The survival of Holden as something other than a mining town could be considered a lucky fluke. Certainly, the Lutherans have viewed it that way. If they had not acquired the townsite, it is quite possible that Holden would have disappeared entirely, the buildings dismantled or burned and the site reclaimed by the wilderness, as was the fate of Honeymoon Heights and Winston Camp. Instead, through a combination of good timing, persistence, vision, and hard work, Holden was reborn as Holden Village. As of this writing, it has existed as a retreat center for over 50 years. This chapter does not attempt to chronicle that entire period. Instead, it summarizes the first 20 years of the retreat center’s history, during which time Holden Village evolved from a ghost town to a community not significantly different from today’s; that is, a community with characteristics similar to those of the company town that preceded it.

I. The Interim Years, Wes Prieb, & LBI’s acquisition of Holden

Holden’s ultimate fate was most in question during the first three years after the mine closed. The former residents’ hopes that another company would buy the property must have faded quickly as salvaging operations moved in to dismantle the mill and other structures in the vicinity of the mine portal. Howe Sound apparently left a small crew to watch the buildings through the first year after the mine closed. After this crew departed, the company left Holden to the salvagers, hikers, Annie Folk’s abandoned cats, and, of course, the native animals. The hikers were not kind to the buildings. When the first group of Lutherans arrived to begin restoring the townsite in 1961, they discovered hundreds of broken windows, as well as dormitory toilets that had been used for their intended purpose even though the water had not been running. Mice and rats took over the buildings, including the Hotel, where Howe Sound’s kitchen workers had left behind a large quantity of boxed cereal. Fortunately, the townsite buildings withstood the weight of the winter snows. (The winter of 1957/58 was noted for being unusually mild. In March, there were only three to five feet of hard-packed snow on the ground).1

Numerous people saw possible uses for the property. It was in Howe Sound’s interest to sell the buildings if it could, and it initially put them up for sale as a resort. As early as April 1957, the month the mine’s closure was announced, outdoorsman and Holden resident Jim Sullivan attended a meeting in Chelan where he promoted the valley as one of the best skiing locations in the world.2 In 1959, a Seattle-based syndicate nearly bought Holden with the stated intention of transforming it into a high-class ski resort named “Shangri-La.” However, this deal fell through only a couple of months after it was announced when the syndicate’s plans to finance the envisioned resort came to nothing. The same year, the Wenatchee World reported plans to turn Holden into a “Father Flanagan-type Boys’ Town,” a place where as many as 1,000 “unloved and unwanted” boys between 12 and 18 years of age would be housed. This, too, did not pan out. Lastly, in late 1959, Northwest Christian College of Eugene, Oregon, communicated with Howe Sound about obtaining the property for use as a summer campus. This may have been the first time Howe Sound entertained the possibility of donating the property. The college did not pursue the idea very far, probably for the same financial reasons that later led some members of the Lutheran Bible Institute feasibility committee to doubt whether they could accept Holden even as a gift.3

LBI’s acquisition of the property was largely unplanned. In 1957, Wes Prieb, an Army Corps of Engineers purchasing agent and former intelligence courier from Webster, South Dakota, read an article in an Anchorage newspaper about the mine’s closure, and immediately recognized Holden’s potential as a church youth camp. He wrote to Howe Sound asking about the availability of the property. The company responded that it was up for sale for $100,000. Sometime in the next year, Prieb moved to the Seattle area and enrolled at the Lutheran Bible Institute, a small college then located in Issaquah. (It has since changed its name to Trinity Lutheran College and relocated to an Everett campus). In 1958, he wrote a second letter to Howe Sound, in which he suggested that Holden might be useful to LBI. At this time the company still entertained prospects of selling the property, and gave Prieb the same reply as before. Finally, in 1960, Prieb wrote a third time, and this time received a telegram instructing him to call Howe Sound’s office in Magnum, Utah. He did so, and was told that the company was prepared to donate the property to LBI, including both the townsite and the 225 acres’ worth of mining claims on the south side of the creek. This went far beyond Prieb’s own expectations – he had only dared to hope that the company might reduce the price tag on the property.4

