Buffalo Gap History
It All Began in 1954...
But first, a little bit about the current stewards of Buffalo Gap:
Buffalo Gap Camp was purchased by 5 investors on May 25, 2017. The 5 partner / investors have diverse backgrounds and varying dreams for the camp. We believe that Buffalo Gap is a blank pallet for which all of our individual and collective dreams can manifest.
After the majority of the camp lay in foreclosure and abandonment for nearly 2 years, it was a daunting task to breathe life back into more than a dozen structures. Those structures include 8 cottages, a commercial kitchen and lake view dining hall, a 4,000 square foot log hewn appalachian style covered pavilion, and a lake house as well as log cabin wood fired sauna on the lake.
Former owners had left the place in disarray... it took partners, volunteers, friends and family a number of months to clean up, haul out, and bring the camp back to a state of caring that it now enjoys quite well. Partners, volunteers and paid labor logged hundreds of hours (and partners $10,000's of dollars) into restoring electrical and plumbing issues campwide, replacing doors, installing kitchens in all of our cottages, new locks, interior painting everywhere, furnishing by donation and purchase, mowing, weed trimming, junk removal, and all forms of campwide beautification from initial phases of landscaping to decorating.
With 8 cottages now listing on Airbnb.com and Glampinghub.com, and our campground soon to be listed on hipcamp.com, as well as 4 privately owned cottages available to the public, we are now a fully functional Retreat property getting more amazing by the month..
Buffalo Gap Retreat will offer a variety of services to the public and businesses including:
Airbnb cottage rentals
workshops and retreats
facilities rentals including Dining Hall, Beach House, Grand Pavilion
educational and cultural programs
eventual food and dining
meditation and yoga
relaxing and adventure including hiking, lake fun, kayaking
spa / massage services
Our partners embrace Buffalo Gap's amazing past and look forward to creating new memories for our future friends for many years to come.
A Brief History of Buffalo Gap (a work in progress)
1954: Buffalo Gap Camp was founded as a Jewish kids camp shortly after WW II -- after it’s founder -- Herman Rubenstein -- wanted a camp where kids of all faiths would be welcome. So in 1954, 2 friends, Herman Rubenstein and Jerry Smith, purchased 600 acres of land in Capon Bridge, WV (200 for the camp and 400 for the private Rubenstein farm) and began construction on a summer camp. Before long, that camp would include a lake, beach, lake house, dining hall, gymnasium, putt putt golf, horse stables and riding, outside tennis courts, outside basketball courts, a theater, a pavilion, diving boards at the lake and slides, and lodging/beds for up to 300 kids and staff in dormitory style cabins. The site was in a remote gap between 2 mountains in Capon Bridge, WV (Sandy Ridge and Slane's Knob) and just 2 hours from major metro areas of DC and Baltimore.
1955: Buffalo Gap Camp opened in 1955 when sufficient structures and features were completed. Herman, his wife, and later his son -- Jon Rubenstein, as well as Jerry -- continued to run the camp for 30 years, until around 1984.
1984: after 30 years of hard work and fun, the Rubenstein’s sell Buffalo Gap at auction and the era of kids camp is over.
1984 - 1993: Camp purchased by Larry Weiner and and a Folk Dance committee of 4.
1987: Paul's Hall (gymnasium, stage, wrap around porch overlooking the lake) burns down from a halogen lamp fire with 300 vinyl/foam mattresses temporarily stored on the stage for removal when somebody turned on 2000 degree halogen stage lights. Some say it was simply an electrical fire.
1991: The old office/dining hall/kitchen complex/manager's residence burns down from a dryer fire.
1993: The Rubenstein's require Buffalo Gap after the former owners dissolve and enter into foreclosure. The camp is re-sold to Jim Newburn who run it as an "Large Event Only" and private camp.
1999: Stompin 99 Festival held here, causing quite a stir in local community as the owner ran off with all of the actual cash, held in exchange for funny money credits used for all vendors and services to be reimbursed at Festivals end as well as all band payments... Still talked about to this day.
