On October 6, 1906 Dr. Willis D. Weatherford of Nashville, Tennessee, along with Dr. A.L Philips of Richmond, Virginia rented a horse and buggy and drove from Asheville, North Carolina to Black Mountain (about 15 miles east). Weatherford was looking for a site to build his dream – a conference center where groups could meet in an inspirational setting, surrounded by the grandeur of God’s creation. In particular, he wanted a centrally located training center for YMCA professionals and staff.
After hiking up the mountainside, Dr. Weatherford climbed a tree to assess the view. Seeing the beauty of the valley below and the mountains beyond, he exclaimed “Eureka, we have found it!”. Weatherford and Phillips headed immediately to a bank in Asheville where they borrowed $5,000 to provide a down payment on 952 acres and a campaign began to raise additional funding to build the Assembly. All of the wood needed for construction of Blue Ridge buildings came from the property site. Excess timber was sold, and the profits reimbursed more than half of the cost of the land.
Several months later, in January 1907, an organizational meeting for Blue Ridge was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. The charter was secured and officers were appointed: J.A Patton as President, J.D Murphy as Vice President, Weatherford himself as Secretary and F.C Abbot as Treasurer. The leaders quickly bought more land, totaling 1,574 acres. Thus, the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly was born.
Since then, Blue Ridge has hosted conferences for millions of men, women and young people from around the world. It has been a national training site for the YWCA, Boy Scouts of America, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, as well as large annual conferences for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Crusade for Christ, the YMCA Christian Values Conference, the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership, the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs, and the Blue Ridge Leaders School.
There are 5 main principles upon which Blue Ridge was founded:
-There is dignity in all labor. Anything that ministers to human need is a God-given responsibility.
-Religion must be intellectually respectable.
-Religion is indispensable to building life values.
-Every person is created in God’s image and is worthy of love and respect.
-In the beauty of Blue Ridge’s natural setting, guests and staff should spend quiet time in reflection, meditation, and prayer
For more unique images from our past, please see the Facebook photo album "From the Archives".
Blue Ridge Assembly Historical Timeline:
1906: Blue Ridge property discovered and purchased by Willis D. Weatherford, Secretary of the Student YMCA of the South.
1907: Officers appointed to operate YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly and additional land acquired.
1912: Robert E. Lee Hall construction completed. Designed by architect Louis E. Jallade fom Montreal.
1916: YMCA joins the war efforts. Nearly 2,400 workers trained at the Assembly to work with U.S troops.
1915: Construction of gymnasium, athletic field, cottages and road to railroad station.
1917: Construction of additional cottages.
1919: Weatherford becomes President of the Southern College, the YMCA Graduate School of Nashville.
1926: Asheville Hall completed.
1927: Abbot Hall completed.
1933: The Assembly was reorganized during the Depression. Students and teachers from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida visit Blue Ridge to establish their own college, named Black Mountain College.
1937: Black Mountain College relocates to the other side of Swannanoa Valley. (It later closes in 1956 and reopens as Camp Rockmont, a boys summer camp)
1943: The YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly declares bankruptcy. Fundraising campaign begins.
1944: The Assembly is reincorporated under the ownership of the YMCA’s of the South.
1948: Professional land survey conducted at Blue Ridge.
1960’s: Old buildings updated. Ware Pavillion, David Warner Memorial Swimming Pool, cottages and Younts Hall completed.
1968: Frank “Scotty” Washburn appointed Executive Director.
1970: Blue Ridge makes the transition to a year-round conference center.
1974: Blue Ridge is recognized as an International YMCA.
1979: Blue Ridge Assembly Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1980: The YMCA of the USA recognizes Blue Ridge as the South’s first International Program Center.
1985: Charles R. Younts Maintenance Service Center opens.
1993: The Blue Ridge Assembly Board of Directors establishes “Vision 2000”, a strategic plan commitment to Program expansion. The initial focus was recreation, expanding to include environmental education, adventure experiences, challenge, teamwork and leadership development.
1994: The first element of the Camp Cousins Challenge Course, the 50 ft Alpine Tower, is completed.
1995: Executive Director C. Roger Hibbard announces that the fundraising campaign under Vision 2000 has raised more than $5 million for the future of the Assembly.
Climbing Wall and Team Development Low Rope Course built.
1997: Mountain Bikes purchased and 3.5 mile intermediate bike trail opens.
1999: Blue Ridge serves as the set for the Columbia Pictures movie 28 Days, starring Sandra Bullock.
Craft Shop expands to year-round service and includes focus on Appalachian heritage crafts.
2000: The Diamond Extension, a 40 ft high ropes challenge course, built.
2001: 8000 sq ft Harry Brace Indoor Challenge Course constructed in Ware Pavillion.
2004: Construction begins for first of three Family Lodges.
Woodland archery range established near lower athletic fields.
2005: Watts Family Odyssey Course built as final installment of Camp Cousins Challenge Course.
2006: Blue Ridge marks it’s 100th Anniversary with an extravagant year-long Centennial Celebration.
2008: 18-hole Disc Golf course built around lower athletic fields and nearby woodlands.
2009: Construction of final Family Lodge complete, featuring new “green” elements such as rooftop solar paneling.
Executive Director C. Roger Hibbard announces his retirement after 33 years at Blue Ridge.