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During the 1920’s, Mr. William L. Hutcheson was the General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Union of America based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Concerned that many union members lacked a source of income after retirement, Hutcheson envisioned a large home where the men could live well, receive appropriate assistance as needed, and be provided a significant number of activities to enrich their lives. In order to finance his vision, the union assessed a charge to its members.
Mr. Hutcheson sought a temperate climate so that the members could enjoy as many activities as possible without the limitations imposed by Indianapolis’ climate and ultimately identified Florida as that place. He was not satisfied with any of the sites he had investigated in Florida until receiving a telegram from Mr. Tom Appleyard, Secretary of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, describing 1,700 acres along the southern border of Lake Gibson assembled by Mr. J.J. Haldeman, a local Lakeland real estate agent. Mr Hutcheson found that particular location ideal.
Mr. Hutcheson returned to the union’s principal office to initiate the lengthy process necessary to proceed. Ultimately, the Board of Directors met in a smoke-filled room in Lakeland and after considerable deliberation, very early one morning, approved the purchase of the site to construct the home.
The Union retained the architectural firm of Rubush and Hunter of Indianapolis who designed the iconic Spanish-style building. Thereafter, it retained Fred T. Ley of Boston and New York to serve as the general contractor. It took approximately 18 months to construct the main and ancillary buildings. Site dedication ceremonies were held on October 1, 1928, and the first members moved in on March 14, 1929. When completed, the original home was capable of housing approximately 400 men and it included a dining room large enough to serve all the residents, an auditorium that seated 956 people, and an infirmary. On January 1, 1931, the William L. Hutcheson Golf Course was opened on the site and was the second golf course to be built in Lakeland.
Through various acquisitions over time, the property grew to approximately 2,000 acres and was an integral part of Lakeland’s growth and history. For years, it employed services provided by local citizens and purchased goods from local merchants.
Of historical interest, the Carpenters Home was the subject of a report in the first edition of the Lakeland Evening Ledger. The Home was also recognized for its historical significance and natural beauty by M.F. Hetherington in his book, A History of Polk County.
By the 1950’s, fewer union members resided at Carpenters Home, because by then, they had pension and social security benefits that allowed them alternative retirement choices. Finally, in 1976, after decades of declining demand, the Carpenters Home ceased all operations.
In 1980, the First Assembly of God Church purchased 470 acres and by 1985, it built a 9,600 seat sanctuary, which became known as Carpenter’s Home Church. In 1989, the Church repurposed the Carpenters Home building as an evangelical school, which operated until 2006.
Without Walls International, a Tampa based Pentecostal church, bought the church and school property in 2005. Church attendance declined, however, as two consecutive ministers left to form new congregations. The mortgage holder, California based Evangelical Christian Credit Union, began foreclosure proceedings against Without Walls, which declared bankruptcy in 2014.
In 2015, Lakeland Senior Living, LLC doing business as Lake Gibson Village, purchased the church, school and ancillary buildings on 63.49 acres with 400’ frontage on Lake Gibson. The classic beauty and grace of the iconic Carpenters Home is being meticulously restored and enhanced with all of the conveniences of the finest modern amenities. Lake Gibson Village will open its doors as Lakeland’s premier independent senior living community in August, 2016.
The Carpenters Home; A Descriptive Story in Text and Pictures, The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
The Carpenters’ Home, Polk, January 4, 1970.
Cinnamon Bair, Polk Chronicles, Lakeland Ideal for Retiring Craftsmen; The Ledger, August 30, 1999.
Star-Telegram, Vol 32, No. 266, February 13, 1944.