Chapel Rock's Historical Highlights
Chapel Rock's legacy of healing and renewal dates back to the early 1900’s when the property served as a tuberculosis sanitarium owned by Dr. Albert Wilson. Bishop Walter Mitchell, from Ohio, began searching for camp/conference property in the late 1920s to serve as the Bishop’s summer residence and a place where retreats and camps could take place. The property was bought and paid for with $13,972.85 on August 18, 1931. Bishop Mitchell named the property The Arizona Church Conference Center. He said, “We could have called it “Episcopal” but Arizona Church seemed a bigger idea.”
In the 1930s and 1940s vintage 1910 cabins and tents were used. The Bishop Mitchell dining hall and Cox Hall were constructed in the early 1930s. In the 1960s four log cabin lodges were constructed providing winterized camping facilities. In the 70s a bathhouse and apartments were added providing housing for clergy and kitchen staff. Great stewardship and vision have marked each decade of ministry for the camp and conference center.
In the 1980s a critical decision was made to retain the property at 1131 Country Club Drive. As in previous decades a search was made to see if there might be a more suitable property that would offer more space and border on National Forest property. Father Norm Burke, the chairman of the site selection and development committee investigated 49 potential sites. After completing the study, a decision was made to retain the current property. A large gift from James P. Newell provided the financial backing to develop a master facility site plan for Chapel Rock.
1990 - marked the beginning of the infrastructure construction that would be the foundation for the now complete master facility site plan.
1992 - Completion and dedication of the Newell Activity Center that seats more than 200 people.
1993 - First full time Executive Director hired July 1.
1994 - Alice Taylor Harte Cottage was built as a home for the Executive Director (this now serves as the office/administration center). Harte Lodge (the original residence built in the early 1900s) was renovated with funds from Bishop Joseph Harte’s retirement fund. A diocesan wide feasibility study was conducted to determine the Camp and Conference Centers recognition and service in the diocese.
1995 - Chapel Rock was added to the name Arizona Church Conference Center
to provide better identity recognition. Along with the name addition came a logo that depicts the cross at the rock chapel seen in a background of Ponderosa pine branches.
A master facility plan was revised and a capital campaign effort began to raise funds for Chapel Rock, The Arizona Church Conference Center. Outside counsel was hired. Jim Gillanders and Elaine Morrison were selected as capital campaign co-chairpersons.
1996 - The William J. Stark Memorial High and Low Ropes Challenge Course was funded and built.
1997 - The Diocese purchased the “Poplar house” which is adjacent to Chapel Rock. The property has 1.5 acres and includes horse privileges.
1998 - St. Barnabas Lodge is completed. The lodge has 12 bedrooms with linen service, private baths and private patio areas. St. Matthew’s Youth and Family Lodge is completed. The lodge has six bedrooms, sleeps 40 and is fully handicapped accessible.
1999 - The Bishop Mitchell Dining Hall and Kitchen undergoes a complete renovation.
2000 - Funding is secured to purchase seven acres of the old Hassayampa Country Club property which includes 13 homes. Diocesan Council votes to proceed with the purchase. During the due-diligence period it is learned that condominium units have been approved by the City on the three acre parcel adjacent using shared ingress and egress. A decision is made to end the purchase contract.
The donor agrees to proceed with a million dollar gift to complete the master facility plan. Architectural plans are made for St. James an 18 room/36 bed adult lodge and meeting space and a second youth and family lodge called Kleindienst lodge designed to sleep 44 in bunk style accommodations.
2001 - Completion of Kleindienst Youth and Family Lodge in time for Chapel
Rock summer camping season. The James E. Gillanders climbing tower is funded, constructed and dedicated in memory of Jim Gillanders by William J. Stark’s widow, Judy Stark.
2002 - Completion of St. James Adult Lodge. The review and renovation of Cox Hall begins. Construction is complete by April 2002. In May the Chapel Rock Advisory Board met with a private consultant to begin visioning process. September the National Executive Director for Episcopal Camp and Conference Centers visits Chapel Rock to review the operation.