Prieb had done all this without informing the college authorities, who now had to decide what, if anything, they should do with the unexpected donation. In June 1960, a small LBI group visited Holden, including Prieb and college president E.V. Stime. They discovered that the buildings in the townsite were structurally sound, though all needed a good deal of cleaning and repair work. Following this visit, Seattle businessman and LBI board member Gil Berg chaired a feasibility committee to determine the next step. Berg was later quoted as saying: “One of the biggest things of my life has come into my hands and I don’t know what to do with it.” During this phase, the Forest Service, which still owned the land on which the buildings stood, tried to interest the Lutherans in also taking charge of the remaining houses in Winston. The Lutherans declined, partly because the houses had not withstood the accumulated snows of the last few winters as well as the townsite. This sealed Winston’s fate; in fall 1962 (or spring 1963, according to Linda Jensen) the Forest Service bull-dozed and burned the remaining houses to eliminate them as a fire hazard. Today, concrete steps along the path to the ballfield indicate where front doors once stood.5

The LBI feasibility committee gave way to a permanent board, chaired by University of Washington law professor Luvern Rieke, which first met in May 1961. Gil Berg stayed on as the first executive director. The board set a goal of raising a quarter of a million dollars over the course of three years to finance the project. It also made some decisions concerning what kind of establishment Holden would be in the long run. From the beginning, Prieb and others had envisioned Holden as a camp for young adults. Accordingly, in late 1960, the board brought the youth directors of the American Lutheran Church, the Augustana Lutheran Church, and the Lutheran Free Church into the discussion. One of these men was Rev. Wilton Bergstrand.6

Bergstrand had been the youth director of the Augustana Lutheran Church since 1938. He was an influential figure in the church’s youth-oriented and youth-run Luther League, known for his fundraising skills. In The Augustana Story: Shaping Lutheran Identity in North America, Maria Erling and Mark Granquist summarize his achievements: “What Bergstrand accomplished in his career in youth work was to enlist support from almost every conceivable faction of the synod, from social justice-minded progressives to fervent Bible pietists.” However, the Lutheran church as Bergstrand and his colleagues knew it was undergoing major change during this period. In 1960, the Augustana Lutheran Church was two years away from a merger with three other Lutheran synods, which resulted in the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), itself a forerunner of the existing Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), the largest partner in the merger, had 2.4 million members as opposed to the Augustana Church’s 600,000. The ULCA evidently put less emphasis on youth work as activity apart from the work of the church in general, and, as a result, many congregations within the LCA questioned the importance of preserving a youth organization, such as the Luther League, in a sort of auxiliary role.

Within ten years of the merger, the Luther League disbanded. Bergstrand may not have foreseen this outcome, but he probably saw in Holden a place where the Augustana church’s strong tradition of youth work could be preserved. Another founding member of the ELCA, the American Lutheran Church (ALC), emerged from a three-way merger in April 1960. Its youth department also became involved in the Holden project, as did that of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), whose Walther League was similar to the Luther League in structure and purpose.7 Early promotional material reflected the planned youth focus. An undated pamphlet preserved in the Holden Portal Museum, probably dating back to 1961-62, reads: “Holden Village, set in the grandeur and seclusion of the Northern Cascades in Washington is being developed by the Lutheran Church as an experimental village for youth work and as an international retreat center for young adults.” Berg laid out a program that included spiritual training for young pastors and youth workers. However, the program also included “providing a community experience for families which will help them enter into potential Christian family living” and “providing facilities for other Christian groups who are willing to enter into the spirit and discipline of the village.” The board did not intend Holden to be a Bible camp set aside exclusively for youth, despite the heavy emphasis on youth ministry.8 The board quickly reached another important decision: Holden was not to have a direct relationship with any particular Lutheran synod or school. Luvern Rieke described the board as wanting the village to maintain a connection to the church while remaining separate from the church as an organization. Partly for this reason, Holden became incorporated as a non-profit entity, Holden Village, Inc., on February 1, 1961.9

Wes Prieb was not deeply involved in the board’s deliberations during this period, but his close relationship with Holden Village continued for the rest of his life. He spent part of the fall of 1960 living alone in the village as the first of several caretakers. After returning for parts of the winters of 1962-63, 1965-66, 1967-68, and 1968-69, he became the summer pool hall director (“PHD”) in 1969, a position he occupied every year until his death in 2000. He remains one of the community’s most celebrated residents.10

II. The first work groups, leaders, and summer programming

One of the Lutherans’ first tasks was to clean up the townsite. The composition of the first work group reflected the emphasis on Holden Village as a haven for youth. In the summer of 1961, Bergstrand led a group of 41 high-school to college-age volunteers from around the country (though most came from the upper Midwest) and a few other adult leaders to begin the cleanup effort. This group became known as the Forerunners. In addition to replacing hundreds of broken windows and dealing with a variety of messes in numerous buildings (including four inches of impacted grease in the Hotel stoves), the Forerunners discovered a number of interesting things left by the miners, including the long-defunct slot machines, which they removed.11

