When it opened in 1820, the college had no facilities for housing or boarding students. While most students boarded in private homes in Danville, in 1824 the Board of Trustees approved the building of a refectory to provide meals. Since the college had no funds to do this, it proposed to raise the necessary $7,000 by selling 70 shares at $100 per share to subscribers. As part of the arrangement the Trustees would rent the refectory to a steward, and pay the rent back to the shareholders. Individuals purchased forty shares, and the trustees agreed that if fifty shares could be raised among individuals, it would buy the remaining twenty shares. David A. Crutchfield and Robert A. Russel, the same men who had designed and built Old Centre, were contracted to build the refectory next to Old Centre. It was completed in 1825, and the Board selected James J. Miles to become steward. Charges were set at: board, $1.50 per week; fuel, $1.50 per chord; washing, 40 cents per dozen; bedding, $2.50 per session; and candles, 16 2/3 cents per pound. Students not from Danville were required to board at the refectory. John A. Lapsley became steward in 1828, followed by Daniel Brown in 1829, and D. B. F. Cochran in 1830.
An advertisement in the August 2, 1828, issue of The Olive Branch announcing Centre's next session includes "Board in the Refectory will be $1.50 per week, which includes Board, Washing, Lodging, Candles &c, except firewood, which will be furnished at cost in the winter season."
In response to requests from several students that they be allowed to board elsewhere, the Trustees reaffirmed in 1830 that "all students ... residing at a distance from Danville be required to board in the refectory, unless permitted by the faculty to board elsewhere." The Trustees also resolved that the President be required to assure the students the Trustees "will cause the Steward to furnish at all times a sufficient supply of good wholesome food properly prepared and in sufficient variety."
Followng D. B. F. Cochran's resignation as steward in 1831, the Trustees decided to abandon maintaing a refectory, and instead rented the building to President John C. Young as his home. From that point until 1937 when the College purchased the Craik House as the president's home, Hillcrest, as the refectory building became known as, would serve as the home of Centre's presidents. The college would not provide any facilities for student housing or dining until the 1870s, and even then most students throughout the nineteenth century would lodge and board at private homes in Danville.
What became of the original refectory shareholders? In 1832 the Trustees authorized that tuition fees be used to pay the stockholders their annual dividends. Payments must have continued for some time, because in 1841 a certain Mrs. Williams presented to the Board a claim that her deceased husband was part owner of a share of refectory stock, and that she was therefore entitled to a partial payment. The Board reached a settlement that in return for allowing a reduction of $30 on her son's tuition, Mrs. Williams would drop any further dividend claims.