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Camp John Hay

From a rest and recreation base for the American Soldiers stationed in the Philippine Islands after the Spanish-American War, to an interment facility for Japanese nationals just prior to World War II, to a Japanese concentration camp and army post during the occupation, to a bombed-out ruins after World War II and back to a beautiful and scenic mountain resort for American military personnel, Camp John Hay’s history had undergone a colorful and sometimes traumatic path for eighty years.

In June 1903, the Philippine Commission passed a resolution making Baguio the Summer Capital of the Philippines and later that year, President Theodore Roosevelt reserved an area of 535 acres for military use in the area of what was to become Baguio City. This area was named Camp John Hay in honor of the Secretary of State, John Milton Hay, during the administration of President McKinley and Roosevelt.

The camp was used as a resort and a vacation center for the troops in the lowlands to renew their health from the rigors of the tropical climate. It later grew to its maximum size of 1,764 acres. Through the years, portions of the land were returned to the Philippine Government and the land now covers 1,250 acres or 695 hectares.

In the fall of 1906, the first permanent buildings were erected on Camp John Hay. They consisted of five sets of officers’ quarters and one barracks. The camp opened to visitors in November 1906. Through the next years, buildings at the camp was scarce because of lack of funds. Ties with City of Baguio were very close, and when the city was chartered, the Camp Commander, Capt. M.R. Hilgard was a member of Baguio’s Municipal Council.

Through the years, the land that Camp John Hay occupied was tied up in litigation. Finally, after eight years in a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Camp John Hay was officially transferred to the American military on October 7, 1910 for the price of 150,000 pesos.

In 1911, Major General J. Franklin Bell became Commanding General of the Philippine Department. It was during his tenure that most of the pre-war buildings of the camp was accomplished including a dormitory (now the Main Club), paved roads, post exchange, hospital (now the Igorot Lodge), warehouse, headquarters and a hydro-electric plant located along Camp 6, Kennon Road. General Bell personally designed website and supervised the construction of an open air amphitheater. This beautiful garden named after him is one of the major tourist attractions in Baguio City today. It was also about this time that an eighteen hole golf course with sand greens was constructed jointly between the Baguio Country Club and Club John Hay.

Camp John Hay and Baguio City continued to grow and prosper together into the 1920’s. By that time, Camp John Hay had reached almost the full extent of its pre-war growth. There were three companies of Philippine Scouts stationed at Camp John Hay which led to the construction of Scout Barrio, a residential area for their families. In 1940, the latest major building on Camp John Hay was completed, the summer residence of the U.S. High Commissioner, now the official Baguio residence of the American Ambassador.



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    December 12, 2013
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