Through the vision of faithful church leaders in the 1950’s, the first 25 acres of Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange, were purchased in 1954 from Phillips Petroleum that had used the location as a pump station.
Four staff houses and a brick pump station were converted into summer cabins and an administration and worship center. That center is now the dining hall, named for F.E. Eilers in honor of the Swiss Alp Lutheran Church pastor who served on the camp committee that found the land.
July 11, 1954, with 1,700 people attending, the camp was dedicated! Charles Vorkoper is credited with having contributed the name “Lutherhill” for the campsite. Mr. L. L. Appelt added ten additional acres to the site in 1957, and a pool was also built.
The 1960’s – 1980’s:
Two other land additions were made: 7 acres of fronting on FM 2145 plus 35 acres where the Challenge Course, pond, and RV loop are today. In the early 1960’s six new cabins were added and an outdoor chapel was constructed. By 1975 four more brick cabins had been built as Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange, and the ministry began its third decade of operation.
Brief History of the Citzler Family at Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange:
- (1967-68) Annie Citzler served as a cook
- (1967-94) Edna Citzler served as chief cook
- (1968-69) Arthur Citzler served as Site Manager
- (1971-2014) Gene Citzler served as Site and Maintenance Manager
- (1973) Gene Citzler and Grandfather, Max Citzler, built the Citzler Center
- (1990-91) Missy Citzler served as summer cook
- (1992-97) Carolyn (Citzler) Bennetsen served as cook
- And, many other Citzler family members have also served at Lutherhill
Major renovations to the facilities in La Grange began to take place. All ten cabins were renovated, the Tree Chapel was refurbished and nearly every building on the site has been re-roofed. Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange has added a Hillside Store to carry gifts and souvenirs and also has remodeled the kitchen; an important part of camp life!
The Carby Chapel Center was completed in the spring of 2006 at Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange. The Board of Directors entered a new visioning process for the future, including a facilities master plan.
The “A Place For All People” campaign was carried out. With it. Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange, added the Broesche Family Center, six cabins, and laid the foundation of the new water and sewer infrastructure.
In May 2009, the Lutherhill Ministries Board of Directors acted to acquire 9.22 acres of property from the Appelt estate. Located directly north of the Carby Chapel, the land allows for more options for placement of future facilities.
November 2011, members of Zion Lutheran Church voted unanimously to dissolve following Hurricane Ike. They asked the Texas-Louisiana Golf Coast Synod to help them develop a plan to continue the church’s work at their location. Zion Lutheran Church donated its assets to Lutherhill Ministries. The congregation, Synod, and Lutherhill envisioned opening a retreat center on Galveston Island.
Lutherhill Ministries assumed ownership of the Zion property on January 1, 2012.
2014 marked the 60th anniversary of the ministry of Lutherhill Ministries. Lutherhill Camp & Retreat in La Grange served 7,378 guests. Making it the biggest year ever for Lutherhill Ministries.
Lutherhill Galveston (changed name from Zion Retreat Center to Lutherhill Galveston in 2022) renovations were completed, and Lutherhill Ministries held opening dedication ceremonies on February 26, 2017.