Legendary Retailer Gets Another Statue

Long before J.C. Penney stores became mid-range anchors at suburban shopping malls, James Cash Penney was a millionaire merchant with money to burn. In the 1920s he bought 150,000 acres of northeast Florida and founded Penney Farms, the hub of a hoped-for agricultural utopia. Adjacent to it, the devout Penney built a home for retired ministers.

The utopia foundered, and Penney lost most of his fortune in the Florida land crash of the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. But the retired minister's home survived, and grew into a Christian retirement community. The town of Penney Farms held on as well, although the retirement community now rivals it in population.

An 8-foot-tall, $50,000 bronze statue of Penney, wearing his signature suit and bow tie, was dedicated on November 12 on the front lawn of Penney Farms' town hall. The statue was commissioned by the Historical Society of Penney Farms, headed by Audrey Penney, and sculpted by the son-in-law of J.C. Penney's biographer. It faces the retirement community, and commemorates the 80th anniversary of its founding.

Oddly, there is no J.C. Penney store in Penney Farms; the nearest one is 15 miles away in Orange Park.

Those who want more J.C. Penney roadside tributes should visit the J.C. Penney Museum & Boyhood Home in Hamilton, Missouri; the J.C. Penney Mother Store in Kemmerer, Wyoming; the J.C. Penney Museum & Replica Mother Store in Plano, Texas; and a second bronze statue of J.C. -- this one a 9-footer -- in the rotunda of the company's home office, also in Plano.

[11/25/2006]

Town Hall

Address:
4100 Clark Ave., Penney Farms, FL
Directions:
Statue stands in front of Town Hall. On the west side of Clark St., just south of Hwy 16.
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