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History of Montreat

Montreat Conference Center MLK, Jr. speaking in Anderson Auditorium
  • 1897The Rev. John C. Collins, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, with a group of other interdenominational clergy and lay leaders, purchased 4,500 acres in the mountains of western North Carolina. Their vision was to build a Christian settlement, a mountain retreat – shortened to the name “Montreat” – where people could come for physical and spiritual renewal. Montreat held its first “Christian Assembly” in July, 1897, with nearly 400 participants housed mostly in tents.
  • 1900 – The Montreat Hotel was erected by America’s Candy King, John S. Huyler, who was an original Montreat incorporator and financed Montreat’s early infrastructure. Montreat Hotel was ready for occupancy in 1901.
  • 1905 – 1906 – The Rev. J.R. Howerton, with the blessings of the Synod of North Carolina, purchased the 4,000 acre cove now known as Montreat. Funds were raised by the selling of stocks, and the property became owned by the Mountain Retreat Association.
  • 1906 – The Montreat Presbyterian Church organized with a membership of 25.
  • 1907 – The first Presbyterian conference was held in Montreat.
  • 1911 – Dr. Robert C. Anderson was elected President of the MRA and served until his retirement at age 83. Much of present-day Montreat is the result of his vision.
  • 1916 – Montreat Normal School for Women opened with eight students. That same year, in a flood considered to be one of the worst natural disasters ever in the area, Montreat’s original wooden dam collapsed.
  • 1922 – Construction begun in the early 1920’s was completed and Anderson Auditorium was dedicated.
  • 1924 – A new concrete dam was constructed with funds donated by Mrs. C.E. (Susan) Graham and her son, Allen. Lake Susan was named in her honor. (Also in the 1920’s, the Left Bank building was constructed and Assembly Inn was constructed on the site of the Old Montreat Hotel. During this period, the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches was established in Montreat as a repository of records of the Presbyterian Church of the United States.)
  • 1933 – Montreat Normal School became Montreat Junior College; the following year, it became Montreat College.
  • 1942A total of 264 Japanese and German diplomats, businessmen and their families were housed in the Assembly Inn for repatriation in exchange for Allied missionaries, diplomats and families held by Axis countries. Such special war problems had been previously housed at the Greenbrier, Homestead and Grove Park Inn.
  • 1949 – 1960 – Policies which condoned racial segregation in Montreat were resolved.
  • 1962 – Thomas Belk established “Patrons of Montreat,” and began the present-day tradition of an annual banquet in Assembly Inn for the Patrons who support Montreat with their annual financial gifts.
  • 1965 –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the Christian Action Conference held at Montreat that year.
  • 1967 – The Town of Montreat incorporated.
  • 1974 – The Mountain Retreat Association and what was by then known as Montreat-Anderson College became two separate organizations.
  • 1983 – Montreat Conference Center became affiliated as a national conference center of the Presbyterian Church (USA), when the northern and southern denominational churches reunited.
  • 2004 – The 2,460-acre Montreat Wilderness was placed under a conservation easement that would permanently protect the mountain cove property from development. That same year, a portion of the earthen dam near the Moore Center on the south side of Lake Susan collapsed into the lake.
  • 2005 – Although flooding from Hurricanes Frances and Ivan slowed renovations to the dam and its concrete spillway, the project was completed and the new dam was dedicated in July. Also in July, a grand re-opening celebration was held following extensive repairs to flood-damaged Robert Lake Park.
  • 2006 – Construction was begun on Montreat Memorial Garden.
  • 2007 – The Montreat Memorial Garden was completed and dedicated in May. In June, the conference center hosted a funeral service in Anderson Auditorium for Ruth Bell Graham, wife of the Rev. Billy Graham. Also in June, at the annual Firefly Society Banquet, donors celebrated the successful conclusion of a campaign that raised $20 million for endowment.

Historical accuracy provided by the Presbyterian Heritage Center. For more information go to www.phcmontreat.org.