The 100th birthday of the Asilomar Conference Grounds is being celebrated this year with a full slate of events, including lunch and lecture series, guided walks, chef-led cooking demonstrations and holiday guest packages.
All are designed to welcome back folks to the historic meeting grounds designed by architect Julia Morgan in 1913 as a YWCA summer camp on the Central Coast between Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove.
The old girl has great bones thanks to Morgan, the first female architect licensed in California and best known for designing Hearst Castle. She put her rustic, Western Arts and Crafts signature on 11 buildings at Asilomar (a National Historic Landmark), with its creaking wood floors, weathered shingles, overhanging roofs and yawning stone fireplaces, all set in a gnarled Monterey pine forest and bordered by 25 acres of rolling sand dunes.
Asilomar has completed restoration to rid the dunes of non-native invasives and eradicate a disease that threatened to lay waste to the woods.
During the last few years Aramark has spent more than $20 million to upgrade some of Asilomar's architectural crown jewels.
That includes Morgan's signature Social Hall, where guests check in, play pool and sit in rockers by the fireplace. Wheelchair accessible stone walkways are being laid.
The center has a cellphone tour and Wi-Fi.
"You won't find another California state park with that amount of improvement and no state funding," said Scott A. Wilson, sales and marketing director at Asilomar.
Things have changed in 100 years, but not the important ones. If you walk into Dodge Chapel where a window above the altar looks out on the dunes, you may still see a sparrow flying from beam to beam.