A grant for $452,918 has been awarded by the Katherine and Thomas M. Belk Foundation of Charlotte, N.C., for major renovations to the Left Bank building at Montreat Conference Center.
Upon completion mid-summer, 2010, the renovated space will be known as the Katherine and Thomas Belk Center at the Left Bank and will house two levels of state-of-the-art meeting space.
The children of Thomas and Katherine Belk initiated the gift in memory of their father and in honor of their mother, both of whom have had long ties with Montreat. Thomas Belk served as chair of the board of directors of the Mountain Retreat Association, and Katherine McKay Belk’s grandfather, William Church Whitner, designed and constructed the original wooden dam on Montreat’s centerpiece Lake Susan in the early 1900’s as well as the concrete dam that replaced it in 1924.
Designed by the Rev. Robert Campbell Anderson in 1925, the Left Bank building overlooks Lake Susan and has served numerous purposes over the years. In those early summers, the Committee on Christian Education and Ministerial Relief and the Committee on Home Missions met on the upper floor while the Committee on Religious Education and Publication and the bookstore were located on the first floor. More recently, the Left Bank has served as both office space and housing.
“Our first home after our honeymoon was upstairs in the Left Bank,” said Montreat President Pete Peery, reminiscing about the time he and his wife Margaret spent there as seminary-student chaplains to the conference center’s summer staff.
Energy efficient window replacements will be installed as part of the renovations. Conference rooms will be equipped with state-of-the-art video equipment, audio equipment, and a video-conferencing system. In addition, a ramp and lift will be added to increase accessibility in the building.
“With this gift from the Katherine and Thomas M. Belk Foundation, we’re introducing a new level of technological excellence to the conference center,” agreed Peery. “As a meeting venue for conferees, church retreats, family gatherings, businesses, and community organizations, the new Katherine and Thomas Belk Center will greatly enhance the conference center’s mission — to celebrate relationships, nurture congregations, and deepen discipleship in the name of Jesus Christ.”