Deephaven is the inspiration of Miss Alice Mabel Bacon, teacher, author, philanthropist, patriot, and Christian. She was the daughter of Dr. Leonard Bacon, Pastor of the First Church, New Haven, Connecticut, writer, and a leader in the antislavery movement. Her family also had a deep interest in the Japanese people and one of Miss Bacon's early companions was a Japanese girl who lived with them while being educated. This interest lasted throughout Miss Bacon's life and resulted in her writing several books on Japanese women. Evidence of the Japanese influence may be seen in Deephaven cottages in the many sliding doors and the bell tower. A large Japanese gong announced the serving of meals and is still in camp.
As a child Miss Bacon had spent a year with her family at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. This was one of the first colleges for blacks and American Indians. It was founded by General Samuel Chapman Armstrong in 1867 while he was working for the Freedman's Bureau after the Civil War. He had been commander of a regiment of black troops in the war and was the son of missionaries in Hawaii. In 1883 Miss Bacon returned to Hampton as a teacher, not only in economics and civics but also in Theology, for which she was the entire department. Her originality and sense of humor made her classes a constant delight. Her realization of a need for black nurses resulted in the establishment of a nursing school and hospital at Hampton.
Miss Bacon was introduced to Asquam Lake by General Armstrong. The General had visited Boston while fund raising for Hampton in the 80's and through friends had come to the lake to rest and fish. He had a keen interest in the work of Henry Balch, who started the first boys camp in America on Chocorua Island (now Church Island) in 1881 and stayed there when he came to the lake. Miss Bacon spent the summer of 1896 at the pioneer Pinehurst Camp just east of the present Deephaven land. This was owned by Rev. H.B. Frissell, Chaplain and later President of Hampton Institute. This experience suggested another project to Miss Bacon, a place where people who lived intensely during the winter could come for a summer vacation in an atmosphere of the simplest and most basic nature. The story goes that one day as she was canoeing, a stiff wind came up, and she sought the protection of a deep cove.
Here, she said,
is where I want my camp, and before she left that summer, she had purchased the land for Deephaven.
With her that summer was the widow of General Armstrong, Mary Alice, who was also a teacher at Hampton.
In June of 1897 Deephaven Camps was opened on a business basis, but it was expected that it would only pay expenses. The original Longhouse, destroyed by fire in 1907, and the kitchen and dining room with tent roof were the only buildings ready for use. The living room of
Brown Betty was built that summer as a cottage. The dining room was between the Longhouse and where Point of View now stands. It later burned and was rebuilt on its present site.
From the beginning the camp was filled, and among the guests there were, as ever since, men and women well known in university and literary circles and in public life.
Miss Bacon had a special faculty for interesting everybody in work for the common good. Campers dug up rocks to make better paths and cut underbrush and wood for the fires. Whatever was to be done, there were always ready hands, hearts, and brains to do it.