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What is a Climbing Wall

Bildering And Bilderers
Geoffrey Windthrop Young
Arthur Pinner

First True Climbing Structure
Clark Schurman
Camp Long

Post War Development

1960's Boom
Britians First Climbing Walls

1970's Development

Climbing Wall Manufacturers
Bendcrete Climbing Walls
DR Climbing Walls

University Walls
Brunel University
Spire Rock
University of Washington

The 1980's Wall Development
The invention of the bolt on Hold

First Commercial Climbing Centre
Vertical, In Seattle
Mile End, London

The 1990's Beginning of the Golden Age

21st Century Climbing Walls and the Future

Clark Schurman
Clark Schurman architect, designer of the first ever climbing wall was born Clark Elbert Schrman, on the 6th August 1882 in Wisconsin. He was an artist, poet, Boy Scout leader, mountaineer, and more importantly for our story, the designer and creator of the worlds first artificial climbing wall structure at Camp Long near Seattle, The Monitor Rock. In turn he was also Camp Longs first director.


Parents and Early Life
His father, Lemuel Hooper Schurman was born 1st December 1843, probably in Centreville Bedeque, Prince Edwin Island, and died 14 Aug 1924 in Pasadena, California. He married, first, 1 Oct 1881 in Beloit, Wisconsin, Sarah Kate Doolittle, daughter of Harry Jones and Esther Elvira (Nichols) Doolittle. She was born 16 Jan 1854 in Belvidere, Illinois. and died 12 Oct 1925 in Chicago, Ill.
They had three children Clark, Bryce Lorin Schurman (b. 11 Nov 1884, d. 12 Dec 1965) Blanche Miriam Schurman (b. 14 Aug 1886, d. 29 May 1956). In 1907 Lemuel and Sarah divorced.

About 1866 Lemuel left his Cumberland County home for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He went into photography, following that work in New York and Belvidere, Illinois in an era of daguerreotypes and tintypes.

About 1880 he moved from Belvidere to Beloit, Wisconsin, where on the 6th August Clark Elbert Schurman was born. They later moved to Fort Madison, Iowa; to Julesburg, Colorado, where he had a boot and shoe store; back to Beloit; to Avon, Wisconsin; to Rockford, Illinois, where he ran a grocery store in the mid-1890’s; to Beloit again, where he resumed photography work; to Chicago in 1905; to Pasadena in 1920.

In 1900 Clark at the age of 17 is still living with his parents and siblings in Beloit Wisconsin and working in the family store as a Dry Goods Clerk.

Wife and Family
Clark Elbert Schurman married Alma Florence Bentley, daughter of Frederick J.& Bentley and Clara Hunt, on 1 September 1908 in Beloit, Wisconsin, U.S.A and ion 9th September 1909 their son Robert Bentley is Born, but dies ion 9th September 1910. At this time (1910) they are living in Grand Rapids City, Michigan and he is working as an advertising manager and graphic designer for a printing company. Around this time Clark and Alma had a daughter whom they called Ruth.

During the first world war they lived at 282 Pingree, Detroit, Wayne Michigan where Clark was working as a Boy Scout Executive, employed by The Detroit Council Boy Scouts of America at the Board of Commerce in Detroit. Whilst here on the 12th September 1918 he was drafted into the Army towards the end of World War One. On the 19th October 1918 Alma died of influenza, one of the millions that died in the post war epidemic. Schurman sent his only surviving child, Ruth, to live with relatives near Chicago when he moved to Seattle to work with the Boy Scouts of America.

At the time of the 1920 USA Census he is living as a lodger, Kings, Brooklyn New York, presumably while waiting to depart on the Pocahantas for Europe where he takes part in first International Scout Jamboree at Olympia in England.

Once he arrived in Seattle, it didn't take long for Schurman to fall in love with the mountains.
Photo Circa July 1920

He was a senior guide on Rainier in the 1930s through 1942. Most accounts of Schurman mention that he was constantly sketching. In 1937, he joined three other men, including William Long, a juvenile court judge, in developing a plan to turn the 68 acres that were once part of Puget Mill's massive timber holdings into a camp where Scouts and other youth groups could learn outdoor skills. Schurman also envisioned the park as the place to realize his long time dream: the building of a man made peak where inexperienced climbers could safely practice their mountaineering skills. For years, he worked on the idea in clay. Monitor Rock, as it was first known, was built by the Works Progress Administration between 1938 and 1939.

He worked with the area’s youth, while his creative mind and artistic talent gave him a career as a commercial artist. His scouting activities led to his involvement in the early climbing course of The Mountaineers. At this time he was also Chief Guide at Mount Rainer.

Dee Molenaar writes, "In 1939, Schurman was invited by the RNPCo concessionaire to operate its guide department at Paradise. With his rather brusque military manner and appearance, Clark Schurman reminded me of General John Pershing, famed leader of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Several of Schurman's guides were recruited from his Seattle Scout Troop 65, and they were accustomed to addressing him as "Mr. Schurman," and responding with "Yes, Sir" and “No, Sir” to his requests in the Guide House. But he also hired a few teachers and college professors, and some of them quietly balked at playing the subservient role in this manner. Yet beneath Schurman’s stern surface I found a kindred artistic soul. He had taken a chance and given me the opportunity to enter the world of real mountaineering, and I had no problem treating him with respect.".
Click For Dee Molenaars full articlePhoto Courtesy of The Mountaineers.
Clark Schurman is on the left. Dee Molenaars full article on his time as a guide on Mont Rainer is well worth reading

Clark Elbert Schurman died on the 28th January 1955 at Urbana, Champaign, Illinois, USA In 1957 the Monitor Rock at Camp Long was rededicated as the Schurman Rock in his Honour.

In 1962 after three years work by volunteers Camp Schurman was opened on Mount Rainer.

In his words.
. “Last campfires never die, 
And you and I on separate ways to Life’s December, 
Will dream by this last fire, 
and have This Mountain to remember.”

Page Acknowledgements and References:

Seattle Parks Foundation

Seattle Government

General Acknowledgements:

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