The William Black Lodge and Retreat Center has a rich history that extends over 100 years. The idea for the Lodge dates to 1915, when Dr. R.C. Anderson, president of the Mountain Retreat Association, offered the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina a lot in Montreat, NC, where a building could be erected to house ministers of the Synod. As a result, in 1917, the Synod purchased an existing home on North Carolina Terrace and established the North Carolina Home for Religious Workers, which accommodated 20 guests.
In 1927, the name was changed to the William Black Home for Religious Workers, honoring the Rev. William Black (left), evangelist and home missionary, who was instrumental in establishing the facility. When the Home was destroyed by a fire in 1946, the present three-story stone structure was built in its place. The Women of the North Carolina Synod raised funds for furnishings. A service on June 21, 1951, marked the official opening of the new building.
In 1973, the building underwent a major refurbishment and renovation, which provided heating and air conditioning. Uses were expanded to include retreats, training events and conferences. In 1978, the Home was renamed the William Black Lodge to incorporate more clearly its mission of serving both ministers and laypersons.
The Belk Wing, which includes the William Henry Belk Conference Center, was added in 1982. It is named for William Henry Belk, founder of the Belk department stores, who was a major benefactor of the William Black Lodge and served on its Board of Trustees for many years. The opening of the conference center, which seats up to 85 people auditorium-style, provided the William Black Lodge with the ability to better accommodate meetings.
The Willliam Black Lodge celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2015 with a series of events, including a Centennial Celebration Dinner held on Saturday, August 29. During this dinner, William Henry Belk’s daughter, Sarah Belk Gambrell, who followed her father as a lifetime member of the William Black Lodge Board of Trustees, was recognized for her many years of service with a portrait by artist William Harrison, commissioned by the Lodge. Harrison, a frequent Montreat visitor, is shown with Mrs. Gambrell and the painting in the photo below.
Throughout its history, William Black Lodge has been known for its hospitality. Major contributors to that welcoming atmosphere have been the managers through the years: Mrs. W. H. Barnes, Mrs. C. W. Maxwell, Mrs. W. C. Copeland, Mr. W. B. McCachren, Ms. Sue Cox, and since September 2016, Mrs. Linda Spencer.
The William Black Lodge and Retreat Center is directed by a board of 18 trustees responsible to the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).
The mission of the William Black Lodge is to provide a place for God’s people to come for renewal, worship, and fellowship in a comfortable environment that is surrounded by God’s beautiful creation.