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History & Traditions


Our summers are built around many traditions that tie our new campers, our experienced campers, and our passionate staff and alumnae together. From the Pinecliffe songs and cheers to annual mountain climbs and boating regattas, to our final banquet celebration, Miss Esther and Miss Mildred would be proud to see so many activities still carried on today.

One of our oldest traditions, the all-camp campfire, is still held several times throughout the summer, each with specific meanings and traditions. We hold a weekly non-denominational service each Friday night, led by a different age group each week. Services provide campers and counselors with the opportunity to exhibit and honor the emotional meaning of camp. Each service reflects on a different theme such as friendship, sharing, and tradition, affecting our lives at Pinecliffe and at home.

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During their many summers, campers may become both Blue Ellies and Brown Teddies, so their allegiance is to the spirit of color war and not to any one team. At the end of the summer winning or losing isn’t nearly as important as the spirit of participating. The lasting impact of the spirit of color war is evidenced by our many alumnae who keep their brown bears and blue elephants in their college dorm rooms, and later pass them onto their children, serving as a reminder of the spirit of the Brown and Blue.

It’s these Pinecliffe traditions that have helped to bring many families back to camp, generation after generation. We’re proud to have second, third, fourth, and even fifth generation campers enjoying Pinecliffe, just as their mothers and grandmothers had in years past.

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In 1917, Esther and Mildred Hamburger, sisters from New York, founded Camp Pinecliffe on the site of an old fox farm in the small village of Harrison, Maine.

Read the Full History

Today, four generations of family leadership and more than a hundred years later, Camp Pinecliffe continues to thrive, carrying out Miss Esther and Miss Mildred’s vision for Pinecliffe.

Sue Lifter, Esther and Mildred’s grandniece, started her first summer as a Pinecliffe camper in 1940. At that time, Sue’s mother, Helen “Hammie” Rosenthal, was running Pinecliffe with her aunt, Miss Mildred.

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In 1959, Sue became a Director and joined her mother in running camp. Patty, Sue’s daughter, started as a camper in the late 1960s, a counselor in the 1970s, and by 1990 had joined Sue as a Director.

Each generation of family leadership has made its mark, helping to carry Camp Pinecliffe successfully into the 21st century, while maintaining the important values and traditions of the past century.