Holden Village was more like a true camp than a retreat center during the first few years, primarily because the village lacked many of the resources that the present community can safely take for granted. For example, before 1964, the staff slept in sleeping bags, rather than sheets, and staff members occasionally had to sleep outdoors to make room for guests. The village’s first vehicle, a 1961 International flatbed truck, served as the only transport for both luggage and people before the village put two donated buses into service in 1962. Despite these limitations, the project made steady progress. A second work group went up in June 1962, and the village hosted some 1,600 guests that summer (some of whom visited the village either going to or coming back from the World’s Fair in Seattle). By 1963, Holden was hosting 2,500 guests per year, which remained the average through 1968.12

The development of summer programming over the next few years makes it clear that Holden Village’s leaders were still uncertain about the project’s direction. Some long-term elements of village life were established as early as 1961, such as daily Bible study. However, some programmed activities were never repeated after the 1960s. From 1963 to 1965, Holden hosted an annual retreat for Air Force personnel during the month of August, organized and led by Air Force chaplains. According to Werner Janssen, this tradition ended because the Air Force was concerned about not being able to speedily evacuate anyone for medical reasons, so much so that it staged a medical crew at 25-mile Creek (just north of the present-day ferry landing at Field’s Point on the west shore of the lake) through every week of the retreat. Another group that came up for a number of summers during the 1960s was the evangelical Christian organization Camp Farthest Out. One year, its Holden program featured evangelist Jean Carter Stapleton, Jimmy Carter’s sister. By the early 1970s, however, Holden Village had become more independent with regard to summer programming, and its management was no longer willing to yield a week of its schedule to an outside organization.13

The development of summer programming went hand in hand with the evolution of Holden’s leadership. Gil Berg remained the executive director and on-site manager through 1963. During the off-season, when there was no one in the village aside from one or two caretakers, the Holden office was located on the second floor of his Ballard neighborhood fuel oil business. When Berg decided not to continue as director, the board offered the directorship to Wilton Bergstrand, who had also occupied a leadership role up to that point. However, when he hesitated to accept, the board instead gave the position to Rev. Carroll Hinderlie.14

Hinderlie became the most dominant personality in the village’s early history. A “dyed-in-the-wool Norwegian Lutheran” (in the words of Werner Janssen), he was a man of broad education, well-versed in church history and the theological perspectives of churches other than his own. He and his wife, Mary, had already accumulated extensive experience as community leaders in a variety of settings prior to their arrival at Holden in 1963, most notably in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines during 1941-1945. The Hinderlies barely survived this ordeal; Carroll, who was a large man, lost nearly half his weight before he was liberated. After the war, Hinderlie served a number of parishes in the upper Midwest before becoming youth director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Prior to accepting the Holden Village directorship, he taught at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. He ultimately held the directorship for 13 years. Though he and Mary only lived at Holden during the summer months, they raised funds and recruited summer faculty members during the off-season.15

Hinderlie had a major impact on the face of worship at Holden. Although he insisted that every guest and staff member attend daily Vespers and Eucharist services, he did not want Holden Village to assume the aspect of a monastic community. Services were to be short; he considered Vespers services longer than 20 minutes to be boring, and boredom, he believed, was “of the Devil.” Morning Matins observances and Bible studies became optional for staff and guests. Among Hinderlie’s mild eccentricities was a fondness for leading Bible studies in the village sauna, located outside the dining hall; this was in the spirit of “holy hilarity” that has characterized Holden Village’s approach to worship, and much of community life in general, to this day.

