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Red Dog Lodge was built in 1912 as a hunting lodge and has been a symbol of Soldiers Delight for me since I started meeting, playing, and hiking there when I was a kid in the 1950s. It always seemed like a place with secrets, a place where men once did things that weren’t done anymore, things that Tom Sawyer would know about because he had seen them in a book. It was built for Mr. Dolfield, who gave his name to the road I grew up on, and also for the namesake of Sherwood Hill Road where our three-letter friends the Lees and the Coes lived. I knew Mr. Hibline who used the lodge after World War II, but I never knew that he was a person who used it, or what it was used for. It never occurred to me that somebody owned it. So I didn’t know much at all, but it was always good to be at Red Dog Lodge.
I took my first photos there right after college. I don’t remember why, and I don’t remember taking them. The earliest ones are from the summer of 1973 after the state had purchased the land. That summer I had a conversation with Sally Dieke, a physicist friend of my father’s, about taking photographs at Soldiers Delight. I remember complaining that it was not very picturesque, and she said “Well you have to do details.” The second time I photographed Red Dog Lodge, later that summer, the other photos on those rolls of film are of details. There are flowers, ferns, fungi, lichens, and moss. I wouldn’t learn the names of those plants until a couple of years later when I started attending Elmer Worthley’s botany class.
The stone building never changed much, except to slowly deteriorate. Originally it had covered porches on the front and south sides, a dormer on the front, and a few out buildings, but I don’t remember those things. It was just a lone, empty, simple, enduring house on the edge of a weird landscape of rocky soil, sparse plants, and old mine shafts. There was one other historic building at Soldiers Delight, but I have no early memory of that log assay office from the 19th century mining operation.
The later photos of Red Dog Lodge in my collection of Plus-X film were apparently taken in the spring of 1975. I think the event was the dedication of the newly organized Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. The lodge had been nicely renovated, with a new roof and re-pointed chimney. And it was decked out with flags, bunting, and musicians for the official Maryland Department of Natural Resources ceremony. On the stage were James Poultney, Elmer Worthley, Florence Rogers, and Ed Hibline. Maybe they all gave speeches, I wouldn’t know. I assume my father was in the audience with me, and that my mother was not. She died on April 1, 1975, probably not long before the ceremony. That might help explain why I have no memory of this important event which I clearly attended. Maybe these photos will jog the memory of others who were present. Are there other photos or records from this day? Who are the other people on the stage?