The Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp is located in North Riverside Park, Wichita, Kansas.
At the turn of the century, health care professionals began to realize that fresh air and sanitation was the best way to take care of at-risk infants. To that end, Wesley Hospital erected a tent facility on the grounds in 1918 at the direction of Dr. Howard Norton. The next year, a larger tent facility was constructed in nearby North Riverside Park. But before the 1920 season opened, the tent camp burned. Led by Mrs. Norton, prominent women in the community organized fund-raising efforts for a new, permanent structure which was completed that summer and named the Fresh Air Baby Camp. In 1926, the Fresh Air program was moved to the new Wesley Hospital, and for the next 75 years the building was leased by the Girl Scout Council and was known as the Girl Scout Little House.
RESTORATION AND FUNDRAISING
This building is a last survivor of a unique and historic national health program and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2011, Friends of the Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp, Inc (FHFABC), a newly-formed group of volunteers, set out on a rehabilitation project to preserve the architecture and heritage of this historic building.
In the following years, that volunteer group has solicited donations and held fundraisers engaging preservationists, caring Wichitans, local businesses, and former Girl Scouts who shared memories of fun times in “Little House.” FHFABC joined with Historic Midtown Citizens Association in October, 2013 for their annual walking tour of neighborhood homes. A portion of the proceeds from that event was donated to the restoration of the Fresh Air Baby Camp building. The FHFABC also raised funds through a Victorian High Tea in the historic Pratt-Campbell House and a concert featuring Robin Macy and Friends, as well as other events hosted by loyal supporters.
In 2013, Friends of the FABC was awarded a generous Heritage Trust Fund grant which was used to complete re-roofing of the structure with new-but-identical tiles made by the same company that produced the originals.
But the Friends of the Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp didn’t just raise money and awareness. They have embarked on historically sound restoration processes and community support has been amazing. Volunteers got their hands dirty by rebuilding the triple-sash windows, rehabbing the original plaster walls, installing new doors, and building new partition walls. Local businesses and professionals have donated services, materials, fixtures, and equipment to install a new sewer line, electrical service, and a geo-thermal HVAC system.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Engineers has provided design and construction services for mechanical and plumbing systems In early 2017 Friends of Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp received a second Heritage Trust Fund grant, this time to pay for custom wood storm windows.
Work continues and the total value of the complete rehabilitation including donated goods and services will be over $500,000. The Fresh Air Baby Camp will be returned to community use with a catering kitchen, meeting room and restroom, all handicapped accessible.
If you would like to volunteer to help with the restoration of the Fresh Air Baby Camp, find us on Facebook at “Friends of the Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp” or contact Claire Willenberg, President, firstname.lastname@example.org or 316-990-4407.