Most importantly, perhaps, Hinderlie effectively united the village population as one worship community. In the early days, members of the conservative Missouri Synod branch of the Lutheran church did not necessarily take communion with the other Lutherans in the village, who mostly represented the ALC and LCA. At some point during the late 1960s or early 1970s, however, Hinderlie and the Missouri Synod Lutherans present at Holden came to an agreement: there would be one weekly Eucharist service for the entire community. In 1971, Holden Village gained recognition as a congregation within the ALC (the synod to which Hinderlie belonged as a rostered pastor) upon the formation of Fullness of God Lutheran Church. Up to that point, Eucharist services at Holden had been treated as an extension of services at Lake Chelan Lutheran Church for church record-keeping purposes. At least today, most members of the long-term community choose not to formally join Fullness of God Lutheran Church, but it was founded partly to give full-time Village employees the opportunity to be participating members of an official congregation.16

Werner Janssen was another figure who became an integral part of the Holden community during the early years. The board hired the 24-year-old Boeing engineer as Holden Village’s first Business Manager (sometimes listed as General Manager) in November 1963. From 1966 to 1984, he lived at Holden year-round, thereby becoming its most continuous resident during the Village era, and probably during any period. In 1966, he and his first wife became the first couple to marry at Holden since the mining years. While the Hinderlies provided the village with spiritual direction during the summer months, Janssen assumed responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the village throughout the year, thereby establishing a constant managerial presence. He also acted as Holden’s chief representative to its landlord, the Forest Service, which still owned the land on which the townsite was built.17

Several other individuals played important roles in shaping the community. They included Augustana College professors Rudy Edmund and Beanie Lundholm, both of whom were recruited by Wilton Bergstrand as two of the first volunteer summer faculty members. Edmund, a geologist, became the first curator of Holden’s Portal Museum. Lundholm became Holden’s summer musician-in-residence. (For many years, the community had “Beanie Sings” following every dinner). Edmund’s wife, Doris, started the children’s program, later called Narnia. Lundholm’s wife, Gertrude, made major contributions to the foundation of Holden’s crafts program, including the purchase of Holden’s first loom. The crafts program was first centered in the basement of Chalet 7, where the Lundholms and their three children lived whenever they were in the village. Gertrude Lundholm started the tradition of serving coffee in her chalet on Sunday mornings, a practice that various long-term staff members have continued in several different chalets up to the present.

Other recurring faculty members included geologist Larry Collins and his wife, biologist Barbara Collins. In 1970, the teaching staff included professors of theology, English literature, drama, art, and astronomy from a number of Lutheran and non-Lutheran schools, including Pacific Lutheran University, Golden Valley College, California Lutheran University, and St. Olaf College; there was also a yoga instructor and a ceramics artist. The impact of individual summer faculty members probably declined slightly after the director (either Carroll Hinderlie or his eventual successor, John Schramm) decided that no one would be invited to come up for more than two years in a row; this was to ensure that the summer program would not grow repetitive.18

III. The Evolution of the Year-Round Community

The first winter residents were caretakers, among whom Rueben Thompson is remembered most often. Thompson spent the winters of 1961 and 1962 in the village with no one but his dog for company. Aside from day-long journeys to and from Lucerne to pick up mail and supplies, his isolation was total. In 1964, Thompson (who unfortunately was a binge alcoholic) was joined by his nephew and one other. In 1965-66, the number of winter residents increased to seven (including Wes Prieb), but all except one left during the course of the winter. The holdout was 21-year-old Terry Sateren. In 1966-67, during which winter Werner Janssen began his long residency, Holden Village bought a Swedish SnowTrac, its first snow vehicle. This made it slightly more practical for more than a handful of people to live in the village during the winter months, but the off-season population remained limited to Werner and Judy Janssen, mechanic Joel Wallmer, Wallmer’s wife, Ruth; Sateren, and Sateren’s Samoyed. Winter conditions persist well into the spring at Holden’s elevation in the Cascades; the group was not relieved until May 1967, as had been the case for Sateren the year before.19

The year 1968 marked a turning point in the development of the winter community. About 20 staff members and 30 guests celebrated Christmas in the village. Although Holden still lacked the equipment to keep the road all the way open throughout the snowy months, the staff typically brought people in by bussing them up the switchbacks above Lucerne and then transferring them to a sled pulled by the SnowTrac for the rest of the journey. According to Janssen, in 1969, Holden had a winter population of 75-80, roughly the same as today’s average. The next few years featured similar numbers.20 Another important development was the remodeling of Dorm 5, which Howe Sound had left partly dismantled for unknown reasons. The summer of 1963 was cold and wet, which highlighted the lack of hot water in all the buildings except the Hotel and the need for a warm gathering space. The remodeling took place between 1964 and 1966. The result was the existing Koinonia building, which became the main center for worship activities during the winter. (It has been re-remodeled since then, and now also houses the library, the crafts center, and administrative offices).21

