Mountain Valley Retreat Center
History of Ozark Lithia Camp
On Friday, May 4, 1945, the Arkansas District Council purchased the facilities of the Lithia Hotel, which included 320 acres of land, on Highway 7 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. At that time, Highway 7 was just a gravel road running past the hotel.
Re-named the Ozark-Lithia campground, an open-air tabernacle was added for camps, camp meetings, and other services. Cars passing on the gravel road created so much dust during the meetings, the people petitioned the Governor of Arkansas to have the road black-topped.
Included on the original grounds were two buildings--the actual hotel, and a dining hall. The hotel was a three-story building used for cooking and serving meals. In the hotel itself was a large banister that children would slide down backwards--until they got in trouble for doing so!
A concrete swimming pool was located across the creek, where the pond is today. During several renovations, contractors discovered several natural hot springs. One was converted into a fountain in the middle of the parking lot. Also located on the grounds were several cabins. These were leased out for 100 year lease options to help raise funds for the campground.Over the years there have been many renovations and additions, including a tabernacle, dorms, cafeteria, gymnasium, pond, go-cart track, and most recently outdoor activity center, including swimming pool. "I am so glad to see the new improvements," said Rev. E. Joe Wilmoth, former superintendent of the Arkansas district. In honor of Brother Wilmoth's service to the district, and his love for the campers and the campground, and his work to improve the facilities, the newest dorm facility, dedicated in 1998, was named the E. Joe Wilmoth dormitory.
The dining hall was a two-story building which housed South Central Bible College after its inception in 1948. This college merged with Central Bible Institute in 1952, which later became Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri.
The first youth camps were held in 1953 with Rev. Joe Higgins as director. That year, there were two camps, one for the boys, and one for the girls. Activities included softball, badminton, and shuffleboard. After campers were asleep, the counselors also enjoyed a game of shuffleboard, and had a time of fellowship.
Since church vans were not around in those days, many kids were dropped off by their parents on Sunday nights, and stayed until Saturday morning. Sunday night was a time of fellowship, but if the campers stayed over to Saturday, they were put to work cleaning, and had to eat camp leftovers.