Albion Interactive History / Hillside

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Buildings / Starr Commonwealth

    Renamed Payne Family Center

Historic Designation +
Albion Area Historical Architectural Survey, 1985

With a full complement of boys in Gladsome Cottage and Newton Hall, another dozen in WilcoxCottage, and a growing number of staff workers, it soon became evident that the old kitchen at Gladsome was no longeradequate for the mounting campus population. By that time Starr was looking ahead to an enrollment of “about ahundred” so he made a daring decision. Rather than burden his staff with a building campaign. he himself would seek the funds to construct a food preparation center fit for the future.

It was a humbling experience. Few persons, he discovered, viewed a kitchen as a glamorous investment, and no one wanted to lend his name to such a facility. Apparently Starr himself was somewhat apologetic about his mission as well, for it took a local business man to stiffen his resolve. Starr had barely begun his request for a donation from him before the merchant broke in. “Mr. Starr,” he said, “you came in here to ask for money, didn’t you? Well, let me ask you one question – do you believe in what you’re doing? If so, say as much without apology.”

This was advice well taken. Starr not only persuaded the business man “to be the first to help with $500,” but he went out with faith renewed to pursue his goal. Years later, whenever he spoke of the building of Hillside, he would say with a smile, “god does work in a mysterious way, and sometime it takes a pretty hearty slap to set us on the right track!” For him the campaign also coined an aphorism he quoted frequently: “When you want something worthwhile, go after it!”

For nearly half a century the commissary dispensed only vegetarian meals. At the commonwealth there were soundreasons for maintaining a meatless diet. The first of these was conviction. While both a worker and patient and the Battle Creek Sanitarium, young Starr became a staunch adherent to the principles of “biologic living” prescribed by his early mentor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.

Whereas Starr never waxed philosophical over dietary issues, he shared many of Kellogg’s convictions. During the establishment years, when food was a large item on a small budget, he was also highly grateful to his friend for his annual contributions of money, food supplies, and vegetarian menus. Nevertheless, by the time of the doctor’sdeath in 1943, the practice of vegetarianism at the Commonwealth had gradually succumbed to the serving of meat whenever a balanced budget and a balanced diet called for it.

In 1979 a ninety-six-year-old Starr wrote his daughter-in-law, Elta Starr, “We are hard at work remodeling Hillside [formerly thecommissary] into five or six apartments. Very often it is desirable to have the family and the boy together for counseling. When we have a boy who is having a great deal of trouble adjusting to the school, often it is useful for the family to get together with our counselors to talk over the boy’s difficulties. As soon as the apartments are ready, his folks can visit for a couple of days of so if necessary. I understandthe new facility will be known as the Payne Family Center.”

Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.

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