The establishment of the winter community paved the way for the introduction of the Holden group home in 1970. In turn, this led to the reestablishment of the Holden school. The group home might be viewed as a miniature version of the boys’ town that had once been envisioned as a possible use for the abandoned townsite. In both cases, the goal was to “straighten out” directionless youths by placing them in a supportive wilderness community. The group home represented a collaboration between Holden Village and the state of Washington, which required the village to support an accredited public school for the boys. The state paid the village based on the number of boys in residence, but Holden Village ultimately covered some expenses. Each year, up to six high-school age boys came by court referral from throughout Washington to attend the program. A few returned for second or third years. The boys lived in Dorm 6 with their administrator/teacher, who reported to a social services superior in Wenatchee once a month. Between 1972 and 1975, later executive director Tom Ahlstrom filled this role. Ahlstrom taught a number of subjects, but “every class came down to remedial English.” Despite this, about half of the boys graduated from the Holden school. There were at least a few incidents of theft, but few, if any, of the boys were expelled from the community for stealing. The group home came to an end in 1979 when a new state standard required it to have a on-site child psychologist, which Holden could not afford to support.22 However, the Holden school itself survived, as its other attendees included the children of staff members.

At least one other educational program was made possible by the establishment of the year-round community. This was the Christian Lifestyle Enrichment Program, which began in the early 1970s and continued until 1978. It was headed by another Holden teacher, John Graber, the Hinderlies’ son-in-law. Lifestyle Enrichment was a nine-month alternative education program designed for young adults, especially recent high school graduates. Each year involved 6-20 participants. Among the program’s stated points of focus were prayer, Gospel study, and “living in community.” While reading and discussing texts by C.S. Lewis, Thornton Wilder, Fyodor Dostoevsky, T.S. Eliot, Soren Kierkegaard, Charles Williams, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and others, the participants also worked as part-time village volunteers.23

Although the Holden school remains (it is discussed in the third chapter), no similar programs emerged to succeed the group home or Lifestyle Enrichment. The winter community came to consist almost solely of staff members and their families. To this day, only a handful of guests visit the village between October and May, except during the Thanksgiving break and the two weeks preceding and following Christmas.

IV. Evolution of work at Holden Village

As the nature of the year-round community experienced gradual change during the first two decades, so did the work of the residents, and the way in which those residents were compensated for their work. A retreat center staffed only by volunteers and a couple of paid managers eventually gave way to one that included a few workers with stipends and a few more managerial positions. However, Holden Village remained reliant on the expertise of skilled short-term volunteers, including many retirees. Without such people, the village would have had difficulty completing numerous projects critical to its operation. As a non-profit organization, it also remained heavily dependent on donations and other kinds of financial assistance to fund those projects.

In the earliest years, the youth offices of the three major Lutheran synods (LCMS, LCA, ALC) were responsible for summer staffing, reflecting the initial conception of Holden Village as a place primarily focused on youth ministry. Each synod recruited the entire volunteer staff for one summer month. However, this scheme did not work out, presumably because the rapid turnover did not make for a smooth operation. In 1965, the management decided to begin recruiting volunteers directly out of the Holden office, which communicated with applicants partly through a secretary in Chelan. Werner Janssen was in charge of staffing; usually, there were so many applicants that summer staff members were not allowed to come back two years in a row. There were very few or no stipends for volunteers in the early days. In 1961-62, the only two people on the payroll were the cook and the caretaker. In 1964, the Wenatchee World reported that of 50 staff members, only five were paid.24

Most of the village work areas in existence today developed during the first two decades, although, for the most part, they were less structured than they later became. The kitchen, for example, originally employed only one paid individual. The village diet varied somewhat depending on who was the head cook at the time, although it was meat and potato-based throughout the 1960s. Paul Hinderlie (Carroll’s son) became head cook in 1972. When he took over, Holden’s diet began to feature less meat, more vegetables, and more homemade bread. This shift was mainly the result of economic factors, as the early 1970s witnessed a rise in the price of meat.25 Today, the village diet is generally similar to what it was then, but the kitchen workers now include several paid cooks, at times including one or two “kitchen coordinators” who are more experienced and have a few managerial responsibilities.

