My husband Frank is one of six children of Kathryn and Max
Silvey. His brothers and sisters now are scattered across the
country from Los Angeles to New York City. This July, we got
together at Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds just south
of Monterey for a family reunion.
Thirty-two people from three generations attended.
The state beach was the perfect spot for a reunion. The Young
Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), leased the land in 1913
to serve as a conference camp, so this is its centennial year.
The original redwood and granite structures were designed by
Architect Julia Morgan in the Arts and Crafts style and were
completed in 1928. Asilomar was sold in 1956 to California State
Parks for half the appraised value “with the understanding it would
continue to operate as a conference grounds ‘providing an
inspirational setting for all.’”
I was grateful for the beauty of the conference center and spent a
while just sitting in the chapel expressing my gratitude. The chapel
features lines from the Psalms about the forests and ocean God
made carved into the crossbeams under the windows.
The center covers 107 acres of Monterey pines and serves nearly
400,000 visitors a year. Later architects designed and built lodges
and meeting rooms that harmonize with the original buildings.
Monterey pine forests are rare, threatened by human encroachment,
climate change, pitch canker and invasive plant life. In 2007, State
Parks established a framework to protect, restore and maintain the
pine forest ecosystem.
Wildlife in the forest includes black-tailed deer and raccoons. Non-
native red foxes have expelled the native gray foxes. Sandpipers,
killdeers, jays and red-shouldered hawks are among the many types
of birds to be seen at Asilomar. I was grateful for the efforts to
conserve the natural beauty and diversity.
The five members of our immediate family stayed in three adjacent
rooms on the first floor of historic Scripps Hall, while other family
members were lodged in various other buildings around the camp.
The extended family was given exclusive use of Sanderling Meeting
Room, which features a large fireplace and a piano. We gathered
there in the evenings to visit and sing. The kids made s'mores. I was
grateful for such a good time with family.
Three tables in Crocker Dining Hall were set aside each mealtime
for Silveys. The food was organic, seasonal and locally-sourced in
the Central Valley.
The rest of the day, we were free to go to the beach, swim in the
pool, play pool and other games at the social hall, or walk in the
forest or on the boardwalk through the sand dunes.
Two of Frank's brothers played golf one morning, and other family
members drove to nearby Monterey to visit the aquarium. As we'd
been there a month earlier, we just stayed and rested.
Twenty-five acres of sand dunes separate the conference center
from the beach. In 1984, efforts began to restore the dunes, which
were deteriorating due to trampling and the invasion of non-native
The fine, gray sands of the beach are made of feldspar, gray quartz
During low tides, tide pools are exposed, and 250-pound Harbor
seals haul themselves out onto rocky outcroppings. Sea otters float
on their backs in the water. And further out, migrating whales can be
seen starting in August and continuing until January.
Crocker Dining Hall (above); interior (inset).
Our family stayed in three rooms on
the ground floor of Scripps Hall, a
Julia Morgan Historic Building
One of several deer we saw on our walks.
Katyana learns to play pool in the
Social Hall from Mom and Uncle
Boardwalk protects sand dunes.
Frank (right) and his brother Perry
during a sing-along at Sanderling.
The rich wood of the chapel at Asilomar,
shaped like an overturned boat.
Two of the Silvey tables at dinner. Youngest sibling Irene Ladd (right).