Completed and dedicated in October 1928, the “Carpenters and Joiners Home” was a retirement home for members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The first 36 retired carpenters and joiners moved in the following March and as many 370 members resided there during it’s heyday.
As the United States saw a rise in Social Security in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of retirees living in the home declined. No longer serving a purpose, it closed in 1976. The First Assembly of God Church purchased the property in 1980 and renamed it Carpenter’s Home Church.
The church owned Evangel Christian School which opened in 1972 and operated in the old retirement home. In 1982, construction began on a 9,000-seat sanctuary and was one of the largest sanctuaries in the world when it opened in 1985. The church split in 1989 and never again had a congregation large enough to fill the sanctuary. The church closed after attendance dwindled to 1000 making it impossible to maintain it’s facilities. In 1994, Daniel Strader, son of Karl Strader who was founder and senior pastor of Carpenter’s Home Church, was arrested and later convicted for stealing almost $3 million from investors, mostly church members, which may have contributed to the dwindling attendance.
In 2005, the property was sold to Without Walls Church for $8 million and renaming it Without Walls Central, but like it’s previous owners, struggled to attract congregations large enough to maintain it. The last time the church held services was in August 2011, when Lakeland Electric disconnected electrical service because of missed payments.
In 2011, Without Walls International Church experienced financial problems and vacated the Lakeland building after the electricity was cut off. Without Walls co-founder Randy White pledged to hire new pastors and revive the church. That never happened though as the church owed more than $35,000 in code enforcement fines and public service fees as well as not paying the $13 million loan on the property.
Without Walls International filed for bankruptcy in March 2014 and had been embroiled since October 2012 in a foreclosure court battle with Evangelical Christian Credit Union, the California credit union that holds the mortgage on the property.
In February 2015, developers Doug Cook and George Anderson purchased the former Without Walls Central property for about $3.75 million. They made plans to demolish the massive sanctuary to replace it with independent-living units for retirees in place of the church. They also plan on renovating the former retirement home for union carpenters on the property, a 115,000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style structure built in 1929.
Early-2012, residents began complaining of the vandalism around the old retirement school. Windows were broken and doors were busted, which gave neighborhood kids access into the building.
Work has already begun as demolition on the adjacent Without Walls church began in March 2015.