The most important changes took place in the structure of Holden’s management and staffing department. In 1977, the board decided that a change in leadership was needed and removed Carroll Hinderlie from the directorship. His departure marked the end of an era at Holden. Hinderlie’s close friend and immediate successor, Fritz Norstad, later said: “As happens with most new enterprises, the Village had become something like an inverted triangle, resting on the point which was its prime shaper, Carroll Hinderlie. There is intense anxiety when that point is removed.”26 Holden Village survived the transition, but underwent significant change over the next few years. Beginning with Norstad and his wife, Gertrude, the executive director and his/her family became year-round residents. During the Hinderlies’ long tenure, the couple had assumed responsibility for programming and worship, while Werner Janssen had taken charge of village business and operational concerns, including staffing. The role of village pastor remained linked to the directorship during Norstad’s interim year, and during the first year of his permanent successor, John Schramm. However, Holden Village then called Nancy Winder to become its first full-time pastor. Ever since that time, the executive director and the village pastor have remained separate positions. While Janssen remained Business Manager until 1983, volunteer recruitment became the responsibility of the new Staff Coordinator position. Finally, the Schramms took the important step of negotiating stipends with staff members who could not stay for a full year or more purely as volunteers. This enabled more people to commit to the 1-2 years that now constitute a typical “long-term” stint on staff.27

Another factor that allowed more people to serve on long-term staff was the ending of the Vietnam War. With the exception of conscientious objectors, of whom at least one was assigned to do two years of alternate service at Holden in 1970-72, the Vietnam War generally discouraged young men from volunteering on staff for longer periods, as they could not avoid the draft by staying at Holden. Janssen recalls that the village community was strongly against the war. At least a few residents shunned a veteran staff member who returned after serving in the military. However, the war “didn’t occupy the village time to a great extent.” Like most problems belonging to the world beyond the valley, and without television to provide the residents with a steady stream of news, Vietnam must have seemed impossibly far away.28

Despite these changes, Holden’s dependence on multi-skilled volunteers remained constant. Among the early volunteers were a number of invaluable jacks-of-all trades. One was Hortie Christman, a retired barber from Chelan, whom Carroll Hinderlie dubbed “the patron saint of Holden volunteers.” In contrast to the pastors, engineers, and other college graduates who formed the core of Holden’s leadership, Christman came from a logging background and had only an eighth-grade education. However, he had sufficient engineering talent to guide excavations and bridge-building projects. Terry Sateren, who spent nearly every summer of his 20s at Holden, served as a carpenter, electrician, piano tuner, artist, and occasional cook. He lent his skill to building the existing jacuzzi and the original creekside sauna.29 Today, though it regularly employs many talented people on long-term staff, the village still relies on skilled short-term volunteers to assist with and sometimes direct important projects.

Another major reason why Holden was able to survive and develop throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and indeed to the present day, was the financial assistance of guests and other supporters within the broader Lutheran church community, including some who made donations without ever having seen the village. At its inception, Holden Village, Inc., had no collateral to offer potential creditors; its only debt was to Gil Berg, who issued a loan for the purchase of 1961 International truck used by the Forerunners. During the first four years the three Lutheran youth departments contributed a total of $15,000 per year toward operational expenses. Thanks to the fundraising skills of Wilton Bergstrand, 375 businessmen who supported the ALC’s Luther League pledged to donate at least $100 per year to Holden Village. These contributions were vital to getting the Holden project off the ground. Carroll Hinderlie and Werner Janssen also did extensive fundraising in the early years, when promotion of the village was mostly by word of mouth, and to a lesser extent by articles published in church magazines and newspapers. Janssen estimates that guest registrations made up 60-70 percent of the village revenue during his years as Business Manager, while donations made up the remainder.30

Without specific donations, many physical features of the community that endured long enough to be taken for granted, including some still in existence, would not have materialized, or they would have fallen into disrepair. At one point, Holden Village needed $1,200 to pay for the installation of a steel hood above the open-hearth fireplace in the middle of the Fireside Room, Koinonia’s main gathering space. After an electrician who was helping with the Koinonia remodel donated $100 toward purchasing the hood, Werner Janssen made a public appeal during a meal in the dining hall, asking 11 other people to match the electrician’s gift. He quickly came up with more than double the needed sum. On a similar occasion, the community raised $5,000 to purchase a saw mill. Much larger sums, such as $36,000 needed to repair the hydro dam turbines in 1972 (discussed in the next chapter), were raised partly through fundraisers at regional Lutheran churches. Donations came in other forms, too. During the late 1970s, farmers and orchardists belonging to Gidion Lutheran Church in Connel, Washington, gave wheat, potatoes, carrots, cherries, and apples to the Holden kitchen. At this time, the kitchen was grinding its own flour and baking its own bread, which made the wheat donations especially welcome. In the summer of 1976, Holden Village honored a man who had created a foundation supporting it that had generated between $2,000 and $2,500 per year since 1962, and a young woman who had given her inheritance for the purchase of a village boat. That same summer, Holden Village celebrated its 50,000th guest.31

Holden Village’s success can be measured by the simple fact of its continuing existence as a retreat center, which it owes to the generosity of donors, the patronage of hundreds of thousands of guests, the hard work of countless volunteers, the enthusiasm of summer faculty members, the cooperation of the Forest Service, the vision and direction of Gil Berg, Wilton Bergstrand, Werner Janssen, Carroll and Mary Hinderlie, and other leaders; and the initiative of Wes Prieb. If any of those elements had been factored out, the experiment would have failed, and Holden would have met a different fate.


1 “How Is It With Holden by Now?” Wenatchee World, 6 March 1958; Paul Hinderlie & Larry Howard, guided tour, 12 August 2010; Charles Lutz, Surprising Gift: The Story of Holden Village, Church Renewal Center (Chelan, WA: Holden Village Press, 1987), 39; Wilton Bergstrand, “Beginning: A Commentary by the Original Board Members,” 1996, Audio Archive; Gil Berg & Bill Phil, “Gil Berg & Bill Phil Interview,” 1985, Audio Archive.
2 Wenatchee World, 5 June 1957; Lutz, 35.
3 Wenatchee World, “Holden Boys’ Town Project Announced,” 5 May 1959; “Holden May Be Sold As ‘Luxury Resort’,” 13 May 1959; “Holden Purchased, Named Shangri-La,” 15 May 1959; “Sale of Town of Holden Reportedly ‘Falls Through’,” 12 July 1959; “Holden May Be Campus for College,” 22 November 1959. There are stories about more outlandish possible uses for Holden, including the suggestion that it be turned into a school for government spies. This scheme was later echoed by Carroll Hinderlie, who wrote to the government suggesting that it build a secret airfield in the valley, as he stated in a 1984 interview with Ellen Gamrath. How he expected it to remain a secret while sharing the valley with the retreat center is anyone’s guess – but he may not have been entirely serious.
4 Lola Deane, editor, Holden Village: 50 Years of Memories (Chelan, WA: Holden Village Press, 2012), 6.
5 Gil Berg, “Holden History,” 1979, Audio Archive; Linda Jensen, guided tour; Merton Strommen, “Holden History: Reflections on the Beginnings,” 1985, Audio Archive. Some of the Winston foundations were destroyed in the late 1980s to make room for the installation of a village drainfield.
6 “Holden Village national in scope,” Chelan Valley Mirror, 26 January 1961; “Church Finds Holden ‘Exciting Frontier’,” Wenatchee World, 7 December 1960; Luvern Rieke and Bill Dierks, “Holden History: Dr. Luvern Rieke Conversation,” 6 August 1984, Audio Archive; Elmer Witt, “Holden,” 1987, Audio Archive. The Holden board’s composition has changed somewhat over the years. In 1963, there were 15 voting seats, which were divided evenly between representatives appointed by the youth boards of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). In 1987, the ALC, LCA, American Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), and LCMS all had representatives on the board, but there was also one representative from the Lutheran Church of Canada and two Methodists. In 1988, The ALC, LCA, and AELC united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
7 Maria Erling & Mark Granquist, The Augustana Story: Shaping Lutheran Identity in North America (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2008), 280-281, 332-343; E. Theodore Bachmann, The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 306; Clifford E Nelson, Lutheranism in North America, 1914-1970 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972), 233. In 1961, the Luther League Executive Committee voted to donate its library to Holden Village.
8 “Holden Village,” pamphlet, Portal Museum; “Holden to Become ‘Swiss Village’,” Wenatchee World, 9 December 1960.
9 Rieke and Dierks, “Holden History”; “Lutherans Developing Retreat in Cascades: Given Ghost Town in Alpine Setting,” Tacoma Sunday Ledger-News Tribune, 6 August 1961.
10 Deane, 8-10; Wes Prieb, “Reminiscences of Holden,” 1984, Audio Archive.
11 Rieke interview, Audio Archive; Wilton E. Bergstand, “Holden Village,” Portal Museum document; Berg and Phil interview, Audio Archive.
12 Lutz, 54-56; Phyllis Anderson, Darryl Lundby, and Bill Dierks, “Early Programming,” 1991, Audio Archive.
