The History of St. Christopher’s Inn
A Ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
In the early 1900’s, when the Society of the Atonement founders, Fr. Paul Wattson and Sr. Lurana White, arrived at Graymoor, homeless, hungry, weary wanderers were a common sight along the Albany Post Road (now Route 9). Many found their way to the top of the Holy Mountain in search of food and shelter. Fr. Paul and Sr. Lurana shared generously with them and offered lodging in the shoe shop or woodshed.
In the summer of 1909 while a few men were helping fell trees to build a chicken coup, Fr. Paul visited Washington where he saw a picture of President Lincoln’s log cabin. He resolved that upon his return, instead of being used as a chicken coup, the new house would become a lodge for the “pilgrims of the road.” He named it St. Christopher’s Inn, after the patron saint of travelers and called the men “Brothers Christopher”.
The Inn Expands
In 1920, to meet the need for more space, Fr. Paul bought and transported to Graymoor an army barrack that could house 50 men. In 1928 a second Inn was completed – even while plans were being made to expand the Inn. With the Brothers Christopher doing most of the work, a third Inn able to accommodate 100 men was completed in 1933. In 1952, a new wing was added, increasing accommodations to over 150 men.
Alcoholics and Addicts Need Help
Throughout the years, friars working with the Brothers Christopher recognized that many of the men struggled with alcoholism. In 1960, the Friars became one of the first organizations in the United States to offer regular AA meetings, which took place at the Inn. In 1961, the Matt Talbot Reception Center was opened and provided space for even more men as well as larger space for AA meetings.
In 1967, at the Friars’ General Chapter meeting, the Friars who were working at the Inn asked that the ministry be formally expanded to include alcohol rehabilitation. A year later, basic counseling, referrals and medical services were introduced at the Inn. In the early 70’s, with the increase of drug abuse in society, men began coming to the Inn with dual addictions – alcohol and drugs. In the late 1970’s the Friars were among the first to become clinically trained and certified by NYS to treat substance abuse & addiction diseases. For the next 20 years, Friars and lay staff at the Inn worked to help the men, meeting each new need as it arose.
Expansion and Licensing
In 1991, under the direction of Fr. Emil Tomaskovic, SA Minister General and Inn Director, Br. Gregory Lucrezia, SA, a $5.5 million expansion and renovation began. Completed in October 1993, the project provided much needed dormitory space, counseling rooms, separate rooms for the Friars, as well as other amenities.
Fr. Bernard Palka, SA was the director of the Inn from 1993 through 2010. During that time, St. Christopher’s Inn moved to the forefront of fighting the challenges of chemical dependency through new licenses, new programs and an expansion of services. In 1996, the Inn was licensed to provide Outpatient Alcoholism Counseling. In 1999, the Inn was licensed as a Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment Center and received an Article 28 license from the NYS Department of Health to operate as a Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
The first Board of Directors for St. Christopher’s Inn was established in 2000, and the first Board of Directors Dinner honoring Walter Fischer, Retired CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A. was in 2005.
St. Christopher’s Inn opened the Community Day program in 2005 for people in the local community in need of substance abuse treatment without the need for residential shelter. The Smoking Cessation program was also implemented in 2005.
Centennial Milestone & International Accreditation
The Inn celebrated 100 years of serving men in crisis in 2009 and opened the Centennial Brick Walk and Meditation Garden in 2010. The number of beds was expanded to 177 and the IBM Computer Lab opened at the Inn allowing for optional vocational training for the men. In addition, the Inn received the first three-year accreditation by the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF International), an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process and continuous improvement services that center on enhancing the lives of persons served.
In 2013 the Friars and Staff of the Inn recognized a long-term goal by opening Brothers Christopher House, a licensed transitional living facility in White Plains, New York where men who have completed a component of treatment at the Inn can stay while they work to transition back into their communities through a supporting living environment.
San Damiano House and Farm opened in 2017 and is a transitional living opportunity for men who have completed a component of treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn, but want to remain at Graymoor to continue to work on long-term recovery. The men have the option of attending additional treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn while they work on San Damiano Farm, developing vocational skills while they work to transition back to independent living.
Today, St. Christopher’s Inn continues to provide temporary shelter and the most comprehensive services including addiction treatment, health care, psychiatric services and spiritual guidance. Over the last century the Inn has saved and rehabilitated the lives of tens of thousands of Brothers Christopher, helping to heal the mind, the body and the spirit of fathers, brothers and sons, who have lost their way.