Before I get to the brief backstory about Starr Commonwealth, here's a short preface:

As far as we can tell, the first orphanage to begin operating in Michigan was The Ladies’ Protestant Orphan Asylum in Detroit, 1837.

It opened in a donated building on Beaubein Street with relocations occurring throughout the years. By 1889 the name was changed to The Protestant Orphan Asylum. Other asylums and orphanages followed including St. Vincent's Catholic Orphan Asylum; ironically, it opened when a cholera epidemic broke out, leaving many children orphaned.

Fast-forward to Albion, 1913. Northwest of town was a beautiful area near Montcalm Lake which would soon become an historic landmark.

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Floyd Starr got his BA degree from Albion College, and in 1913 when he was just 20 years old, bought forty acres of land at the lake with the intention of building a home for boys. With that, Starr Commonwealth For Boys was born. At first it was just an old barn that he and the first couple of boys inhabited until a newer, bigger place was constructed.

Starr Commonwealth’s purpose was to help properly develop delinquent, homeless, neglected, and orphaned boys --- four years before Father Flanagan established Boys’ Town in 1917. Although Flanagan is always credited to have originated the phrase “there’s no such thing as a bad boy (child)”, Starr’s website says that it was Starr himself who came up with that slogan.

Throughout the years, Floyd and his staff helped guide hundreds of boys and cemented an excellent reputation throughout the state. Well-respected by town officials and board members, Starr was given many citations for his work.

In 1967, at the age of 84, “Uncle” Floyd stepped down and handed over the main leadership to others. Even so, he continued to give inspiration and guidance to his boys until he passed away at age 97 in 1980.

The photo gallery below has a handful of photos from the early days at Starr Commonwealth as well as a few other old Michigan orphanages and juvenile institutions from over one hundred years ago.

Starr Commonwealth and Other Michigan Homes For Children

MORE INTERESTING MICHIGAN STUFF:

The Unidentified Submerged Objects of Black Creek

Jumbo the Elephant: 1856-1885

Lover's Leap, Mackinac Island