The History of Geneva Hills
In 1959, the then Columbus Presbytery purchased the site that was to become Geneva Hills from Howard and Ruth Flowers. The initial land purchase consisted of 146 acres; later purchases increased the total acreage to the present 350. The Reverend Richard Beidler was called to be camp director in 1960 and spent the next 30 years providing loving and caring service to the camp.
Canvas teepees were the first shelters at the camp, but proved rather unsuccessful since failing to close the weather flaps left campers wet when it rained. 1961 saw the first shift from teepees to the covered wagons, which are still in use today.
Dick Warner of Newark, Ohio built Frontier Lodge that same year as a summer facility with a fully equipped kitchen, restrooms, showers, and a large meeting area with fireplace. It was later renovated as an all-weather facility. An annex to Frontier Lodge was completed in 1994, which has sleeping accommodations for 32 and two semi-private bathrooms.
The original swimming pool was built in 1963, then replaced twenty years later with a stainless steel sided, handicap accessible pool that sees constant use during warm weather months.
The Columbus Audubon Society has held annual ‘Eco-weekends’ at Geneva Hills each spring. Over 250 Ohioparticipants have been involved since 1967.
Architect Jim Burris of Marion oversaw the construction of Geneva Lodge 1964-1965 which provides sleeping space for 74 in four dormitories, a large kitchen, and a spacious dining/meeting area featuring a huge fireplace built of native sandstone from old county bridge abutments. An outdoor chapel is nearby, serving as a memorial to Pete White, the founding chairman of the Geneva Hills Camp Committee.
In 1975 work was started by Richard Beidler on the Sun House, a geo-solar facility that slept 15 in semi-private quarters. It was built as a labor of love by 175 people, some with no previous knowledge of construction, but with more than enough enthusiasm. John Bachelder renovated the building in October of 1994 and the name was changed to Calvin Cottage. Tucked away in the pines, it still features multi-level decks, a small, complete kitchen, an airtight wood-burning stove, a significant stove-place, and a cherry wood cathedral ceiling in the living area. The lower level was used for staff housing, while the upstairs serves as a beautiful rental facility.
Rustic, with south facing open fronts, Adirondackshelters near the lake provide year-round camping and have been used during summer time by many different groups including the ARC Campers.
Central College Presbyterian Church carries on an annual summer camping program for inner city youth, having equipped Picnic V for 30 kids per week.
Tent and trailer sites are available as well as shelters for day camps and picnics.
The Craft House is a memorial gift building, donated by a member of Lancaster 1st Presbyterian Church and completed in 1989. It is used during the summer camp and outdoor education programs for a variety of artistic adventures. In 1997 it was remodeled to reflect its new use as a satellite Resource Centerand meeting room. Craft sessions are still held in the basement and on the craft deck, leaving the upstairs available for meetings year ‘round.
Decorative gardens and trees unique to the area enhance the grounds as memorials to over 30 friends of Geneva Hills.
All of the many miles of trails have been marked. Geneva Hills’ neighbors have commented that they don’t find nearly as many lost folks wandering around on their property anymore! Flora and fauna and Black Hand sandstone rock formations show the influence of Illinoian and Wisconsin glacial moraine.
Young and old children from all over Ohio enjoyed the High Ropes Course. Built in 1992 with a lot of help from Camp Mary Orton in Columbus, the Course, known as the Eagles’ Nest, was a group of obstacles anchored to trees. It included a Cargo Net, Balance Beam, catwalk, and much more. Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of the trees, the course had to be torn down and a new course installed on special poles was erected in 2000 by the Starlight Company. Participants must wear an approved climbing harness and helmet, and they are secured to an overhead belay cable at all times. The initiatives course is much closer to the ground and includes obstacles and events that a small group can work through together to overcome. While these activities are great confidence builders, they’re also a lot of fun.
Next to the Ropes Course you’ll find the newly landscaped waterfront area. Thanks to countless hours of volunteer labor from friends who traveled hundreds of miles to get here, we have a new boat dock, shelter house, and terraced banks. Guests enjoy practicing their boating skills while admiring the scenery from canoes and kayaks.
Geneva Hills’ newest ecological addition, built under the leadership of Diana Malcolm, is the Wetlands (1998), often referred to as ‘Our Ecological Gem.’ Using carefully selected plants, the Wetland is an environmental example of natural sewage disposal. The Wetland is a living testimony of Geneva Hills’ stewardship for God’s earth and His people.
At the turn of the millennium, the Presbytery of Scioto Valley continued to struggle with financial shortfalls. As a result, Geneva Hills needed to be redeveloped or closed. TheWelcome Center marked the beginning of what was to be an effort to bring Geneva Hills into the 21st century. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, the project had to be rescued by Central College Presbyterian Church, and in only 4 months, Geneva Hills was closed.
In 2005, Central College Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of Lancaster, and Amesville – New England Parrish, which were collectively know as the consortium, leased Geneva Hills in an effort to keep their own programs alive and to make Geneva Hills available to others once again. Although there was very little use of the facility, Geneva Hills was open once again.
In June 2008 the Presbytery finally decided to cut all ties and voted to sell Geneva Hills. Thanks to the leadership of the Geneva Hills Group, a non-profit organization specifically designed to purchase and run Geneva Hills, Geneva Hills was saved. Now locally operated by directors who have a vested interest in the success of Geneva Hills, we are continually growing and finding new ways to be a resource for Lancaster, and all of Central Ohio.
As we celebrate 50 years of growth, we applaud our amazing Creator and we appreciate our friends who have volunteered their time and financial resources towards the betterment of Geneva Hills. As an honor to all of the people who have made Geneva Hills what it is today, the field, or upper flats, was named the Camper, Counselor, and Staff, or CCS field. In addition, the Sun House, which became the Son House, then Calvin Cottage, was finally named. Named in Honor of Richard and Martha Beidler, The “Beidler House” is now permanently named. As part of the project, the Beidler House is being redesigned to reflect its original purpose as a “green” building. With the goal of being “off the grid,” the Beidler House will become an educational meeting space where people of all ages can learn about green engineering and practical applications for personal use. Martha’s Garden will consist of all native plant species and serve as an educational garden for sustainability.
Geneva Hills is here to stay. Geneva Hills … ever changing yet ever constant.
“This place is truly Holy Ground, blessed by God to be a meeting place for saints and sinners.
And to this place God brought people who were searching for Him,
for peace and tranquility, for adventure or simply for refuge from the world outside.”
- Sherry McElfresh