In 1955, the Brothers of St. John of God arrived to Ojai, California to establish a novitiate for training young men desiring to dedicate their lives to God in the service of the sick and poor. The property, which was known as the Lombardy Ranch, was located in the middle of the Ojai Valley with an approximate 10 acres of land bordering East Ojai Avenue. John and Grace Thille purchased the 26 acres of orange groves adjacent to the property. This purchase would later assist the Brothers with the operational needs of their convalescent nursing hospital.
In 1927, the property was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Weist and had their residence built in an early Tudor style by architect R.W. Winifred. This home has been remodeled and currently houses the residents’ quarters and dining room. The beginnings were indeed very humble as funds only permitted the opening of a six bed unit. The family room of the residence was converted into a chapel and Mr. Weist’s office was used as the Brothers’ dining room. The other rooms were converted into patient rooms.
Due to a need for convalescent care in the area, an expansion program was planned. This would also be an ideal place for the Brothers in formation to practice hospitality. With insistence of the Hospitaller Order’s leadership and the help of Cardinal James McIntyre, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 14, 1958 for the new buildings, which included a 22 bed convalescent home and a physical therapy department completely equipped to render services to the residents of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
The center was originally founded as a novitiate as the Hospitaller Order focused on providing care and improving the quality of life for the elderly it serves. St. Joseph’s quickly grew from a training center into a skilled-nursing facility able to accommodate up to 28 residents and also operates 14 residential units. St. Joseph’s has been able to serve the Ojai Valley and surrounding towns for over 50 years through the support and efforts of the many friends and benefactors of the Brothers. St. Joseph’s will move forward into a new era in a new way. The present is here because we honor the past. The future will “be” because we recognize the needs of the present.