Monday, December 22, 2008

Tiny Montreat

You know when you have arrived in Montreat when you pass through the stone arches at the town line on Route 9 outside Black Mountain. Located about 15 miles east of Asheville the tiny town of Montreat, shortened from mountain treat, sits in a beautiful spot of wilderness. With a population of about 700, the town covers only 2.8 square miles. Of the 4,000 acres of this, 2500 is dedicated as a wilderness preserve, a National Heritage Area. It backs to the Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell and more.

The town is home to Montreat College, a Presbyterian Liberal Arts college and the Montreat Conference Center.

For over 100 years, Montreat Conference Center has been “a place set apart” for spiritual rest, renewal, and recreation. Here are some historical highlights:

1897 – The Rev. John C. Collins, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, with a group of other 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; ready for occupancy in 1901.
1905 – The Presbyterian Church (US) purchased Montreat under the guidance of Dr. J.R. Howerton, a minister from Charlotte, NC. The transfer of property was endorsed by the PCUS General Assembly in 1907.
1906 – The Montreat Presbyterian Church organized with a membership of 25.
1907 – The first Presbyterian conference was held in Montreat.

One of my favorite things to do in Montreat, besides enjoying the lovely surroundings and the unique architecture of the old stone buildings, is shop. The college has a great gift shop featuring music, crafts, cards, gifts and of course books. This is located next to Lake Susan below the walkway.

Another store not affiliated with the school is housed above the bookstore. Ten Thousand Villages features handmade items from over 130 artisan groups in more than 38 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring you fair trade jewelry, home decor, gifts and more. Fair trade enables artisans to earn a fair wage and provides the opportunity for a better quality of life. What could be better than shopping to support the school at Montreat or to help third world countries?

The Conference Center also boasts 18 hiking trails, 7 tennis courts, Robert Lake Park for children and Lake Susan for paddle boating canoeing and fishing. it is a great place to come for a few hours, to walk, enjoy the scenery and shop.

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