We enjoy hosting numerous fam- ily reunions each year, with most having ties to Bonclarken through their family’s ARP connections. However, we recently hosted a reunion for a family that had even deeper ties to this wonderful place.
Arthur and Madelaine Guerard were married May 15, 1901, and had seven children. Seventy of their descendants descended upon Bonclarken May 4-6 for their reunion. Why would this fam- ily have deep ties to Bonclarken? Arthur Guerard built the Heidelberg House (The Hotel) in 1886!
The structure we know and love as “the Hotel” was not what was built in 1886. The first phase (built by Arthur and his first wife, Eugeni) was the current west wing minus the tower and porte-co- chere. The second phase was added in 1893, when the family became full-time residents, and included the tower, porte-cochere, and larger porch. Eugeni died May 7, 1900.
Madelainearrivedin1901,andtheGuerardsbeganmoreconstruction. In1902,the porches were extended and Swiss Cottage was built. In 1903, the current east wing (including the Music Room) and second tower were added.
The above information about the Hotel’s history comes from Peggy Murdock’s book, Bonclarken – A Story of Faith, Hope, and Tenacity. I’ve read this book numerous times, but to meet the family members who brought the stories of the book to life was a treat.
You may find some of the Guerard family history interesting:
Arthur and Eugenie named their house “Heidelberg House,” after the German castle of the same name; but also for the fact that the hill on which the house was built was covered at the time with an abundance of huckleberry bushes. In German, “Heidelberg” means huckleberry.
Peggy Murdock was unable to verify the stories about a son of Arthur and Madelaine who became a ballet dancer. The family not only confirmed that Roland (1905- 1987) was the ballet dancer, but they also had pictures of his days touring Europe with Ballet Russe during the 1940s.
The family confirmed that Arthur was living in Leesburg, VA, when he died in 1937, but they also let us know he is buried in Charleston, SC (his boyhood home) – between his two wives.
here are two photos accompanying this article. One shows the 70-plus family members here for the reunion, and one shows me with the four grandchildren of the Guerards who were in attendance. The lady standing is Anne Hayes of Carnesville, GA. She told me her mother’s second husband was a Pruitt from Starr, SC, and his parents are buried in the Starr Baptist Church cemetery. I then told her I am from Starr and grew up in the Starr Baptist Church. It’s a small world.
I often wonder what long-term plans Arthur and Madelaine had for this 25,000 square foot house. They used it for a family residence, a hotel, a sanatorium, and made plans for a girl’s academy. They left in 1915 with no idea of what would become of their home. But God knew… He had led the Guerards to build this wonderful structure so that Bonclarken could come into existence. This house became and continues to be the centerpiece of this “Christian environment for inspiration and renewal.” What a blessing to our denomination.
Does your family have reunions? If so, consider Bonclarken as a place for your next gathering. If not, let me encourage you to start a reunion this year!