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A Location Steeped in Rich History
Located in one of the oldest townships in Pennsylvania, the property now known as ACE Conference Center played an important role in our nation’s history. In May 1778, George Washington sent 2,200 men out from the Continental Army’s winter encampment in Valley Forge to conduct reconnaissance of British positions outside of Philadelphia, the occupied patriot capital. Commanding the men was the 20-year-old Marquis de Lafayette. Crossing the Schulykill River, Lafayette set up camp on Barren Hill, about halfway between American and British lines. The British learned of the excursion and sent 5,000 men to surround and trap Lafayette’s force against the river. Once aware of the British advance, Lafayette sent a few patrols to attack and delay the enemy while the rest of his force retreated undetected along Barren Hill Road, a path unknown to the British. The area was renamed Lafayette Hill for the Marquis’s decisive action.
After the war, the parcels of land around Lafayette Hill changed hands many times. In the 1870s, most of the property was purchased by Philadelphia railroad executive Henry H. Houston as part of an investment portfolio that included a fleet of ocean steamers, Colorado gold and silver mines, and Pennsylvania oil wells. Houston died in 1895. In 1925, his estate sold the property to a local group who created the Roxborough Country Club by building a golf course and renovating an old stone barn into a clubhouse.
In 1945, John Diemand, the dynamic president of the Insurance Company of North America (INA), purchased the Roxborough Country Club with the intention of providing his employees and their families with a suitable recreation area outside of the city. After renovations to the golf course and buildings, the club re-opened in 1946 as “Eagle Lodge Country Club,” named for INA’s venerable bald eagle trademark.
The Conference Center, designed by renowned architect Edward Durrell Stone, was completed in 1980 and opened to serve as a training center for INA, and later CIGNA, employees. Concurrently, the property’s golf course was completely redesigned and rebuilt by famed golf course architect Rees Jones. It opened for play in April 1983, and quickly earned accolades for its beauty and challenge. It served as the home of the Philadelphia Section PGA Championship from 1983 through 1989, and was rated 4 out of 5 stars by Golf Digest.
In 1999, The ACE Group of Companies, headed by ACE Limited, a global holding company based in Bermuda and specializing in insurance, reinsurance and risk management, purchased the domestic and international property and casualty business of CIGNA Corporation (including INA). Eagle Lodge Conference Center and Country Club accompanied the sale and shortly after was named ACE Conference Center.
Though the name changed, the business mission remained the same – ACE Conference Center exists to provide outstanding business meeting and event facilities and unmatched service for our clients. To that end, a new master plan was developed for ACE Conference Center to ensure that we continued to achieve our mission. The first phase included construction of a Gary Player Signature Design 7,500-yard golf course and a spectacular new clubhouse comprising what is now known as The ACE Club. The club, which opened in September 2003, is operated separately from the conference center as a corporate-oriented golf facility offering corporate and individual memberships.