History of Our Christian Retreat Center in PA
The Lindner Years
The earliest owner of what is now the BCC was John Lindner. Mr. Lindner was born in 1859, a son of German ancestry. His father came directly from Germany to New Jersey where he established a very successful clothing manufacturing company. John attended the New Jersey Business College and furthered his knowledge of business already established by working for his father. He worked for two shoe companies, being promoted to manager of the second and later became the superintendent of the G.W. Neidich and Co. of Carlisle. Output increased sevenfold in three years; the company became one of the biggest in the country.
With the knowledge ascertained from earlier employment, in 1891, John Lindner began the Lindner Shoe Company of Carlisle, PA capitalized at $35,000. By 1904, the company was worth $200,000 with a gross income of over 1 million dollars. The company had also expanded to 500 employees. Mr. Lindner was very good to his employees and was concerned for their well being.
Mr. Linder purchased 200 acres northwest of Carlisle and named this summer estate Forest Hills. On this estate, he built a summer home, many gardens, a golf course, caretaker’s home, and much of the remaining land was farmed. The higher elevation where the golf course is located was also called the Lindner Highlands. Sheep were used to “mow” the fairways. The Lindners hosted many parties and community social events at Forest Hills. At times the beautiful summer home and well kept grounds were used for Business meetings.
The Carlisle Indian School was taken over by the military, and a hospital was constructed to house the infirmed from World War I. Mr.Lindner felt the need to bolster the morale of the injured military. He authorized Colonel Keefer to establish a summer encampment for Army convalescents. Here at Forest Hills, 70 – 100 patients at a time spent approximately two weeks at the Lindner estate before discharge. The patients were selected from those with good conduct records. Mr. Linder provided cabins, tents, food, and activities which included field days of sports with prizes provided.
The Lindner Shoe Company appeared on the scene like a meteor and rose to a million dollar concern in less than 15 years. As quickly as it rose…it fell. Mr. Lindner’s succeess declined through World War I and finally failed in 1920. Eventually, the Lindner estate at Forest Hills went into the hands of the banks. The Lindner years had come to an end.
Locals have told us the golf course was opened to the public and kept operable by caretakers during the time the banks managed the property.
The Camp Shand Years
In 1944, the 200 acre Lindner estate (Forest Hills) was purchased by the Lancaster YMCA and was named Camp Shand. The YMCA took possession of the property in 1945. The property consisted of a mansion house in excellent condition, four well built cabins, a caretaker’s residence, a small craft shop, a 9 hole golf course, and acreage suitable for athletic events. An old farm of 61 acres was sold by the YMCA to a hunting club. This was done to raise funds to develop the remaining 139 acres. Camp Shand overlooked the Conodoguinet Creek with a 60 mile view of the Blue Mountains and green gold valleys. The facility opened in the summer of 1946. The pool was soon built to add to the camper’s activities. Little was done to change the facility until May of 1965 when a disastrous fire, caused by lightning, destroyed the multi-functional mansion house. In July of 1967, the present day Dining Hall and Main Dorm were completed. At the time of construction, these two buildings were summer buildings and were not winterized.
Due to financial difficulties accrued by the Lancaster Y, the Board of Trustees decided to sell the Camp Shand property. In November of 1983, the camp was sold to the Pennsyl- vania-Delaware District Council of the Assemblies of God. This closed the door on Camp Shand in Carlisle but opened the door for the future of the Bongiorno Conference Center.
The Bongiorno Conference Center 1984-present
Below is a chronological listing of some of the improvements and facilities added over the years. The main ministry of BCC is to be a facilitator for both our denominational programs and outside guest groups. The golf course remains open to the public; however, all other facilities and grounds are for use by guests of BCC. God is so good!
1984 Lots of fixing & painting, held summer camps and some fall events. Began remodeling and winterizing of present Dining Hall and Main Dorm
1985 Dining Hall and Main Dorm completed in spring
1986 Entrance excavated to meet township requirements. Athletic field enlarged and softball field completed. Tennis & BB courts completed. Began major project.
1987 Conference Lodge, Multipurpose Bldg, and Open Dorm completed. Treatment plant/sewerage lines completed. We are now a year round facility!
1988 Duplexes, RV sites & RV bathhouse completed
1989 Dining Hall Annex and Family Suites completed
1990 Site amenities and improvements
1991 Fourplexes and new maintenance garage completed
1992 Pavilion completed
1993 David Center completed
1994-96 Site improvements, some remodeling, new staff home built
1997 Major pool renovation and new pool bathhouse
1998 The BCC water treatment system upgraded
1999 Motel/Lodge addition completed
2000 New staff home completed
2002 PennDel renamed the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center. RV site water treatment upgraded.
2004 Inflatables and climbing wall purchased. Pool slide ordered for 2005 installation.
2005 Complete kitchen and dining hall remodel with two additions, portico, and courtyard
2009 Suites and Hotel lobby updated
2009 Many of the existing buildings renamed
2011 Eagle Lodge lobby remodeled
2012 The road that winds through BCC is officially named Wessman Way in honor of our former Director, David Wessman – New playground equipment is added.
2013 Game Room and David Center Meeting Room updated
2014 Gym lobby updated
2014 & 2015 David Center Rooms updated
2015 Fourplex 603 renovation completed
2016 Fourplex 601 renovation completed
2017 Fourplex 602 renovation completed
2017 Spaceball climbing net added to playground
2018 Cabins 1 & 3 renovation completed
2018 Main Office renovation completed
2019 Cabins 2 & 4 renovation completed
2020 Fourplex Meeting Room A & B renovation completed
2020 Prayer walk added
2020 Archery Tag added as a recreation option
2021 Deck built at David Leadership Center
2021 Forest Hills Disc Golf opened
2022 Mountainview Circle firepit and hardscape completed.
2022 New Carpet and flooring in the Dining Hall
2022 Cabins 5 and 7 were renovated
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