Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp earned recognition on the Historical Register as a quaint Victorian community. Does that image bring to mind visions of gingerbread trim and historic colors, like you might see in nearby Lake Helen or Deland? You might be surprised that the Camp got its recognition because it runs contrary to that image.
Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp’s founders primarily came from the Lily Dale Assembly in Cassadaga, New York. They were a group from Spiritualists who enjoyed coming to Lily Dale during the hot summer months to congregate and to enjoy the cool mountain air. Coming together for the short time was called “camping”, and many people did exactly that. They leased small parcels of land and returned there to the same lot each year. More affluent people had large primary homes in other cities, and built smaller homes in Lily Dale, which were typical of the Victorian era in Lily Dale. Those who came for a shorter stay might have stayed at one of that Camp’s hotels. Over the years, those who had camping sites built structures on them.
Seeking Warmer Weather
By early 1894, the Spiritualists liked the idea of getting away to the mountains in the summer so much that they began investigating the idea of having a winter Camp. George Colby, a trance medium originally from Pike, New York, frequented Lily Dale and other camps. Colby mentioned that he had extra land in Florida, and urged a group to come to see it. When they did, they found rolling hills and spring fed lakes, just as Lily Dale had. This—Florida’s temperate winter climate—made it ideal for their needs.
The Gammon Cottage
One of the best preserved upright-and-wing style homes was built for Mary Gammons, a winter resident from Onset, Massachusetts in 1902. Despite a few modifications, it still maintains its traditional form. The wood shingles are arranged in a “square-cut and fish-scale” design to protect the exterior walls.
As for the architecture of the Cassadaga Camp’s buildings, I have a theory. The affluent members among our founders already had large primary homes in other cities… and second homes in the Victorian style in Lily Dale. When it came to building a third home only for the winter months, I suspect they decided not to add the embellishments of the era. Thus, although the homes were built in the Victorian era, it shows almost no sign of that style.
As for the colors of the buildings, the Volusia County Historical Society feels that paint is not as important as the structure of the buildings. Leaseholders can change the color of a house at their will.
Other buildings came along later and took on different styles. Colby Temple, the Cassadaga Hotel (no longer part of the camp), and the Snipes house were built in the 1920s, long after the Victorian era had drifted off as a memory.
Lilian Casselberry is a member and resident of the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp.