The History of Our Homes: Irwin W. McArthur Center

. Posted in Journey to Healthy Aging Blog

McArthur CenterAfter the Munn House was demolished in 1986, Florida Presbyterian Homes saw the need for a central meeting place to accommodate various activities. So in 1987 a house at 811 Lakeside Avenue was remodeled and named the Irwin W. McArthur Center, honoring Rev. Irwin W. McArthur, the second Executive Director of Florida Presbyterian Homes.

The entrance room became a visiting area and had a grand piano, comfortable inviting chairs and sofa. Another room became the Art Room. A huge central area was built for multi-purposes; some programs, like the Lake Hunter Fellowship, needed lots of space. Years later, that large room was divided; the back part became the exercise room with plenty of equipment to keep seniors in good shape physically. The other half of the room has been used for smaller meetings, parties, square dancing, woodcarving class, exercise classes, and other activities. A large kitchen was made available for meal preparations.

A number of residents have lived in the apartment which has its own entrance at the right front area of the McArthur Center. There was a short time when the apartment was used as a large guest apartment. Today, plans are being made to convert this apartment into a mini-medical center for an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARN-P) to serve our residents.  Rev. Irwin McArthur served in the Pacific during World War II. He returned to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, and met his wife, Margaret, there. According to a 1968 article in The Ledger, the McArthurs did mission work in Mississippi and Florida before going to Colorado. During their seven years of mission work in the west, he traveled 200 miles on Sundays to reach several preaching places. One was in a grange hall in a small settlement, another in a secluded canyon. His wife and children sometimes accompanied him. Just before moving to Lakeland, Rev. McArthur held a pastorate in Delta, Colorado.

Rev. and Mrs. McArthur moved to Lakeland in 1968 with three of their four children. Their oldest son, Kenneth, was already attending Adams State College in Colorado. They lived at 416 Talley Street, and later at 420 Kenilworth Place. The family quickly settled into life in Florida. Daughter Jean, 16, helped to serve Sunday dinner in the Forrer-Bunker Manor dining room. Son Bob, 14, met the neighbors through his paper route for The Ledger, and Mrs. McArthur rode her bicycle along with him on his circuit. John, 12, happily joined the others in making friends.

Rev. Irwin McArthur succeeded our founder, Monte Johnson, as the second Executive Director of Florida Presbyterian Homes, serving for 17 years (1969-1986).  During his term, Florida Presbyterian Homes bought what became known as the Presbyterian Nursing Center, six miles away on Lakeland Hills Blvd. The Homes sold it in 1995, and built the Porter-McGrath Health Center on site.

During the McArthur administration, the duplexes on Highland Street were built in 1980 as the “Highland-Lake Hunter Project”. Lakeside Heights was purchased from the Presbyterian Board of Pensions with the generous monetary gift from Martha English. The Loving Care Endowment Fund was established with a major gift from Edwin Bower (hence Bower-Haines). The Nora Rife Building was constructed on the land which once held the original Watson House, later named Howland-Delay.

Rev. McArthur left lasting legacies during the years he served as the Executive Director of Florida Presbyterian Homes. It was McArthur, along with Mr. Glenn Moore and Comptroller Mr. Robert Minear who put the Homes on a solid financial basis. The Loving Care Fund was one of his proudest accomplishments.

He and his wife retired to Colorado. They occasionally traveled to Florida to visit. The report of his death was sadly received on January 23, 2015. Rev. McArthur never lost sight of the distinctive nature of Florida Presbyterian Homes as a Christian community related to the Presbyterian Church.

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16 Lake Hunter Drive - Lakeland, FL 33803
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