History of the SECC
During the late 1970s, a movement toward organizing adult get-away meetings, or “retreats,” was growing popular within the Episcopal Church. The demand for a facility to host these new adult retreats, coupled with the many events the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana (EDoLA) was already sponsoring at places owned by others, such as Cursillos, Silent Retreats, Youth Rallies, Youth Happenings, etc..., made it clear that the EDoLA greatly needed a place of its own.
So, in 1980, the Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, The Right Rev’d. James B. Brown, broadcasted that in response to the growing need for a place of its own, the Diocese had formed a vision to build a full-service conference and retreat center on southeast Louisiana.
In 1981, at the Annual Diocesan Convention, a Resolution to proceed with the development and consequent building was passed.
With Teddy Solomon’s pledge for funding in place, Mr. Walter Bankston, a property and land developer in the area accepted a request from the Diocese to form and head a committee to find the site of land. To help determine the Center’s best location, two 120 mile diameter circles were drawn on a Louisiana state map in Bishop Brown’s office — one circle centered on New Orleans and the other centered on Baton Rouge. The two circles intersected in two places: the Northshore area, near Folsom and the Norco area, near LaPlace, LA. Of the two locations, the committee found the rolling countryside of the Northshore area near Folsom to be most appealing and decided to begin looking at property in that area.
Over 100 potential sites were considered, each suffering from one of two common problems. Either the land was on a river, which made it expensive and prone to people (and snakes) trespassing, or the land was an out-of-business farm, which meant it was perfectly, and undesirably, level, without any trees.
After many months of scouting land to no avail, Teddy and Walter visited the Bennett & Peters land management office on the Zemurray Gardens property and asked if Bennett & Peters would sell a piece of their land for the Conference Center. Bennett & Peters responded, in essence, that they were in the business of purchasing, not selling, land; it was a “no” for Teddy and Walter.
Three weeks later at a social gathering, Bishop Brown lamented the difficulty he was having in finding a site for the Conference Center, and a priest from the Diocese recalled that he knew a member of the Trust that owned the Zemurray land. The priest contacted his friend, and within two days Walter received a call from Bennett & Peters asking which piece of property he was interested in buying. After hearing Walter explain the plans for the Conference Center, Bennett & Peters suggested a piece of property that would be a perfect fit.
Bennett and Peters, representing the Marietta and Warren Trusts known as the “Zemurray Gardens” land trust, agreed to sell the selected 80 acres of land to Teddy and Doris Solomon in December 1988. The land was promptly donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, just as Teddy had originally pledged. At last, the Solomon Episcopal Conference Center had found a home. Bishop Brown and the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana held a ceremonial groundbreaking and Walk-About of the land on July 7, 1990, and the first Executive Director, Peter Claverie, was hired in February 1992.
Originally named “A Special Place”, the gala Open House for the first completed buildings, the now named Bishop Brown Lodge, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, and the one-story Residence Hall or "Quad", was celebrated by all invited guests on December 6, 1992 and the SECC was officially open for business on Jan. 1, 1993. The first scheduled event and retreat was held on Jan. 8-10, 1993 and was a married couples weekend led by The Rev'd. Dr. Hill C. Riddle.
The Center was running at capacity within 18 months of its Jan 1, 1993 birthday and the rest of the existing buildings, including the Dining Hall, the two-story Residence Hall and the Pool and Pavilion, were completed over the next 3 years. During this time frame, a new name for the Center was adopted…The Episcopal Conference Center, and then a few years later to its current name, The Solomon Episcopal Conference Center.
Today, the SECC is known as one of the premier Conference and Retreat Centers in the United States.
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