The village of Craigville celebrates its 150th anniversary

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CENTERVILLE — In the summer of 1872, 61 ministers of Christian churches and clergy from several denominations attended the first 10-day camp of the Convention of Christian Churches of New England on the shores of Nantucket Sound in Centerville. They were housed in tent platforms.

This primitive summer camp has evolved into the permanent village of Craigville, featuring 115 cabins, a hotel, a historic tabernacle, and a year-round retreat and conference center for a range of religious and educational groups.

Craigville Village will celebrate its 150th anniversary in style with many special events this summer focused on its history and strong sense of community.

Craigville was “pretty radical” from the start with a woman as its first preacher, abolitionist participants and is still “radically ecumenical,” Christian Camp Meeting Association president Bill McKinney said this week.

The Conference and Retreat Center was incorporated in February 1970 under the auspices of the Congregational Churches of Massachusetts. In addition to housing 8,000 overnight guests during the summer, the center hosts year-round retreats for several Roman Catholic high schools as well as people of the Jewish and Buddhist faiths, McKinney said. Catholic masses also take place in the tabernacle which contains several hundred.

“There’s a lot more awareness of religious diversity,” McKinney said, “and there are all kinds of families. There are no religious restrictions.

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How was the Craigville logo created?

The circular logo chosen for the anniversary with the iconic tabernacle in the center, surrounded by the words Faith, Family, Friends and Future, “is a pretty good summary of Craigville,” McKinney said.

The Craigville 150th Anniversary logo honors prominent Craigville resident Dave Gavitt, who died in 2011. Gavitt was a Providence College basketball coach and senior executive vice president for the Boston Celtics.

The first three words in the logo came from a prominent former Craigville resident, Dave Gavitt, basketball coach at Providence College, founder of the Big East Conference, chairman of the Division I men’s basketball committee of the NCAA and USA Basketball President and Executive Vice President. -president of the Boston Celtics.

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Gavitt used the first three terms in a lay-led service of reflections by Craigville residents at the Tabernacle one summer. The 20-member volunteer anniversary committee has added “future” to complete the logo which will be featured on large banners designed by Craigville resident Sean Lahey, hung around the village and printed on small yard signs.

Gavitt died in 2011, but his widow, Julie, still has a summer residence in the village bought by her parents almost 60 years ago. In a phone interview, she said her late husband’s words were “truly a credo for Dave during his lifetime and are a guiding light for all of us”.

Dave Gavitt, former basketball coach and athletic director of Providence College, was the keynote speaker at the college's 89th opening in May 2007. Gavitt, who died in 2011, was a prominent Craigville resident.

Julie Gavitt said the tabernacle is not just a religious building but “a place of community”. She highlighted the “joy and commitment” of all the volunteers running the village, except for the retreat center, which is run by a management agency.

Craigville brings generations back

The anniversary celebration honors the beginnings of camp reunion and traces its evolution with a history lecture, archives housed in Barnstable’s Sturgis Library, and special exhibits sponsored by the Centerville Historical Museum and the Museum and Sandwich Heritage Gardens.

A new Craigville website, at craigville.org, launched in April, features more history, a timeline, and a collection of hundreds of historical photographs and vignettes of some of the village’s founders and leaders.

The cabin owners, with many three-generation families, will also play a part in the celebration by hosting several social events.

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Terry Franklin, President of the Craigville Cottage Owners Association and Chair of the Anniversary Committee, described what Craigville means to her and many others who have lived here for generations. She’s one of the newest owners and is from the DC area, but spent her summers a mile from Craigville and took tennis lessons there as a teenager. His children and grandchildren come every summer.

In a 2007 photo, Jacqueline Loring, then executive director of the Cape Cod Writers Center, stands in front of the historic Craigville Tabernacle.  The center once held annual writing conferences on the grounds of what is now known as the Craigville Retreat Center.

“It’s really idyllic for families,” she says. “They don’t have to leave once they’re here. It’s the kind of place that keeps you coming back. There aren’t many places you can go and in your 360 degree views you see a river, a freshwater lake and the ocean, with two more open green spaces.”

Specifically, it would be the Centerville River, Elizabeth Lake, Craigville Beach, the green in the center of the village, and the field at the top of the cliff.

“And all of this is shared with the thousands of guests who visit the retreat center every year. It is not uncommon to come across someone, who has been here for a retreat as a brought his family back after many years,” Franklin said. .

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Franklin spoke of a summer resident, Alan Shoemaker, now 80, who remembers boating on Lake Elizabeth in the 1940s. His cottage is filled with returning adult children and their children each summer.

“I would say what makes Craigville special is how you feel when you’re here,” Franklin said. “The landscape of our neighborhood is dotted with homes dating back to the late 1800s. The architecture of the Tabernacle, Post Office, Craigville Inn and Manor takes you back in time. It has an overwhelming sense of place that you can really feel and offers a special quality of life.

In Craigville Beach in June 2021, the air temperature was 90 degrees with 63% humidity, and space was limited.

The association looks after the interests of cabin owners and helps maintain village roads, parks and other improvements, cost-sharing with the Camp Meeting Association, Franklin said.

Craigville Summer Social Events

Each summer the owners host several social events including an icebreaker, 4th of July parade, Illumination Night, Halloween in July and have recently added a few food truck nights on the cliff.

This summer, cabin owners will also be participating in several anniversary events, hosting at tabernacle events and “Craigville: The Musical.”

Many community members are expected to participate in the Great Craigville Listen, where community members can be interviewed about their own history in Craigville and future hopes for the community. This undertaking on specific dates in July will be led by the Craigville Youth Committee. The recordings will become part of the Craigville Archives.

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Other highlights of the summer celebration include a series of historical lectures, a musical series celebrating the 141st anniversary of the Tabernacle’s Hook and Hastings organ, and a string and jazz concert.

In a photo from 2019, one of the Christian Camp Meeting Association cottages in Craigville is decorated for a 100th anniversary.

The “Big Sunday” tradition on July 29, an ecumenical worship, will feature the Reverend John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, successor to the founders of Craigville, followed by a community picnic to 400 people. .

A visit to five village houses will be organized by the Red Lily Pond Project, a local environmental group, which will also launch a procession of lighted kayaks on the pond in August.

More information on anniversary events can be found on the website, www.craigville.org.


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