Our History

Celebrating a Half Century of Service


Shadybrook, formerly known as The Laymen’s Retreat Project, became a non-profit organization in 1955. Inspired by the programs offered at Wainwright House in Rye, New York, the founders chose a 17-room turn of the century mansion in Kirtland, Ohio to house their vision for an interdenominational retreat center. In October 1957, Shadybrook House, once the summer home of the Arthur D. Baldwin family, had its dedication.Shadybrook House in Kirtland, OH

The Shadybrook experience began well before the front gate, with the drive along secluded, country roads rich with foliage. Its woodland setting at the edge of the Holden Arboretum’s nut tree collection, contained an outdoor amphitheater and swimming pool, and provided spectacular views of Lake Erie. Shadybrook House was a spacious facility with a large living room, dining room, chapel, and overnight accommodations. Its library housed several hundred volumes on psychology, healing, philosophy and religion.

For the next 25 years, the organization offered workshops, seminars, retreats, and popular family weekends during the holidays. Programs emphasized a holistic approach, considering mind, body and spirit of equal importance. Presenters included such visionaries as Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Steven Halpern. Howard Douglass once used the house for a meeting of NASA engineers who worked on the Apollo space program.

Preparing the Thanksgiving feast at Shadybrook House 1976

Sadly, Shadybrook House closed its doors in 1981 because a change in the fire code required a complex sprinkler system and a new fire escape to be installed, which was not within the organization’s budget.

The group continued meeting for some time at the Civic in Cleveland Heights, then went on to meet in various members’ homes. Dedicated members pulled together in the mid-1990s to lead Shadybrook into a new era of growth and service.

Over half a century since its inception, Shadybrook continues to flourish, creating opportunities for spiritual exploration and lifelong learning in a diverse and welcoming community.
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