2001: Allgood Festival held here to massive crowds that backed up road and highways in and around Capon Bridge and Hampshire County for miles -- causing much grief in the community -- estimates at more than 10,000 attendees with no room to park.
2007: 200 acre camp purchased by land developer B.K. Haynes who created a sub-division “Lodges of Buffalo Gap” and parceled the land into approximately 80 acres on the far side of H. Rubenstein Rd. on the hills overlooking camp (Lodges of Buffalo Gap Phase II) and leaving approx. 120 acres to the 15 lots of the camp and common area.
2007 - 2016: Camp owned / controlled by B.K. Haynes -- who begins converting it to a sub-division, then camp in 2010, then back to a sub-division with a bunch of poor credit, little to money down owners with balloon mortgages held by B.K. -- all are foreclosed on and the sub-division fails by 2015.
2010: Camp re-opened as a public campground with cabins for rent, concerts and festivals, most notably, Spaghetti Fest was held here with 40 bands and 2000 attendees. By Fall, the camp was closed and went back to being a sub-division.
2016: After multiple foreclosures on prior sub-division owners, the bank foreclosed on Haynes.
2017: (May 25) A group of investors came along and purchased the camp with the concept of revitalization for a Retreat.
Reflections from former Camp owner Larry Weiner (1984 - 1993)
The first time "we" (a bunch of International Folk Dance friends from the DC area) used Buffalo gap was in 1969, and it was as a lessee during the shoulder season before and after the summer kids camp. Our first flyer that we sent out (way before the internet and email) can be found here along with some pictures inside of "Pauls Hall" (which burned down in 1987) and the old office/dining hall/kitchen complex/manager's residence (which burned down in 1991)
My understanding is that that Paul Shanholtz was the main person that built (with a lot of assistance of course) most of the buildings at Buffalo Gap. I believe Paul died in 1985 or 86 and is buried in the church graveyard on Sandy Ridge. I didn't know Paul very well.... but everything I knew about him was totally positive. Humble, competent, helpful... a very gentle human being. Paul's house was on Springfield Grade Rd. just downhill from the Mantz's house, and I believe his daughter Betty was married to Everett "Jake" Swisher. Jake, and his brother Grayson, also worked at the camp. Jake & Betty's 3 kids (Perry, Brian and Dwayne) were important workers, supporters and helpers at the camp.
At any rate, we (the 4 folk dance camp organizers) continued to lease the camp on Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day weekend from 1969-1984. As those years went by it seemed clear to us that our program was growing in size, but that the Herman's summer camping business was in decline, and the camp was beginning to shows signs of some neglect. Finally Herman decided to sell the camp at auction in 1984, and the folk dance committee of 4 decided to put in a bid.... and it was a successful bid.
We formed a small "corporation" (DBW inc - 4 people), which was the corporate general partner for a limited partnership "Buffalo Gap Camp for the Cultural Arts (BGCCA)" that ended up having 25 or so limited partners from various parts or the country. The first year we ran the operations at Buffalo Gap was in 1985. The fundamental idea behind BGCCA was to lease the facility for weekends or weeks to folks that wanted to have a place for traditional music and dance programs; as well as to groups for other cultural activities.
Unfortunately the camp experienced 2 really tragic fires (one in 1987 that destroyed Paul's hall & another in 1991 that destroyed the office/dining room/kitchen/camp manager's residence) and that put a really difficult emotional and financial burden on the General Partner and Camp Manager. I won't go into the details of what happened, but I left the General Partnership in around 1994-5 because of irreconcilable differences between myself and the others in DBW, Inc. That was the end of my formal relationship with the camp.
The camp continued on for another 3 or 4 years until it was again sold at auction and Jim Newburn (from Columbia MD) bought it. Jim ran the camp for a number of years until he sold it to B.K. Haines.
Margaret Loomis (my wife).... was the Camp Manager 1985-1991.