A Brief History of The Packer Collegiate Institute
In 1845, the City of Brooklyn, incorporated in 1833, was home to 40,000 inhabitants. It had churches, shops, banks, several schools, but no high schools or colleges. A small group of interested landowners and merchants living on Brooklyn Heights formed a committee "of all the citizens interested in the cause of Female Education." After several meetings, a board of trustees was selected, funds were raised and the new school, named The Brooklyn Female Academy was built on Joralemon Street. It was a financial and educational success, its enrollment increasing steadily as the years went on. On January 1, 1853, the building caught fire and burned to the ground.
A few days later, Harriet Putnam Packer (1820-1892), the widow of William S. Packer, one of the late trustees of the B.F.A. wrote to the school's Board, offering the sum of $65,000 to rebuild The Brooklyn Female Academy with just one small caveat: that the new institution be named in honor of her deceased husband. Thus, the largest gift ever for the higher education of women was made in the unassuming manner that was Mrs. Packer's hallmark. The new building, designed by the noted architect of Brooklyn churches, Minard LaFever, opened in November, 1854.
The Packer Collegiate Institute was the preemininent school for girls for much of the latter 19th century. In 1919 a junior college was instituted, which operated up until 1972, when, acknowledging the changing landscape of private education, Packer abolished it and became fully coed.
Still true to its original educational mission, Packer continues to offer a superior pre K-12 education in its landmark buildings on Joralemon Street.
Read and see much more in the Winter 2015 issue of The Packer Magazine:
Packer's extensive archives are the focus of a 10th Grade History research project, which was curated by the Upper School Archives Club into an extensive online exhibit.