In the early 1900’s Arthur Andrews, a grain merchant from Minneapolis bought some forest land in northern Wisconsin for a family retreat. It was named “Hunt Hill,” after his wife’s family name. As time went on, the farm just east of Hunt Hill came up for sale – Mr. Andrews bought it and then asked the farmer and his family to stay on as the first caretakers of Hunt Hill. Today the property includes nearly 500 acres, ten miles of hiking trails, restored native prairie plants, two footbridges, a residential camp capable of handling approximately 80 campers at a time, and the two original Andrews family cabins.
The Andrews family members were strong supporters of the fledgling environmental movement, and daughter Frances developed a deep affection for wilderness, but especially for Hunt Hill. They worked with Aldo Leopold, Ernest Oberholtzer (“Father of the Boundary Waters”), Roger Tory Peterson, Owen Gromme, Ernie Swift, and many other conservationists. They helped establish the Wilderness Society. Besides Hunt Hill, they also owned land in the Boundary Waters on Rainy Lake, and on Isle Royal, which later was converted to part of that national park.
Frances became the sole heir to the Andrews estate and decided late in life to donate Hunt Hill to the National Audubon Society as a nature education center in northern Wisconsin. (To read her letter of intent, click here.) Frances lived to see her dream fulfilled, as the National Audubon Society successfully built and opened the “Audubon Camp of Wisconsin” in 1955. She died in 1961.
In 1986, after thirty-one inspirational years, the Audubon Camp was closed for financial reasons, with 200 adult campers a year experiencing programs at Hunt Hill. Rumors of selling the camp to developers motivated a small group of local Twin Cities and northern Wisconsin supporters to save the camp. In 1989, after incorporating as a non-profit corporation, the Friends of Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary (FOHHAS) secured a no-cost lease to reopen the camp under local direction. A broader environmental focus shifted to families, day camps for youth, and current environmental issues. Program attendance grew and now exceeds 4,000 people annually.
After 20 additional years of operations, the Friends of Hunt Hill signed a third ten-year lease in 2010. In the past, officials of the National Audubon Society showed an interest in furthering discussions to turn over ownership of Hunt Hill to FOHHAS. The Board, staff, and members of FOHHAS are dedicated to keeping Frances’ dream alive.