Photo of the Week: Packer Collegiate Institute

[Chemistry room], 1891, 2014.; Packer Collegiate Institute records; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Chemistry room], 1891, 2014.; Packer Collegiate Institute records; Brooklyn Historical Society.

New York City Schools are back in session this week! Are you ready for another school year? The photo of the week depicts a chemistry classroom at Packer Collegiate Institute in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn taken in 1891.

The Packer Collegiate Institute was established as the Brooklyn Female Academy on Joralemon Street in 1845. It was formed by a committee of local citizens who were interested in the education of young women. The school’s first president was Dr. Alonzo Crittenden, who presided over a student body of 350 girls from 19 states. Between the 1800s and 1850s, there was a profound transformation in female education in the United States, and a number of specialized secondary schools for young women, referred to as academies or seminaries, were founded.

The school burned down on New Years’ Day, 1853, and reopened in 1854 with the assistance of a generous $65,000 gift—the largest donation to aid American secondary education at the time—from Mrs. Harriet Packer, widow of William Packer, and former trustee of the Brooklyn Female Academy. One condition of Packer’s donation was her request for the dissolution of the Brooklyn Female Academy Corporation, which was to be replaced by what is today’s Packer Collegiate Institute. Prominent Brooklyn architect Minard LaFever designed the Gothic Revival building, presently known as Founders Hall.

To learn more about the fascinating history of Packer Collegiate Institute, check out the BHS-curated interpretive website exploring the history of Packer with highlights from BHS collections.

This photograph is from the Packer Collegiate Institute records comprised of  administrative records, financial records, architectural records, correspondence, student and faculty records, publications, photographs, audiovisual media, and memorabilia, dating from circa 1780 to 2016. To view a selection of digitized photographs from this collection, check out this online gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

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