The first Camp Wingmann was a week-long retreat for high school age Episcopalians held in 1928 at Moccasin Island, a few miles west of Davie, Florida in the Everglades. The place was primitive with little shade. There was a pool filled with black water and lots of mosquitoes. There was singing and chapel time, Christian Education, and lots of fun and games and in spite of the primitive setting, bugs and heat, everyone had a great time!
The camp was named after two bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida: Cameron Mann, who was bishop from 1914 to 1932 and John Wing, who was assistant bishop (coadjutor) from 1925 to 1932, and then became diocesan bishop in 1932 until 1950.
The next two or three years, Camp Wingmann was held at Crystal River on the Gulf Coast. Enthusiasm was high among the young people who attended, and more came each summer. In 1932, the camp was held at a hotel in Avon Park, and then for the next four summers, they rented Lake Byrd Lodge on the outskirts of Avon Park. The lodge was a rustic, three-story log structure reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. During the years the camp was at Lake Byrd Lodge, two other sessions were added: Camp Perry for young boys and Camp St. Mary for young girls. The high school camp continued to be called Camp Wingmann.
In 1937, Lake Byrd Lodge was not available for the Christian summer camp, so it was moved to the Florida Military Institute in Haines City for one year. In the meantime, The Diocese of South Florida at the request of Bishop Wing, was looking for a permanent location. The search was fulfilled when John Sears Francis, senior warden of the Church of the Redeemer in Avon Park, and his wife gave the diocese some property outside the little town on Trout Lake.
Now the diocese began a fundraising campaign to provide money for building a permanent facility. However, times were hard. Florida was still in the grips of the Depression and giving was slow. Lacking a suitable location, there was no summer camp in 1938. Finally, by the spring of 1939, the large sum of $16,000 had been raised. Construction commenced, and soon, rustic buildings with yellow pine framework and cypress board and batten exteriors were erected. The new camp now had a mess hall with kitchen, five cabins, a caretaker cottage
and a pump house. With great joy youngsters flooded to the camp that summer, which was now called Camp Wingmann. In 1939, the camp settled into its permanent new home.
As the population of Florida grew in the coming years, so did the attendance at Camp Wingmann and the number of camp sessions. By 1960, there were seven sessions, each named after a saint: Camp St. Mark was for 11th and 12th graders,
Camp St. Barnabas was for students entering 9th and 10th grades, Camp St. Ann for 7th and 8th grade girls, Camp St. Paul had 7th and 8th grade boys, Camp St. Mary campers were 4th through 6th grade girls, and Camp. St. Andrew had 4th through 6th grade boys as campers. There were also boys and girls who were not Episcopalians. It was called St. Francis and every young person who came was scholoarshipped by a local Episcopal Church. Camps at that time ran either 8 to 12 days in length and cost $26 and $39, respectively.
During the 1950s, a chapel called All Angels' Chapel was built as a memorial to the service men and women from South Florida who had given their lives in World War II and Korea, and a house for the director was constructed. After another fundraising drive, four new buildings were added in 1960. A gym called the "Rec Hall," another cabin, and a new house for the camp director (since the previous director's house was now a small monastery for Franciscan Friars) were all built. In addition, a large conference center with a small kitchen, chapel, and rooms for 60 adults was built. The conference center has unique architecture and was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was named for the bishop of the diocese at that time, Henry Louttit.
In September that year, Hurricane Donna ripped through Florida, passing right over the camp. The old buildings weathered the storm, but the new ones were not so lucky. The new director's house lost half its roof and the side walls and windows of the rec hall were blown out. Luckily, the steel frame and roof remained intact and the damaged buildings were quickly repaired. In spite of the hurricane, the decade of the '60s was probably the heyday of Camp Wingmann. All sessions were at capacity and many kids had lots of fun and learned to love the Lord Jesus!
However, as time moved along, attendance began to
shrink. In the 1970s, church camps were not as popular. By the late '70s, Camp Wingmann and the Louttit Conference Center were losing money. The old Episcopal Diocese of South Florida had split into three dioceses and now Camp Wingmann was located on the south end of the new Diocese of Central Florida. 1978 was a particularly bad year financially and the diocese had to pay the large deficit. A diocesan convention in the spring of 1979 decided to sell the property and use the proceeds to build a new conference center and youth camp near the center of the diocese (Orlando). So the old property was sold to the Missionary Alliance Church denomination. After a few years, it was sold to David Wilkerson's organization called Teen Challenge and then was again quickly sold to Tri County Rehabilitation Services who used the old camp as a drug rehab facility serving teens and adults. They called the place Trout Lake Camp.
After a decade as a rehab center, the camp was once again put on the market. In the meantime, the Diocese of Central Florida had built a beautiful conference center on the east side of Orlando, near the small town of Oviedo, called Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center. It was a fine setting for adult groups having motel type rooms and conference facilities, but it was not designed for kids.
The diocese had virtually no summer camp program for twenty years.In 1998, Camp Wingmann was repurchased under the leadership of three alumni from the '60s who had a God-given vision to return the camp to what it was originally — a place for kids and Christ to come together.
It is now a year-round youth retreat center, the hub of youth activities for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida and a first-rate Christian summer camp.