Asilomar is one of my favorite places in the world. It is just on the west side of the northern end of the Monterey peninsula in Central California, between the towns of Pacific Grove and Monterey to the east and Pebble Beach to the south. Although it is used as a geographical designation for that part of the peninsula, the name comes from a conference center created by the Young Women’s Christian Association (the YWCA), which sits on and behind sand dunes, just across the road from the surf and tide pools of the Pacific.
The following history is taken largely from the history page at the Asilomar Conference Center’s web site: http://www.visitasilomar.com/history/asilomar-the-complete-story.aspx. From 1900 the YWCA held annual meetings of its Pacific Coast Field Committee and a Western Regional Conference at a hotel in Santa Cruz, California. That hotel burned down in 1912, leading the committee decided to build its own site.
The Pacific Improvement Company, the eventual source of the Pebble Beach development, donated 30 acres on the peninsula, facing the ocean, to the YWCA to build western conference grounds. By 1913 they had already finished two buildings in the new facility, which needed a name. They held a contest among the membership and one Helen Salisbury, a Stanford student, won with a made-up but apt Spanish word – “Asilomar”. Asilo means asylum or place of refuge; mar means sea. Donations led to the purchase of 20 more acres and the addition of more buildings until, by the 1920s, the center was able to accommodate 500 guests.
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