Lutherwood History

Originally from Oak Harbor Lutheran’s Website, 4/18/2007

Grammar and Syntax Amended and Updated, 12/8/2014

One pastor’s search for an adequate place to hold a summer youth outing and the discovery of Captain Alexander Roy’s fishing resort on Lake Samish, south of Bellingham, began what is, today, Camp Lutherwood.

In, 1946, Rev. Thomas Allport, pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bellingham, was struck by the beauty and facilities of the fishing camp. For 45.6 acres, Capt. Roy asked $22,500, including 1500 feet of shoreline, a house, cabins, tent house, barn, chicken house, rowboats, swimming facilities, and a play field.

Pr. Allport reported his find to his synod of the United Lutheran Church of America, and the Northern Conference of the Pacific Synod approved the concept of a Bible camp. Pastors from local Lutheran bodies met to discuss the join purchase, and, on October 28, 1946, Pr. Allport; T.B. “Tut” Asmundson, a Bellingham attorney; and three others took the necessary steps to form Lutheran Camp Associates. LCA was a non-profit corporation for religious training and instruction of youth to strengthen their moral and physical well being, as well as other related activities.

On March 19, 1947, people giving $100 toward the purchase elected trustees representing the United Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical, Augustana, and American Lutheran Churches. The officers were Rev. Phil Warmanen (Augustana) of Sedro Wooley as president, Rev. Thomas Allport (ULCA) as vice president, Rev. Edwin Soiland (ELC) of Bellingham as secretary, and Rev. Edwin Bracher (UCLA) of Seattle as treasurer. The elected lay directors were H. Monson (ELC) of Everson, R. Martinson (ALC) of Bellingham, Andrew E. Peterson (Augustana) of Bellingham, A. Schroeder (ULC) of Seattle, and A. Hokonson (LFC) of Bellingham.

The corporation leased the property, and, in December 1947, made a $10,000 down payment. Captain Roy turned away offers of more money from competitive buyers and personally made contributions to pay the balance, which was raised with the issue of interest-bearing certificates.

The construction of a suitable combination kitchen with dining room, dormitories, water and plumbing facilities, and the purchase of beds, kitchenware, and other items made the cost considerably more than the original purchase price.

In 1947-1948, a large dining hall was constructed with most labor donated and supervised by Pastors Soiland and Warmanen. A water system and other equipment was purchased through the War Assets Administration at a reduced price. The value of these improvements was estimated at $15,000.

Andrew Bruland was hired as caretaker in the fall of 1947, and the house was extensively remodeled.

The first camping season ran from the last two weeks of June 1948 through the last week of August, with Lutheran churches using five of the ten weeks. Other denominations used the grounds from the rest of the summer. Additionally, there were several weekend camps, mainly filled by youth groups. The operation of the camp was a huge success.

In 1952, after a careful survey and study by the Board of Trustees, a new program of improvements was inaugurated, including a modern stone-and-cement restroom building was constructed with donated labor for about $3,000, drainage, re-leveling and re-seeding of recreation grounds, and a small building at the entrance to serve as a store and to facilitate registration. The old barn was repaired and transformed into a boys’ cabin. The flag and flagpole were dedicated.

More than one thousand campers were using the camp facilities during each annual camp season, and it was decided that the construction of a chapel was a necessity. The voting members at a Corporation Annual Meeting gave the Board the authority to establish a Chapel Building Fund.

By the fall of 1953, sufficient funds were collected to finish cement work for foundations, and, in time for the 1954 camping season, the chapel walls and roof were in place. The windows, doors, interior finishing, heat, and wiring were incomplete.

Carelton Tollefson of Spokane, a licensed architect, donated the Chapel plan, and J. Emil Anderson, a Seattle architect, furnished the wiring plan. Much of the labor and some of the materials were donated, and the cost of the Chapel, when finally completed for its June 12, 1955 dedication, was estimated to not exceed $10,000.

