more weddings than anything else," Brady said. "All in all, we're booked for somewhere between 35 and 40 weekends each year. We have some families that have been coming back to the park on the same weekend each year for about as long as anybody can remember. And we have church groups that have been coming for years."
The two-story lodge can be booked for daily use or overnight stays. It's equipped with tables and chairs for 72 people, a kitchen with commercial-grade appliances, 28 beds and restrooms with shower facilities. The park grounds have a playground, picnic tables, hiking trails and an open campfire circle.
In 2003, the park district renovated four small stone cabins that were built in the 1940s and had been boarded up and unused for at least 20 years. Each cabin is designed for up to four people, with two bunk beds, shelves, tables and chairs that were constructed by park district employees.
The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
"The park's story is an interesting chapter in local history," said Brady.
In 1921, the Huntington Rotary Club purchased the initial park site and turned it over to the Boy Scouts, which operated it as a summer camp for boys. In 1931, the family of Judge Thomas Harvey commissioned the construction of a lodge to be built at the camp in Harvey's memory. One of Huntington's best-known architectural partnerships, that of Wilbur A. Meanor & Edward J. Handloser, designed the lodge, which was completed and dedicated in 1932. Shortly afterwards, the Rotary Club made additional land purchases, expanding the park to its current size.
By 1939, financial problems brought on by the Great Depression rendered the Rotary Club no longer able to afford the camp's upkeep. So, the club sold it to the park district for the princely sum of $1,000, to be paid in three annual installments. In 1941, the park district constructed the recently renovated cabins.
In the future, Brady said he would like to see a picnic shelter constructed at the camp if funding can be found.