History ofBruin Woods
Originally built in 1922, the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center passed through several hands over the years until 1957 when it was given to the University of California under the condition it would always be used to serve a learning purpose. The 42 acres of oak and pine forest surrounding a beautiful Normandy-style lodge, cozy cabins, tennis courts, and a swimming pool have been a wonderful gift, indeed. Read on to learn more about this magical place.
Way Back When...
This popular Southern California destination was once traversed by Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, American capitalists, grizzly bear hunters, cattle rustlers, gold miners and mountain loggers.
1891 — Three Ohio businessmen—including James Proctor of the Proctor & Gamble Soap Company—chose Little Bear Valley as a spot for a reservoir venture and formed the Arrowhead Reservoir Company. Construction of the dam began in 1893.
1920s — With the completion of the dam, the Arrowhead Lake Company bought Little Bear Valley and began making improvements. Lake Arrowhead fast became an attraction for Hollywood’s rich and famous. What is now our Main Lodge served as the North Shore Tavern. With no roads leading to the site, The Tavern offered private relaxation and outdoor activities for those who braved the boat trip across the lake from the Lake Arrowhead Village.
Over the years, other attractions popped up around Lake Arrowhead. A Normandy-style village was developed that included a dance pavilion, outdoor movie theater, restaurant, beach, and bathhouse. A 9-hole golf course and three hotels were also built. Lakeside land was sold for private homes and secluded estates.
1946 — The Los Angeles Turf Club—a group of businessmen who owned the Santa Anita Race Track—purchased the lake and surrounding properties.
1957 — The Los Angeles Turf Club decided to sell the lake and donate portions of their property holdings. The North Shore Tavern was offered to the University of California Regents, which gladly accepted the donation.
1960s – Under the stewardship of the University of California, the property operated as a conference center, which remained popular with loyal visitors who kept coming back to enjoy its old-world charm, peacefulness and magnificent natural beauty even as it fell into disrepair due to lack of funds and proper management.
Late-1970s – The University of California, Los Angeles took an interest in the historic property, with Alan Charles, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs, leading the charge to conduct a feasibility study with an Alumni Association summer camp in mind.
1982 – Leadership of the property was transferred to UCLA! Supported by Chancellor Charles E. Young, Sam Morabito of UCLA Business Enterprises, and former Executive Director of the ASUCLA Donald E. Findley, a plan to build a successful, self-supporting summer camp was finally in the works.
1983-1984 – Makeover time! There was much to accomplish to get Bruin Woods ready for its first group of families. The Main Lodge was expanded to include a dining room and gathering spaces. The rustic guest cottages were remodeled to maintain their charm while adding modern conveniences (like bathrooms!), and our unique Condolets were born. The sprawling Cedar Lodge also underwent a renovation to serve as housing for the student counselors.
In the great outdoors, tennis courts and grounds had to be spruced up and the utility capacities enhanced. A new maintenance building was constructed, and the pool house transformed into an arts & crafts building. The amphitheater, snack bar, children’s park, and softball field we all love today were still in the planning phases.
1985 – Bruin Woods welcomed its first vacationers in the summer of 1985. As finishing touches were still in progress, these Pioneer families had to pardon our dust while having a blast. As a thank you for their patience, Pioneer families were offered the opportunity to make early reservations for the following year — a tradition that continues to this day!
The spirit of tradition and innovation continues...
As the years have passed, demand to attend Bruin Woods has only increased. As a result, attendance is limited to UCLA grads and their families, we’ve instituted a lottery reservation system, and more guest units have been added.
Many more improvements have been made to the Lake Arrowhead Conference Center property: More vans and boats have been added to our fleet. An archery range and ropes course were installed for summer daredevils. The popular Bear & Grill was added, and the pool was enlarged and the spa room constructed.
In addition to these physical improvements, we always strive to keep our programmed activities fresh and exciting to appeal to the large number of families that return year after year. By partnering with the Boy Scouts of America camp, we expanded hiking opportunities to deep pools and added horseback riding and riflery to our roster of activities.
Continual programmatic and property improvements – along with the tremendous dedication of the staff – have continued throughout the history of Bruin Woods, helping it to thrive for more than three decades. Tradition and innovation have established Bruin Woods as the premier alumni family camp in the nation, making it a magical place to all who experience it, and who look forward to coming back year after year!