Western New York Heritage

Cradle Beach: The Buffalo Fresh Air Mission's Summer Camp

1900 Buffalo Express photo of Cradle Beach fundraising using a "street piano".

Founded between 1888-1890 by the Universalist Church, the Fresh Air Mission soon was governed by a nondenominational board of wealthy Buffalo citizens. In 1891, 400 children spent a week in Angola at Cradle Beach Camp. Of all the charities supported by Buffalo's citizens, Cradle Beach had the most popular appeal. Donation campaigns annually urged people to "save the babies" by large donations or by pennies dropped into 'cradle banks' placed in local stores.

1901 altered photo of children arriving at Cradle Beach Camp. The four health, energetic, well-dressed children at the bottom of the photo were painted into the photo before it was published in Buffalo Express.

The Charity Organization Society, the city's private charity coalition, selected poor city children to attend. Many were Italian, all "needy and deserving." The Fresh Air Mission hoped that the children's experience in the countryside would give them "a taste for better things that may very possibly raise their ideals for life, and make them into useful citizens." (Quotes from the Report of the Fresh Air Mission, 1893-94.)

Cradle Beach Camp, located on 66 acres along the shore in Angola, continues. In 2006, the camp serves around 850 disadvantaged and disabled children. It retains its popular appeal for donors.