In April 1957, the Brotherhoods of Burlington and Bow completed the tennis courts. The outdoor kitchen was also built.

In fall 1958, sixty acres were purchased, bringing the total acreage to 105. A study costing up to $500 was authorized to work with an architect to develop a Master Plan, with attention to proper drainage and establishing property lines.

In 1959, the staff cabin began construction, and the Edison and Burlington men volunteered to complete the task. The area behind the Chapel was logged off for future cabins. Gas stoves were installed in the kitchen.

In 1961, the Board implemented the fundraising campaign and hired Eric Hurnbald to direct the project on a long-term basis. With three-quarters completed, there was more than $50,000 given or pledged over the next five years to rebuild Lutherwood.

The Board called on Professor Roger Larsen of Washington State University to study and project needs and development. On his suggestion, the development program continued for Lutherwood, calling for separate girls, boys, and family compounds with their own restroom facilities; the expansion of dining facilities and lounge area; construction of a new road and entrance; relocation of the caretaker’s house near the new entrance; development of a new boat-launch area; development of an “Inspirational Point” near the beach; two new parking lots; clearing for an additional play field; further development of the swimming area; and purchase of aluminum boats for water activities.

The girls’ bathhouse was completed for $4,187.62. However, the campaign fell short by approximately $25,000.

In 1962, five new cabins (3 girls’ and 2 boys’) were completed for $12,394.97. All but one of the old cabins were removed from the waterfront, with parts of them salvaged for a craft activities area and nurse’s quarters. Work to move the caretaker’s house to the entrance began. The shop and garage are moved.

In 1963, the caretaker’s house was moved for $4,348.03. The state gave Lutherwood permission to use 200 acres above the camp trail hikes into one of two lakes.

In 1964, a bbq pit and structure was installed close to the dining hall for $3,197.46.

In 1965, a dock for swimming and general swim area improvements were completed for $2,278-$3,102.98, with large thanks to volunteer labor. A new fireplace was installed in the dining hall and Franklin-type stoves in the cabins for $2,469.41.

In 1966, a ceiling-mount gas heater was installed in the dining hall, while Franklin-style woodstoves were put in the cabins and washrooms. New mattresses were purchased for $495.99. A wire screen around the tennis court and a blacktop were installed for $830.34. A larger gas stove, new oven, an mixer are purchased for the kitchen.

In 1967, Lodge #6 was built in the area known as “Boys Cabins” for $1,918.46. Improvements to the kitchen began and continued through 1970 for $1,570.06. Construction began on a new sanitary building. The Tri-Conference, Tri-C, was formed to develop programming for high school youth, and Buzz Kahn was called to be the Director of Camping Ministries. At this time, camping at Lutherwood was done by the pastors of the ALC and the LCA on a local basis of four weeks for each Synod. Each week did their own thing, and the results were obvious. The ALC camps then worked with Kahn in formulating programming for their camps and Lutherwood was involved.

In 1968, an Edison group installed a new gate at the camp’s entrance. Near the caretaker’s home, the bridge, damaged by high waters, was repaired. The camper cabins were divided with a wall down the middle of each, and additional Franklin stoves were installed. A dishwasher was donated through the efforts of Pr. Sammy, and work was underway on a new boys’ bathhouse. The tractor caught fire, destroying all; there were no injuries and no insurance.

In 1969, the camp got a new water system, which cost $2,301.70, thanks in part to a 3,500-gallon, stainless steel holding tank obtained from Darigold. A building to be used as a nurse’s quarters was donated and moved to Lutherwood by St. John’s Lutheran, Bellingham. Lutherwood turned in a new direction with the programming not led by the pastors, as it had been in the past, but working with the Tri-C program materials and the resources of Kahn. Programming moved to seven weeks of joint ALC-LCA camping from the second week in July through the month of August.

In 1970, the lavatory was completed at a final cost of $3,425.34. A walk-in cooler, donated by Tuffy Pearson of Sedro Woolley, was moved to camp. There are seven weeks of camp operated entirely by Tri-C. The estimated worth of Lutherwood is $125,000-$130,000.

