Summer Camps

Summer Camps

Since its beginnings in 1921, the Harris County Public Library has partnered with countless organizations to bring books to as many Harris County residents as possible.  From the 1930s to the 1940s, HCPL placed book collections in the five summer camps detailed below, providing library access to children enjoying their summer vacations deep in the woods.


Humble Oil founder Ross Sterling is a name familiar to those who have read previous branch histories. Sterling was an important early supporter of the county library and financed the building of the Goose Creek Library in 1925. Sterling created Camp Ross Sterling as a memorial to his son, Ross Sterling, Jr., who died in 1924 at the age of 16. Sterling donated land and a building to the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) so they could start a camp for boys.  This was the first summer camp the YMCA fully owned and operated in Houston.

The first reference to Camp Sterling in the library’s records is from 1924, the year the camp opened.  The County Librarian noted in the 1924 annual report, “From this collection we were asked to send books to Ross Sterling Camp for Boys. We were waiting for an assistant from the Young Men’s Christian Association to go over the collection of nonfiction with us before books are sent to the Boys’ Camp. Many of these books are quite useful, and will be an addition to the library. It will take time to classify and place them in circulation as this is extra work for the staff.” 

A collection was not placed at the camp until 1930. That summer, Camp Sterling was given a small collection of books as “an experiment,” and 404 books were read during the camp's opening months.  The Library was happy with the camp's circulation statistics and pledged to give them another collection the following year.

Camp Sterling, 1939

Through the 1930s, circulation at the camp hovered between 300 and 400 books per summer. Each year, Camp Sterling was listed in local newspapers as a temporary HCPL library station. A newspaper article from 1935 noted that “books on boating, nature lore, stunts, as well as fiction, biography and travel, will be included in the camp stations, a regular part of camp equipment."

By the 1940s, circulation had declined slightly to around 200 books checked out each summer.  The last year HCPL reported placing a collection at Camp Sterling was 1943.  The camp remained open for several more years. 

The Houston Public Library's Digital Archives contains a 1927 photograph of a calisthenics class at Camp Ross Sterling. The photograph is from the MSS 1248 Litterst-Dixon Photographs collection owned by the Houston History Research Center.


For almost 50 years, a Boy Scout Camp existed between modern-day Memorial Drive and Buffalo Bayou.  Founded in 1925, Camp Hudson was a popular summer retreat for young boys who wanted to escape the city.  In 1930, Camp Hudson and Camp Sterling were given small book collections. Campers at Camp Hudson checked out 63 books during that summer.  The reports from the Librarian viewed the service as a success, and Camp Hudson was scheduled to be given a collection the following year.  However, in a report of library activity as of June 30, 1931, Camp Hudson was listed as “closed temporarily.” It appears that whatever caused the closure that summer meant that the library had to reach out and offer the collection to the next camp on this list – Camp Allen.


Camp Allen was founded in 1921 by Rosa Lum Allen and Right Reverend Clinton S. Quin.  For the first few years, campers slept in Allen's home and played outside on her vast property.  As the camp grew in popularity, Allen eventually donated 14 acres of land near Trinity Bay to become the new Camp Allen.

Girls reading at Camp Allen, 1933

HCPL offered a collection of books to Camp Allen for the 1931 summer season.  The 1931 annual report states that the books were for “the girls attending Camp Allen,” although later references do not explicitly state the camp was only for girls.  The camp was only open during July, and campers borrowed 73 books

The camp was given a collection of books the following summer, which had a similar circulation of 76 books.  HCPL was happy to continue partnering with the summer camps, as the collections were small, there were plenty of adults to supervise children and manage the books, and the camps were only open for 1 to 2 months each year.  The 1934 annual report stated that the "books were well received by both campers and directors.”

Circulation at Camp Allen was never as high as at Camp Sterling - in 1944, 203 books were checked out, the highest ever recorded.  However, Camp Allen was situated near Camp Sterling, which was also on Trinity Bay, and the library found value in providing access to communities even if overall circulation was not high.   As stated in the 1933 annual report: "These collections of books have become a necessary part of camp equipment.”

The last year with recorded statistics from Camp Allen was 1946, with 119 books checked out. It's possible the camp was placed on the bookmobile at this point, but there are no further mentions of the camp in HCPL records.

Camp Allen at Trinity Bay closed in 1968 and was moved to Navasota, Texas. Camp Allen is still open as of 2024. 


Camp Harris Masterson was a Boy Scout camp that hosted boys from College Station, Goose Creek, Crosby, and Houston.  HCPL left a small collection of books for campers at Camp Masterson in 1937.  The library recorded 58 checkouts that summer.  Service was not continued past that year.


Not much is known about the last camp listed in HCPL records.  In 1946, the library left a small collection of books at Camp Reposa.  The camp noted 5 checkouts for the year. 


From the HCPL Digital Archive

1924 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Harris County Public Library Quarterly Summary, October 1, 1930

1930 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Harris County Public Library Quarterly Summary, October 1, 1931

1931 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1932 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library 

1933 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library 

1934 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Rural schools' closing means moving time for County Public Library, from Harris County Public Library scrapbook, 1934-1937

1937 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1944 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1946 Statistical Data Form, Harris County Public Library



Further Reading on Camp Allen

History - Camp Allen,, (Accessed May 28, 2024).


Further Reading on Camp Harris Masterson

Bailey, George M. Houston Post-Dispatch (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 40, No. 143, Ed. 1 Monday, August 25, 1924, newspaper, August 25, 1924; Houston, Texas. ( accessed May 14, 2024), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,


Further Reading on Camp Hudson

Loftis, Nancy. A camping we went. Villages Magazine, July 1991. Archived at: (Accessed May 14, 2024).


Further Reading on Camp Ross Sterling

"Ross Sterling Mansion.” Sloan Gallery. 21 Dec. 2019 []. _Internet Archive_. [] (Accessed May 27, 2024).