85-year-old Assembly Inn at Montreat undergoes renovation

Workmen remove old windows and install new, energy-efficient windows in the 85-year-old Assembly Inn at Montreat Conference Center. The windows contributed to more than $70,000 in savings on energy costs. Photo courtesy of Montreat Conference Center.
Workmen remove old windows and install new, energy-efficient windows in the 85-year-old Assembly Inn at Montreat Conference Center. The windows contributed to more than $70,000 in savings on energy costs. Photo courtesy of Montreat Conference Center.

A newly completed $6.2 million renovation has brought the Montreat Conference Center’s historic Assembly Inn into the 21st century.  A June 29 rededication ceremony will celebrate the completion of the work.

The directors of the Mountain Retreat Association, which manages the 85-year-old hostelry, say they wanted an update that no one would notice. “The inn is the postcard picture every visitor to Montreat tucks away in memory,” according to a press release.

Nestled in a stunning natural setting just north of Black Mountain, Montreat is a spiritual haven. The old stone inn overlooks Lake Susan, a small artificial lake along Flat Creek, which flows into the Swannanoa River.

About 35,000 people visit Montreat each year, officials say, and even if they aren’t numbered among the 200 guests the inn can accommodate, they probably use it as a gathering place for meals, meetings and other activities.

The Montreat Conference Center, an affiliate of the Presbyterian Church USA, invites one and all to pass through the little community’s stone gates and spend time in reflection.

Reflect on what?

That’s up to the visitor, says Tanner Pickett, the conference center’s vice president of sales, marketing and communications. “This is not only for Presbyterians. We have a fair amount of visitors from all denominations. A spiritual purpose,” he stresses, “is not a requirement to have a retreat. What we want is to be a place where anyone can go to encounter God.”

More than 400 individuals and 350 churches contributed to the two-year “Building on Tradition” campaign, which raised funds for the renovation.

Light fixtures now feature compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. The new HVAC system brings air conditioning to the inn, and modern, energy-efficient windows compatible with the facility’s design were installed throughout.

Thanks to those and other changes, notes Pickett, “The conference center saved $70,789 in energy costs in the first 10 months of this fiscal year.”

All furnishings are in the early 20th-century Craftsman style, with an emphasis on American-made materials and local contractors, artists and vendors:

  • The design showcases local stone and Tennessee marble.
  • Fabrics and artwork in the rooms feature local plants.
  • In keeping with the inn’s origins, all fixtures are made of oil-rubbed bronze, and the lobby stairs feature oak rails and newel posts.

The June 29 celebration will begin with a worship service in Anderson Auditorium, followed by lunch in the Assembly Inn’s Galax Dining Rooms. After a 2 p.m. formal ceremony, there will be a reception and tours.

All activities are open to the public.

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