In 1971, a new drain field was put in to resolved continuous drainage problems. Fred Olsen gave three Shetland ponies, saddles, bridles, etc. to Lutherwood. The colt Dusty was born. Consultant Art Harrison began work with Lutherwood to complete a “Long Range Camp Planning”. A bulldozer was purchased.

These goals for development and projects were accomplished through a capital campaign coordinated with Farmers New World Life Insurance Company and the Everman Organization.

A unique plan of investment was selected, enabling people interested in Lutherwood to loan funds to the camp while, at the same time, building their personal estates. The plan had a track record of success in providing capital for church-related institutions, and the Lutherwood Board enthusiastically recommended it. Under the plan, administered by independent trustees, the camp owns the policies and pays the premiums on insurance policies in lieu of the interest and principal that would otherwise be paid on a loan. As a result, $54,682.46 was raised; Farmers New World Life Insurance Company received $1,916.07 and the Everman Organization received $2,299.83. Based on original policies issued, it is anticipated that each year through 1995, some $1,600 in premium payments would be made by LCA to the insurance company.

Future plans for Lutherwood, in the early 1970s, included developing a comprehensive plan for future development, including land use and programming; new picnic area with indoor-outdoor kitchen; family tent and trailer camping area; clearing an additional play field area; getting the bulldozer and sawmill operational; storage building for equipment and tools; development of new campsites for small groups camping in adjacent area to the main camping area; and second swimming area for families and picnickers.

The joint ALC-LCA summer programming greatly improved the quality of the programming, staff training, and camping ministry during the summer. The Lutherwood Board, in conjunction, began representing on the Western Washington Outdoor Program Committee, which works with other camps, including Lutherland, Lutherhaven (Bremerton), Valley, and Tri-C, with representation from the three Synods in developing joint programming for all of the camps.

In 1972, the boathouse was built. Western Washington University crew team began its first ten year lease.

In 1975, one hundred yards of rock was hauled to the RV area. It was donated by Bloedel Timber, Company. Norman Oahstad donated two trucks and two days’ labor for the project.

In 1976, the sewer project began.

In 1977, the walk-in cooler was built. 576 summer campers were ministered to.

In 1978, the outside campfire area was dedicated. A major fund drive called “Three Giant Steps” began, where the supporters of Lutherwood donated $33,248.66 over the following two years to reduce the capital debt.

In 1979, an addition was built onto the cabin over on the hill so that groups of up to forty, coming to the camp during the school year, would be able to cook their own food.

In 1981, updated by-laws were approved.

In 1982, air-tight wood stoves, smoke detectors, and extinguishers were purchased and installed in the main camp kitchen. Other smaller projects were completed for American Camping Association minimum standards to be met, so that Lutherwood could be ACA-certified. Western Washington University crew began its second ten year lease. The Rainier Bank mortgage was paid in full. 623 summer campers were ministered to.

In 1984, the addition to the staff lodge was completed.

In 1985, the swim area dock was rebuilt. 773 summer campers were ministered to. Weekend youth retreat programming began.

In 1986, 764 summer campers were ministered to.

In 1987, five environmental camps occurred, two programmed by themselves and three by camp staff.


The Lost Years

If you have knowledge on the history of Lutherwood between 1988 to present, please email us at program@camplutherwood or call the office at (360) 734-7652 to share it with us!


In 2008, Corey Peterson was hired. She would, eventually, help Lutherwood in nearly every area from finances to administrative assistant to programming to governance to maintenance.

In December 2012, Megan Kautzman was hired as the program director.

In November 2013, Rob Gillespie was hired as the executive director with a vision to make Lutherwood self-sustaining.

In June 2014, Bethany Dietrich was hired as the program director. That summer, Lutherwood partnered with 15 churches for day camp and ministered to 355 summer campers and 68 music campers.

In 2016, Amy Ecklund was hired as the program director.