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Panhandle Historic Preservation Alliance
Featured Member

Camp Helen State Park

 

Camp Helen State Park is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on three sides and by Lake Powell, one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida. Prehistoric middens and mounds indicate that humans inhabited the area more than 4,000 years ago.

Robert and Margaret Hicks purchased the 185 acres of the Camp Helen property in 1928. Mrs. Hicks called their home Loch Lomond. The lodge was started in 1931 and completed about a year later. Originally intending to make it their summer home, Mrs. Hicks made it her permanent home a year later when her husband died. The death of her husband accompanied by the Great Depression forced her to accommodate paying guests on her property. She employed a caretaker to manage the newly-built twelve Rainbow Cottages for guests. Mrs. Hicks sold the property to Avondale Textile Mills of Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1945, and it was renamed Camp Helen. The lodge became a public space, housing top-level Avondale management personnel and others. Avondale Mills operated Camp Helen as a recreation area for its employees from 1945 through 1987.

The Camp Helen story might have ended there were it not for persistent area residents who believed the property should become a state park. In 1996, their dream became a reality and today the Big House, as it is affectionately called now, welcomes visitors to Camp Helen State Park. Other historic buildings at Camp Helen State Park include the Rainbow Cottages, the Water Tower, and the Boathouse. The park is for day use only. Activities include swimming, beachcombing, nature study, hiking, and both freshwater and saltwater fishing.


Park:
23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, 850-233-5059
The park is open from 8:00 a.m. to sunset, 365 days a year.

Website: www.floridastateparks.org/park/Camp-Helen