Five Points Mission, the entity that owns and operates Olmsted Center, has been in existence since 1848. It is one of the oldest missions in New York City and the oldest Methodist mission.
Five Points Mission was named for the region just north of New York City Hall where five streets converged at an open square. In the 1800's this area was characterized by all types of social ills and its residents were the "undesirables" of society. The notorious reputation of this area has been written about in several historical books and was depicted in both a movie and book titled “GANGS of NEW YORK”.
In 1848 the Ladies of the Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church devoted their attention to the Five Points community. For years this group had been working with immigrant and disenfranchised populations to help them find God. The approach that seemed to work best on this population was based on a model developed by Charles Loring Brace the future founder of the Children's Aid Society. In this model mission work involved transforming the destructive city environments of dependent mothers and children into healthier, positive environments. This work began in a newly purchased and renovated building (Old Brewery) in the community adjacent to Five Points.
At the turn of the century it became apparent that there was a need for a camp to take the children and their mothers to during the summer. In 1901, Camp Olmsted was opened as the Olmsted Fresh Air Home of Five Points Mission in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. The purpose of the camp was to serve as a "vacation" away from the depressed living conditions in the city. The 21-acre parcel of land was given to Five Points by Sarah and John Olmsted. Over the years immigrant children took the Hudson River Day Liner to Cornwall-On-Hudson landing and then were picked up or walked the one mile to camp.
The mission of Camp Olmsted has always been to ensure children and families from underserved populations have access to outdoor camping opportunities. In the early 1900’s this mission applied to immigrant families. Over the years this mission has evolved to include children from all underserved communities.
In the 1960’s the United Methodist City Society opened the United Methodist Camp Service at 2085 Fifth Avenue. The purpose of the Camp Service was to increase access to camp for children and families from low income communities in NYC and assist them through the summer camp registration process. In addition to Camp Olmsted, children were also given the opportunity to register for the Fresh Air Fund.
In 1997 Five Points Mission became a subsidiary of the United Methodist City Society, a faith based not for profit that works in partnership with the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. As part of this relationship, the United Methodist Camp Service was closed and the United Methodist City Society took over the operation and management of camp registration for Camp Olmsted.
Today Camp Olmsted provides both day and overnight summer programs for youth ages 5 to 14 years. During our programs campers are able to enjoy swimming, sports, hiking, art, reading, computers and ropes challenge course activities. These activities are designed to build campers' self-esteem and enhance their social skills.
Our program and facilities are accredited by the American Camp Association and licensed by the Orange County Department of Health.
The retreat ministry at Olmsted began in 1990 after Five Points Mission completed the renovation of a Victorian house on the property. The house now had accommodations for up to thirty people and was named The Retreat House at Camp Olmsted (now known as Manor House). With the purchase of two adjacent properties in early 1998, the camp more than tripled its size to include over 78 acres of land, as well as another Victorian house. Renovation of the house was completed in May 1999 and the house was officially opened as The Gladys and William Kirkwood House. This house which maintained the Victorian theme has ten bedrooms and six bathrooms; and can accommodate up to twenty people.
Today the retreat program at Olmsted Center provides year round facilities for churches, religious groups, not for profit organizations, schools and families to hold retreats, meetings, conferences, reunions, weddings and other gatherings. These facilities include the Manor House (our largest facility), Kirkwood House (our Victorian themed facility) and three Cabins (our more rustic facility). The Kirkwood House is open year round and makes it possible for us to host summer retreats while summer camp is in session.