The buildings at Green Cove consist of a main lodge, an infirmary, and a variety of cabins arranged in “lines” according to the ages of the girls who inhabit them. Most of the camp’s structures were built in the 1940s and have changed little since then. The cabins have concrete floors, screened windows, and bunk beds. They have no heat or air conditioning, and by the middle of camp everything smells faintly of mildew from wet swimsuits and muddy hiking boots.
When I was there in the early 1990s, the camp looked exactly as it does today. Things are maintained but never much improved. The institution rejoices in being what it is. There is no need for Wi-Fi, paved walkways, or greater efficiency in food delivery. The camp radiates warmth in its untidiness and nobody presses for renovation.
Even more important than Green Cove’s unchanging physical structures are its unchanging customs. Though the camp is not religious, it resembles a thriving religious institution. There are distinct roles for everyone, levels of hierarchy and authority for campers and staff, clear expectations of moral behavior, and quasi-liturgical practices that come out in song and action. A normal day at camp is a mixture of order and freedom: The same activity periods obtain every day (except Sunday), though the campers have some freedom to choose what they will do.