When looking at the map the conference so generously provided, one may notice the various and seemingly random names of the buildings that make up this conference center. Cottages and halls with names such as Rhododendron, Dogwood, and Abbott are scattered across the facility. Jason Sutphin, the Housekeeping Director for the past three years, is a living book of history about the Blue Ridge Assembly, and was kind enough to bestow some of his wealth of knowledge upon us.
Most of the small cottages were named after colleges from across the nation. Meredith, Mississippi, Ward Belmont, and Agnes-Scott Cottages were all named after colleges that were all girl at the time when their cottages were built. Built during the 1930s and 1940s, these cottages were used for the retreats the colleges sponsored. At this point, however, the cottages are no longer being used by the colleges who they are named after. Sutphin said that the colleges made a deal with Blue Ridge: The cottages are available for their use for a certain number of years and then they are turned over to the Assembly for them to use. Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now known as Virginia Tech), Converse, Florida, and Miami Cottages were built using the funds provided by the respective schools, and as a result, the cottages were named after them.
Rondette Cottage, located southwest of Lee Hall, got its name from its unique architecture. The name “Rondette” is the title for the type of building. The style in which the cottage was built was very popular in the 1970s because of its ability to be easily transported up mountains. Sutphin said that the cottage was transported in its entirety up Black Mountain. It is one of the smallest cottages in the Assembly and the only circular cottage on the grounds.
Two cottages located on the grounds are named after regionally popular fauna. Dogwood trees are scattered throughout the beautiful, mountainous landscape surrounding Blue Ridge. A prime example of these striking trees can be observed from the porch of Abbott Hall. However, Dogwood Cottage is located southeast of Abbott Hall in between Meredith and Converse Cottages. Even though it’s a mouthful, Rhododendron Cottage is the epitome of beauty, as it rests nestled in the collection of trees and other cottages southeast of Lee Hall. Its interesting and somewhat different title comes from the abundance of a certain laurel-family fauna in the area. The Rhododendron bush has so captivated people who live around it that Blue Ridge felt necessary to name this beautiful cottage after it.
Other cottages around the Assembly are named after those who were generous enough to contribute to the efforts that the Blue Ridge Assembly works constantly on. Ward Belmont Cottage, along with Ware Pavilion, were named after families who donated money to YMCA or the Blue Ridge Assembly and, as a result, had the honor of having one of the beautiful cottages at this center named after them.
Parker Cottage was actually named after a security guard who lived here for a number of years and who dedicated a huge part of his life to helping Blue Ridge.
A majority of the halls located around Blue Ridge Assembly are named in honor of specific individuals who contributed their skills, intelligence, and service to Blue Ridge Assembly. Lee Hall was not only named after Robert E. Lee, but Jason Sutphin tells us that it was named after him to honor his morals and his beliefs about education. Sutphin also tells us that Asheville Hall was named in honor of the nearby town that has for years had a huge involvement in the support of the Assembly. Weatherford, Abbott, and Heaton Halls were named after Dr. Willis Duke Weatherford, Mr. Abbott, and Mr. Heaton, three extremely influential and important men whose contributions were both exponential and irreplaceable. One may be able to see the physical beauty of the various cottages, halls, centers, and pavilions, but what makes these buildings even more beautiful is the history behind them that lies unknown to most. Again a special thanks goes out to Jason Sutphin, without whom this article would have been exceptionally more difficult and not nearly as thorough.