In 1926, James Cash Penney (founder of JCPenney), came to Northeast Florida and created his own utopian village. Penney Farms, was an experimental town intended to be a "scientifically-managed agricultural community”. The Great Depression ended the experiment but Penny Farms lives on today.
Did you know that James Cash Penney, the founder of JCPenney's department store, also founded a community in Clay County? Did you also know that one of the cast members from the movie "The Wizard of Oz", Meinhardt Raabe, lived at Penney Farms?
According to Arch Fredric Blakey's Parade of Memories A History of Clay County, Florida, Penney Farms started out as two projects – a "scientifically-managed agricultural community and a home for retired ministers." The farming experiment began in 1925 and was successful until the beginning of the Depression. "By 1932, Penney was bankrupt and began negotiations to dispose of the project. On December 22, 1932, Paul E. Reinhold, president of Jacksonville's defunct Foremost Dairies, took over the operation and the colonization attempt ceased."
The other project was the home for retired ministers. The work for this project began in the mid 1920's and was founded for "retired ministers, returned missionaries, and retired YMCA workers." The Memorial Home Community was incorporated on June 22, 1926 and is now known as the Penney Retirement Community. There is a website - http://www.penneyretirementcommunity.org/default.asp - which will give you information about their current operations.
One of the Penney Retirement Center's most famous member's was Meinhardt Raabe. He played the Coroner in the Wizard of Oz. He lived at Penney Retirement Community from the mid-1980's until his death in April 2010.
Penney Farms has a population of 749 and is located in the heart of Clay County.
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