The local Girl Scout Little House had its grand opening 75 years ago on October 24, 1948, thanks in large part to the efforts of a local women’s group headed by Nell Aiken Newland. Although a previous Picturing the Past article has covered this particular Little House, readers may not be aware that the local landmark is part of a movement to build Little Houses across the United States that started in the 1920s. At one point in time, there were Girl Scout Little Houses dotting the map of the U.S. from coast to coast. The Little House in Franklin Park in Brevard is one example of these houses. Today, however, many of these houses are gone or are no longer serving the Girl Scout Program. How and when did this movement begin?
In 1923, a campaign arose in the U.S. to encourage ownership of well-built safe homes, spearheaded by the National Council of Better Homes in America. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Washington D.C. had a model home built in 1923 on government land in time for the Shriners Convention. Once the Convention was over, the house needed to be moved. Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the future U.S. president, served as the president of the Girl Scouts at that time. She arranged for the house to be donated to the Girl Scouts and financed moving the house to New York Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. for the use of the Girl Scouts.
The Little House quickly became a showcase for Girl Scouting and was visited by numerous dignitaries. The development of hospitality and domestic skills was emphasized at the D.C. Little House. A pamphlet published by the Girl Scouts in the 1930s summarized the house’s purpose: “The Girl Scout Little House is the half-way step between the playhouse of children and the home that every mother wants to be sure that her daughter can make for herself.” Later the first Little House was used for training programs and as an office space for the Girl Scouts. In 1973 a plaque was placed in the building which now occupies the space where the Little House stood to commemorate the Little House in Washington D.C.
Although many Girl Scout Little Houses in the United States are mere historical memories, some survive in a variety of forms. For instance, the Girl Scouts no longer own the WPA-built Little House in Hope, Arkansas, but the city of Hope now rents the building to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the general public. The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio have a Little House in Greenville, Ohio which can be rented by troops for overnight use. Additionally, the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland council owns several Little Houses which are used by troops for meetings and events. The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia are currently engaged in a capital campaign to preserve and renovate the last remaining Girl Scout Little House in Columbus, Georgia. The Girl Scout Little House in Brevard, N.C. is one of these remaining Little Houses and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year on Saturday, October 14 from 1-4 p.m. with an open house and activities. The Open House for the original construction was held on October 24, 1948 to coincide with when National Girl Scout Week was celebrated at that time.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.