13 Lutz, 55; Carroll & Mary Hinderlie, “Holden History: A Conversation with Carroll & Mary Hinderlie by Ellen Gamrath,” 6 June 1984, Audio Archive; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 30 November 2012. The board once discussed hosting a Boeing conference at Holden, but decided against it. If they had decided to do so, the conference probably would have remained a one-time experiment, but it does invite one to speculate about Holden’s odds of having become a conference center.
14 Lutz, 89; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 30 November 2012.
15 Deane, 24-31.
16 Paul Hinderlie, interview with author, 26 August 2010; Werner Janssen, telephone interview with author, 24 July 2012; Werner Janssen, “Holden Village: What Would You Like to Know?” 1993, Audio Archive; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 30 November 2012.
17 Deane, 36; Janssen interview; Janssen, “Holden Village: What Would You Like to Know?”
18 Lutz, 46; Deane, 65; Paul Hinderlie interview; Lundholm, “A Conversation with Getrude Lundholm”; List of Teaching Staff from 1970, Portal Museum; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 30 November 2012.
19 Terry Sateren and Bill Dierks, “Interview with Terry Saateran (sic): by Bill Dierks, Archivist,” 1990, Audio Archive; Hinderlie interview; Werner Janssen, “Holden History: Since 1960,” 1982, Audio Archive; “Visiting Holden Village, Where Winter Lingers,” Seattle Times, May 7, 1967.
20 Karen Strom, “The Years: 1966-1980,” 1986, Audio Archive; Mark Bjerke, “An Evening of Holden History,” 1990, Audio Archive; Gene Starcher, interview with author, 27 March 2012; Janssen interview; “Sixty to spend Noel at Holden,” Wenatchee World, 26 November 1970; “Werner Jensson (sic) spoke on Holden Village at Chamber meeting,” Chelan Valley Mirror, 19 December 1973.
21 Werner Janssen, “Holden – Part 1: Past, Present, & Future,” 1984, Audio Archive
22 Tom Ahlstrom, telephone interview with author, 29 August 2012; Werner Janssen, “Interview of Werner Janssen by Chuck Lutz,” 1987, Audio Archive; Hinderlie interview. One boy who stole about $200 worth of cigarettes from the Holden store over the course of his stay came back as a volunteer over 30 years later and paid his debt. In his assessment of the program, Werner Janssen said: “I came to the conclusion…that the greatest thing that we offered these boys was a year or nine months away from harassment by the legal system…also it gave them an opportunity to see a lifestyle of caring for each other, family life…an option they’d never been exposed to before.”
23 John Graber (?), “A General Statement of the Christian Life Enrichment Program”; Lutz, 75.
24 “Church Revives Holden Village,” Wenatchee World, 21 August 1964; Janssen, “Interview of Werner Janssen by Chuck Lutz”; Gil Berg, Wes Prieb, Omar Klein, “Holden Old-Timers Tell All,” 1983, Audio Archive; Deane, 38.
25 Bob Hewitt, interview with author, Holden Village, 23 April 2011; Deane, 73; Janssen interview.
26 Lutz, 63-64.
27 Deane, 40, 61; John & Mary Schramm and Charles Lutz, “Schramm Years: 1978-1984,” 1986, Audio Archive.
28 “Cascades Retreat Unbends Lives,” Tacoma News-Tribune, 30 January 1972; Janssen interview.
29 Janssen interview; Terry Sateren, “Interview with Terry Saateran (sic): by Bill Dierks, archivist,” 1990, Audio Archive. Sateren first came to Holden in 1963 as a member of a drama troop; one of his companions was the Hinderlies’ daughter, Maren. After leaving the village, he worked for the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and the Minnesota Opera Company, where one of his coworkers was later summer faculty member Phil Brunelle, known for his musical contributions to Garrison Keillor’s famous radio show, The Prairie Home Companion.
30 Deane, 37; Bergstrand, “Beginning: A Commentary by the Original Board Members,” Audio Archive; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 10 December 2012.
31 Erwin Weber, “My Days at Holden,” An Illustrated Book of Holden Village, the Lutheran Retreat High in the Cascade Mountains Near Lake Chelan, Washington (Unpublished, 1977), 37-38; Wenatchee World, “Holden asks help for $36,000 repair,” 3 November 1972, “Mural dedication, holiday celebration,” 30 July 1976; Janssen, “Holden – Part 1,” Audio Archive.


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