Brewster Place, one of the largest continuing care retirement communities in Northeast Kansas, celebrated its 50th anniversary since it first opened its doors in 1964 at an outdoor event open to the entire Topeka community. Over 500 people celebrated the organization’s past and looked toward the future with Brewster further expanding beyond retirement and healthcare services on its 30 acre campus in Topeka. The event featured a BBQ feast, birthday cake, music and a special hip-hop dance routine by Brewster Place residents and staff. To commemorate this special day, Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast proclaimed May 16 as “Brewster Place Day” in the city.
Back on May 17, 1964, a full page advertisement in the Topeka Capital-Journal invited people to “â€¦inspect the beautiful and unique features of Brewster Place, The Congregational Home.”Â The ad goes on to say that Brewster Place “is the first in the Middle West to offer these opportunities to the â€˜New Generation’ (persons over 62).”
The Congregational HomeÂ for older citizens, better known as Brewster Place, began as a dream of Roy and Frances Engler. Frances’ elderly aunt was experiencing difficulties living alone and the couple couldn’t find a suitable place for her to live conveniently and comfortably. They both wondered why other churches besides the Methodist church had not built homes for their seniors. One day Roy Engler said to his wife, “Why don’t we offer our church ten acres of our farm for a building siteâ€¦maybe we could start something.”
The Englers took their idea and offer of land to their pastor, Rev. Ned Burr McKenney. Rev. McKenney took the idea to other Congregational churches in the area and by 1958, representatives of four local Congregational churches were granted a corporate charter for The Congregational Home.
The first Executive Director,Â Mr. Nathan Barr, was hired in 1961 and by 1964 construction of the Main Building was complete and the first tenants arrived. Regardless of the corporate title (The Congregational Home), the community became known asÂ Brewster Place, named after William Brewster (1567-1644), an outstanding Congregationalist and one of the leaders of the Plymouth Colony.
By 1969 the Brewster Place medical facility doubled in size with construction of a second floor. Brewster continued its growth by adding 38 living units in 1972 — Brewster West. In 1979, 38 more living units were constructed including cottages and apartments.
In more recent years, under the leadership ofÂ Mr. David BeckÂ who became President/CEO in 1996, Brewster has continued its growth and service to the community by adding the Brewster Health Center, eight Townhomes, a Brewster at Home program for those not yet ready to relocate to Brewster Place, and the Rehab Center at Brewster Place.
St. Francis Family Medicine at Brewster Place opened its doors this Spring,Â adding to the services provided on the Brewster Place campus to its residents as well as the wider community.
“Today we are a nation looking for answers and needing solutions for problems that loom, many of them related to how we’re going to care for the next “new generation.” the baby boomers,” says Mr. Beck.
Ironically, the post-war baby boom ended the same year Brewster Place was born. The boom started in 1946 and 78 million people were born during the next 18 years. Now and every year for the next 18 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 every day.
“The sheer number of seniors needing supports and services in the decades to come will force us to consider some very significant changes, and we really need to get started now if not yesterday,” Beck says. “As evidenced by our four founding churches many years ago, the faith community and the not-for-profit sector are the leaders. On the big issues facing us now — chiefly how will we provide safe, affordable, accessible supports and services for seniors and their caregivers — Brewster has been called to lead.”