• Director Dispatches

Country homes at proletarian prices

Just 45 miles north of New York City, in Putnam Valley, NY, is a summer colony that lives by its own rules.

The Three Arrows Cooperative Society looks like a big summer camp—75 cabins, 125 idyllic wooded acres, a private lake, tennis courts, hiking trails and a couple of community buildings—but it’s owned and run in true cooperative fashion.

Founded in 1936 by a group of socialists, including members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, the Jewish Labor Bund, and the ILGWU, Three Arrows has a definite point of view: It aims to embrace individualism by promoting interconnectedness. Its motto is, “A country home in a cooperative colony at a proletarian price.”

A country club this is not.

Other than a year-round caretaker, Three Arrows has no staff. Members are required to work on the committees that run the place, and newbies are expected to dive right in.

If you know how to work with your hands, you can work on the facilities. If you practice yoga, you can teach a class. If you’re a political junkie, you can lead a discussion. The camp has weekly lectures (called “schmoozes”), art and writing workshops, and whatever other interesting activities members can bring to the table.

Generations of kids have grown up together, and families come back year after year—including descendants of the original founders.

The land is held in common by the society while the bungalows are owned individually, and a few are available for rent. Cabins come up for sale every once in a while, but the society encourages people to try a summer rental first, to gain a sense of community life (and obligations) before taking the plunge.

Credit: All photos are from the Three Arrows Cooperative Website.

There are 75 cabins. Some are winterized.

The 50-acre Barger Pond is located on the property.

Sections of the pond are enclosed for children, while the rest is available for boating, kayaking, and swimming.

From the beginning, the camp has held regular concerts, dances, and lectures. Check out this week's activities in the society's newsletter, Voice of the Hill.

Community picnics and barbecues are fairly regular events.

Workshops and classes are led by residents throughout the summer, including yoga, hiking and dancing.

This is part of our summer series, "Let's Co-Vacation: Together we can own the summer again," where we highlight collectively-owned vacation destinations. We recently profiled Unity House, a summer retreat in the Poconos owned by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Three Arrows Cooperative Society is just one of the hundreds of New Mutualist organizations you'll find on our Quiet Revolutionary map! Are there any New Mutualist organizations in your area that belond on our map? Be sure to submit your idea!

Sara Horowitz As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.