A dedicated group of Presbyterians in Arkansas City first imagined a center for retired living within the Ark City community starting in the late 1960s. In a March 14, 1962, article published by the Arkansas City Traveler, Dr. Frederick Maier, retired Presbyterian minister of Arkansas City stated in a letter to the Ark City Idea contest that “there is one thing Ark City as a community should strive for. It is a modern and adequate retirement and nursing home.” He continued to state that a retirement community would boost the economy as well as provide a service to a “needy and worthy segment of the population.”
Dr. Maier finished his letter stating, “There are various ways this problem can be approached if a group of citizens have a mind to do so.”
A concerned group of local citizens led by committee chair, William Baucus, took that endeavor on. After 10 years of planning and fundraising efforts, construction for the first phase of the project, which was the five-story apartment complex, began in November 1976. The complete vision of the project included 93 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and a health care center to accommodate 60 residents in skilled nursing. Four out of the five stories were designated as independent living and the fifth floor was designated for intermediate care.
Neva Bahruth, current resident of Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor and member of the First Presbyterian Church, remembers Dr. Maier fondly.
“Dr. Maier was the driving force behind the planning and fundraising of the project. Even though he had moved from Ark City, he was very much a part of our community and concerned about our future,” Bahruth said.
The approximate cost of the entire project was $4 million. The land was purchased from Laurence and Ruby Chaplin for $35,000. The project had the support from the local congregation but the major financial support, operational counsel and management control was through the United Presbyterian Foundation of Kansas. At the time, the foundation was an agency of the Synods of Mid-America, which was established as a special ministry to the elderly in order to provide them with quality care and supportive services. The Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor was the 12th retirement community built by the organization in Kansas and Missouri.
In an August 23, 1976, article published by the Arkansas City Traveler, William D. Baucus, chairman of the project said, “The objective is to minister to the psychological, social and spiritual needs of its people in a successful attempt to have people live secure lives at that age within a similar type of familiar atmosphere in which they have lived for the last two-thirds of their lives.”
The project committee “turned over the soil” to start “sowing” the new manor campus in a field at the corner of Fourth and Hickory streets. Mrs. William Weston had the honor of “turning over” the first shovel of soil on November 28, 1976, at the ground-breaking ceremony with the support of fellow committee members. At the time of the ceremony, 36 persons had already made commitments to move to the Manor upon its completion. Those desiring to move in were asked to make a Development Gift of $4,000 and then a monthly rate ranging from $340 to $370 a month.
Construction continued throughout the next couple of years with the first residents moving into the apartments in October 1978. Among the first residents to move to the community was Frances Baucus, mother of William Baucus. Construction for the healthcare center followed, opening in 1980.