The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn

From the Ashes

From the Ashes

On January 1, 1853 a massive fire destroyed the buildings of the Brooklyn Female Academy (BFA). From its ashes rose The Packer Collegiate Institute. At a meeting on January 3, 1853, BFA trustees expressed concerns over their ability to rebuild. These fears were quickly allayed by a generous offer from Harriet Putnam Packer, the widow of William S. Packer, one of BFA’s original trustees.

Harriet Packer offered $65,000 toward financing the school’s rebuilding. At that time, the gift was the largest sum ever offered towards the cause of female education. As a condition of her gift, Harriet Packer asked that the school be renamed in honor of her late husband.

On September 11, 1854, The Packer Collegiate Institute opened its doors to students to begin a new academic year. The building was officially completed and dedicated on November 9, 1854. The newly renamed school matched BFA in location, curriculum, staff, students, trustees and educational goals. But thanks to Harriet Packer, the school’s finances were now secured, allowing the trustees to dissolve the BFA corporation and pay back its original stockholders.

Celebration of the opening of "The Packer Collegiate Institute," for the education of females, in the City of Brooklyn, 1854

Celebration of the opening of "The Packer Collegiate Institute," for the education of females, in the City of Brooklyn, 1854Full record

Related documents
  • Brooklyn Female Academy Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 1853/01

  • [William S. Packer], 1840

  • School Room Echoes, Vol. 4, No.3, 1853/01/14

  • Letter from Harriet L. Packer to the trustees of the Brooklyn Female Academy, 1853/01/25