A Little History: The Emily Jewell Clark School Building

EJC pre 1936One of the most beautiful buildings on campus is undoubtedly the Emily Jewell Clark School building. Built originally in 1917 and designed by Detroit Architect Marcus Burrowes, the funding was received from good friend and early supporter of Floyd Starr’s efforts Emily Jewell Clark.

“Uncle” Floyd had talked amongst the boys with hopes for a school building bigger and better than the temporary tarpaper shack they had constructed behind Gladsome Cottage. The boys agreed it would be good to add it to the daily prayer list, but one young man pointed out that no plans had been drawn, so perhaps that should happen soon as well? Floyd called upon Marcus Burrowes, who had also designed Newton Hall and Wilcox cottage, and asked him to prepare the drawings.

When the field secretary called upon Mrs. Clark and asked for support, she said she had in mind a bigger project – was there anything larger the campus needed?  Floyd was able to produce the plans and get the funds needed for the building.

Unfortunately, the building burned completely down in January 1936.Many rumors abounded concerning the cause of that fire. At the time it was assumed that two of the Starr boys assigned to sleep in the building were smoking and had slipped their burning cigarette butts in the cracks of the floor so as not to be caught by Uncle Floyd.

This untruth was refuted vehemently by Starr Alum Jerry Robinson, who was one of the boys present in the building that night. The story he told was that it was seasonably cold and the coal furnaces were banked at night to save money on the heating costs. The two boys assigned to security for the building had mattresses they slept on and an electric heater for the room they were in. The heater caught the mattress material on fire and the boys were not careful at putting out the smoldering before storing the mattresses in a closet. By the time the fire was discovered, it was raging out of control. No one was hurt, but the building was a total loss.  EJC Post 1936

Mrs. Clark provided the funds to rebuild the school and Marcus Burrowes was again employed to create a new school plan. This time with much more concrete construction so as to deter any more fires!