History of the Town of Montreat
The Mountain Retreat Association (MRA) was incorporated in 1897 by John Collins, a Congregational minister from New Haven, Connecticut, along with several other Christian and lay leaders of different denominations. The purpose of the MRA was to “establish and maintain a municipality containing Assembly grounds for the encouragement of Christian work and living” (excerpt from original charter of MRA). The site was purchased in June 1897, and the name was shortened to Montreat.
During the early years of Montreat, Christian assemblies were held, with participants housed mostly in tents. Lots were sold by MRA to individuals, with conditions that they obey the rules of the MRA. During the first ten years of Montreat’s existence, the old hotel and around 50 houses were built. Efforts were made to secure the use of Montreat for the Presbyterian Church US. In 1907, the Presbyterian Church US General Assembly endorsed this plan. Subsequently the Trustees of the MRA, nominated by the PCUS Synods and General Assembly, controlled Montreat.
Much of modern-day Montreat was created under the direction of Dr. Robert C. Anderson. Many of the buildings were constructed of local stone. The auditorium was originally built in 1922, and re-built in 1940 after a fire. The Assembly Inn was built after the old Montreat Hotel was destroyed by fire. The old Alba Hotel burned in 1945, and in 1950 Howerton Hall was built on its site. The wooden dam collapsed in the flood of 1916, and the present dam was constructed in 1924. The funds for the construction of the present day dam were donated by Susan (Mrs. C.E.) Graham and her son, Allen Graham, hence the name Lake Susan.
The present Montreat College was opened as the Montreat Normal School in 1916, with eight students, and was administered by MRA. By 1975, the separation of the College and MRA was completed, and Montreat College is currently a four-year college offering several bachelor of arts programs.
For more information on the history of Montreat check these on-line resources:
The Architectural and Building Records of North Carolina: A Survey of Historical Collections -
Presbyterian Historical Society, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC 28757
L. Nelson Bell Library, Montreat College - circulation access to all residents of Montreat