In the early 1900’s Robert Sever Hale began acquiring a few acres of land in what is now Westwood and Dover. As a Research Engineer of the “Edison Electric Illuminating Company” (eventually the Boston Edison Company and currently NStar), Mr. Hale was prominent in the Boston Council, as well as the National and International Scouting Movements. In 1918 he established a more formal relationship with the Scouts. It is this year, based on this letter that are considered the founding date for Hale Reservation. There is no question — the spirit of Hale Reservation was born at this time.
Hale Reservation began more officially on April 19, 1926 when the “Dover-Westwood Scout Reservation of the Boston Council, Inc.” came into being. The land that had been purchased by Mr. Hale became used for the express purpose of providing opportunities for outdoor living by scouts and other youth. A more formal organization was established.
The original camp, then known as the Morse Lot was established as headquarters and twenty acres were officially opened as a scout camp on April 19, 1926. The camp was named “Camp Storrow” in honor of James J. Storrow, at one time President of the National Council of Boy Scouts of America. In order to form a pond for the camp, a dam was built on the east side of “Goat Island” (the large rock on the shores of Storrow Pond) and on August 12, 1926, Mr. Hale turned the valve which checked the flow of “Wilson’s Brook” (now Powissett Brook) and Storrow Pond was created. In May, 1926, a headquarters cabin of split cedar logs was erected on the shores of Storrow Pond. In 1928, a fireplace was added. The building was lost in a fire, but the fireplace can still be seen on the shores of Storrow Pond.
It was at this time in the Reservation’s history that a major land acquisition program began. In 1926, ten major parcels were acquired including the purchase of “Worthington Pond” (now Powissett Pond) and the land surrounding it. In 1927, more parcels were added. The major land acquisition thrust began to taper off in 1929 although 21 smaller parcels were acquired from 1930 to 1960. (In 1960, the Reservation occupied over 1,000 acres in Westwood and Dover. Since 1968, the Reservation has acquired through purchase and donation, an additional seven sites totaling nearly 200 acres. The Reservation today owns and manages 1,200 acres.)
In 1930, still under the leadership of Mr. Hale, a new corporation called Scoutland was formed. The purpose of the new corporation was as follows:
“To provide education which will develop intelligent, capable and responsible citizens with the understanding and ability to carry civic, moral, religious, and spiritual responsibility so far as such purposes are charitable and benevolent in scope.”
Robert Hale was a unique, progressive person who implemented several original ideas during his life. For example, he permitted scout troops to construct their own cabins, with the emphasis on the scouts doing most of the work. Scout troops as well as individual scouts were permitted to camp on the property — in some instances, without any adult supervision! At one time, Scoutland experimented with a system whereby no rules were in effect. Scouts were encouraged to treat others the “scout way.” In one newsletter, Mr. Hale called the results of this experiment “successful.” Times have changed and unfortunately some of his innovative experiments are no longer possible due to legal and government restraints.
Throughout the 1930’s, the Reservation grew in popularity to the point where at least thirty troops maintained cabins. In 1941, Mr. Hale died and “Scoutland” was renamed the “Robert Sever Hale Camping Reservation, Inc.” in his honor.
During the 1950’s, many of the older cabins fell into disrepair and use dwindled, in part due to the emergence of scout camps and reservations owned and operated by the various local scout councils. Because of the declining use, the concurrent financial problems, and at the specific recommendation of the United Community Services, the Reservation began several new programs.
Work with other agencies began the cooperative relationships and efforts that evolved into many of the successful programs currently in operation. Today, the Reservation is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the nation serving over 2000 children every day during the summer day camp season. Nine agencies conduct camp programs on the Reservation’s property creating a wonderfully diverse mix of children and staff. Combining the different groups from the Boston area promotes Hale’s mission to serve many diverse groups. The Membership Beach program offers a family outlet to enjoy summer recreation serves over 500 families and individuals from the area.
Year-round, Hale Reservation serves as a living laboratory for thousands of elementary thru middle school aged students of the Greater Boston Area. Through our environmental education and teambuilding programs students are challenged to expand their knowledge of themselves and science. The Reservation is a popular visiting spot for daily visitors and works diligently to monitor and preserve the quality of its beautiful woods, trails, peaks and waterways for these resources reflect our the meaning of founders mission.