Village History

The founding of Camphill Village in 1961 was part of a transformative movement in the United States to reform how society treats people with special needs. Worldwide, this was known as the Camphill Movement. We are the first and largest Camphill community in the United States, and we are one of more than 100 Camphill communities, including villages and schools, that exist around the globe.

The movement was started by Karl König, an Austrian pediatrician and educator who fled to Aberdeen, Scotland to escape Nazi annexation. König had been a student of anthroposophy, often referred to as the “path to self-knowledge,” coined by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who began the first of the well-known Waldorf schools.

Inspired by Anthropsophy, König and his colleagues in Scotland began the first Camphill community in Aberdeen for children with developmental disabilities in 1940. A colleague of his, Carlo Pietzner, traveled to Copake and established Camphill Village USA in 1961.

Instead of isolation and institutionalization, exclusion and separation, Camphill Village celebrates and honors the uniqueness, dignity and spiritual integrity of each individual, regardless of outward appearance or disability.

On 615 acres of wooded hills, gardens, and pastures in rural upstate New York, adults with special needs and long- and short-term service volunteers strive to live and work together as equals in extended families in homes throughout the Village.

A leader in biodynamic organic agriculture, our gardens and farm weave the community with the cycles of nature coinciding with and reflected by seasonal festivals.

At Camphill Village, we share life: joys and sorrows, celebrations and prayers, work, play, meals, and song. Each person is encouraged to achieve his or her full potential at every stage of life.

It is because of our generous donors that Camphill Village is able to provide the unparalleled services that set us apart from state-run group homes.