It all started when...
Buck's Rock was founded by Dr. Ernst Bulova and his wife Ilse, Austrian educators, and refugees from Nazi Germany, who had studied under Maria Montessori.
The Bulovas originally intended for Buck's Rock to be a safe haven for British children escaping from World War II. But the children never made the trip because of German U-boats in the Atlantic. Instead Buck's Rock, became Buck's Rock Work Camp, a summer camp where American children ages 12 to 18 learned farming, building, and creative arts like writing, music, dramatics, weaving, and glass-blowing.
Ernst and Ilse Bulova were Austrian educators living in Germany in the early 20th century. Dr. Bulova ran an educational radio program in Berlin, but following the Nazis' rise to power he and his wife were forced to flee to England, where Dr. Bulova became co-director of the Beltane School in Wimbledon. With the help of relatives who owned the Bulova Watch Company, Dr. and Mrs. Bulova emigrated to the United States in 1940 to find a refuge for British children during World War II.
The site chosen was hilly farmland in the Merryall region of New Milford, Connecticut, but since crossing the Atlantic had become too treacherous, the plan was abandoned and Ernst and Ilse convinced their relatives to sell the land to them. Thus began Buck’s Rock Work Camp, where the Bulovas put into practice some of their Montessori-based principles on how children learn and grow.
The earliest campers came from two of Manhattan’s progressive schools, The Dalton School and The Walden School. In addition to learning about New Milford’s small-town governance, the children worked on neighboring farms to alleviate the wartime manpower shortage. Once the war ended, the camp really took off and a unique program of creative and artistic endeavors evolved.
In the 1970s the Bulovas sold the camp to 3 couples Lou Simon, Jo Jochnowitz and Irwin Berger. Lou Simon and his wife Sybil ran the camp together for many years.
Lou and Sybil Simon began working at Buck’s Rock in 1957 with Lou in the Publications Shop teaching journalism and creative writing and Sybil as a guidance counselor. In the early 1970’s, Ernst Bulova approached Lou about purchasing the camp, as he had been mentoring Lou for several years as a potential director. In 1974, Lou and Sybil purchased Buck’s Rock together with two friends who had also been at camp for some time and who the Simons had known for a while from their college and camp days. The Simons ran the day to day operations of Buck’s Rock as Directors from 1974 to 1988; in the off-season from their apartment in New York City and in the summer, of course, in New Milford. At its peak under the Simons, Buck’s Rock had enrolled over 350 campers and CITs with nearly 150 counselors, many of whom had Master’s Degrees in some form of the arts. Sadly, the Simons’ stopped their involvement with Buck’s Rock at the end of the 1989 summer season, a year after Sybil passed away from a long battle with cancer.
In 2001, coinciding with a memorial ceremony following Dr. Bulova's death, a group of alumni spanning the camp's 50-year history founded a non-profit organization called Friends of Buck's Rock (FOBR), to promote the educational ideals and philosophy of the camp's founders. In addition to sponsoring alumni events, FOBR has served as a fund-raising organization, partnering with Buck's Rock's directors to make it possible for financially disadvantaged teenagers to attend camp on full scholarships.
In 2015, the camp was purchased by Noah Salzman, a former camper and lifelong educator, and his wife Smadar, a psychotherapist. Noah attended Buck's Rock in the 1980s on partial scholarship and has devoted his energy and resources toward increasing socio-economic diversity among campers through a strengthened financial aid program.
The Salzmans' commitment to Ernst and Ilse's original philosophy and values has led to a revitalization of the farming and gardening programs, as well as a renewed commitment to empowering young campers to discover not only who they are as artists, but more importantly, who they are as human beings.
In 2017 Buck's Rock Camp celebrated its 75th anniversary. On July 31st, 2017, the Salzmans hosted more than 600 campers, families, and staff at Buck's Rock for a celebration honoring Buck's Rock's history, legacy, and future.