Pieces of History: John Knox Village

By Louise Caccamise

Before there was John Knox Village there was Aldersgate Village. It had its beginning on March 24, 1972, when a ground-breaking ceremony for a retirement center was conducted by Rev. Fred M. Toms, president of the Aldersgate Foundation. In June, models of the first two duplex cottages were opened. Three months later on October 3, 1972, the first occupant moved in. Soon there were many other residents.

These first residents had no paved roads and no streetlights. They took care of their own lawns with a monthly award being given for the most beautiful lawn and garden. Neighborliness and volunteerism reigned from the beginning. There were picnics, parties and celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries. There were also rules. No alcohol was allowed on the grounds and no clothes could be washed on Sunday.

In 1978, Aldersgate was sold to Christian Services International and renamed John Knox Village of Central Florida. Both a mobile home park and cottages were included in the sale. The new corporation was organized as a Continuing Care Retirement Center, requiring endowment fees and new construction began again. Administrative and maintenance offices were in modified cottages on Azalea Drive and a chapel was housed on Jonquil Court with a steeple and chimes. Residents were taken to DeBary Hall for their noonday meal sponsored by the Volusia County Council on Aging, and Meals on Wheels was available.

A painting of the John Knox Village of Central Florida community from the 80s

Artists rendering of Majestic Oaks Continuing Care Complex

The first Board of Directors, chosen from area business leaders, was organized in February 1979. That same month, the State of Florida granted a Certificate of Need for a 60-bed nursing home.

In April 1979, the lake was dredged and a groundbreaking was held for the Med Center and the Village Commons. Two months later, ground was broken for the apartment buildings. At the end of the year, an election was held for the first Residents’ Council. The following year, the mobile home park was sold to finance the planned construction projects.

In 1980, Morrison Food Service was contracted to provide food service in a cafeteria-style dining room on the second floor of the commons building that was renamed The Centre. Transportation was provided, if needed, from the cottage to the cafeteria.

On October 26, 1980, “John Knox Village Day” was celebrated with outside visitors welcomed. Over nine hundred meals were served that weekend. There was harp and organ music, square dancing, bridge tournaments, pole fishing, craft displays, parties and picnics. This event set the tone for things to come. The Country Store and Ice Cream Parlor moved to new locations and an automatic bank machine was installed.

ABC’s Good Morning America featured parts of the campus as a showplace for retirees. This was the year when a gazebo was built on the island in the center of the lake with a connecting bridge to the shore.

A memorial rose garden was planted and residents enjoyed growing their own vegetables. The midrise apartments became ready for occupancy. And another happening showed the path for the future: John Knox Village of Central Florida terminated their management contract with Christian Services International and became independent.

In 1982, a 44-passenger Blue Bird bus provided the first out-of-town trip to Orlando for dinner. The contract with Morrison’s was terminated and a food service director was now in charge. The first Residents’
Council Food Committee was formed. Soon after, breakfast that had been served in the Snack Bar was moved to the dining room, and the Council Food Committee came up with a dress code. Slacks or dresses were to be worn at dinner and a shirt at all times. Walking shorts could be worn at breakfast.

Beginning in 1984, an emergency call system was installed in the cottages that a nurse on duty would answer. Improvements included an auxiliary generator, apartment elevators, stairwell lights, a sewer plant, a maintenance building and additional capital for our reserve funds. Expansion of the Med Center added an additional 60-beds and 18 Adult Congregate Living units, plus a doctor’s clinic.

On January 1, 1989, Jerry Jaques of Parkside Senior Services-Management and Development Corporation
became executive director of John Knox Village. A renovation project began with new stucco and new doors, sodding and an irrigation system, which was to lead later to an Orange City Chamber of Commerce Beautification Award. In 1990, Lester Barker was hired as associate executive director. Later in the year, a chapter of the newly organized Florida Life Care Residents Association was approved. 1990 was a good year financially and a ten year plan was developed.

In 1991, “sit down” waitress service became available. Eventually the cafeteria was eliminated, leaving the salad bar. New 15- and 25-passenger buses were purchased. 1992 brought Knox TV, a
closed circuit channel for the Village, and the JKV Foundation was established to assist residents in financial need and for funding of Village projects. In March 1993, Jerry Jaques formed his own management group, Riverwood Retirement Management, and was retained to manage the community. Les Barker continued as executive director and John Knox purchased five acres south of Sweetgum Court, bringing their holdings to 93 acres.

In 1997, The Med Center received a Superior rating for the twelfth year in a row and John Knox Village was voted Best Retirement Community and Best Nursing Home by the readers of The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Among improvements in the Village, a sidewalk was completed around the lake.

The year 1998 began with a ground breaking ceremony for the new activity center, later to be named the Lester R. Barker Center in 2017, for the man who had been the force behind the building.

In 1999, the old swimming pool was removed and a new screen-enclosed pool took its place. In May the new Activity Center opened with the first two meetings being the Residents’ Quarterly Council followed by the Board of Directors with residents. At these meetings, the Board approved the idea of a 60-bed Memory Care Facility and the building of new Silverstone Villas along the shore of Lake Silverstone on the newly acquired property. The Silverstone Villas were the first units to feature a garage.

In 2002, the Majestic Oaks Continuing Care Complex began and renovation and redesign of the exterior of all the cottages was ongoing. Majestic Oaks held its grand opening in January 2003 and a new guard house was erected at the Veterans Memorial Parkway entrance. John Knox was officially annexed into Orange City on June 10.

How the cottages appear today

In 2004, hurricanes came through that caused much tree and limb damage. In 2008, outside painting of the Centre was done. In 2010, fourteen more Silverstone villas were built along Northlake Drive. Four years later, adjacent Pine Forest Mobile Home Park was purchased with intent to develop the property.

Oak Park Senior Services opened on Monastery Road in 2015 with the Oak Park Pharmacy providing much convenience for residents. Following on the heels of Oak Park Pharmacy, Holly Branch Villas opened a model home in 2016 and new residents came in 2017.

Now in 2019, we are looking forward to the construction of Valencia Landing with villas that will bring new residents to our community.