Frank Cramer founded what is now The Harker School under the influence of David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford University. The school was a feeder school for the new university, which opened in 1891.
The school was first and briefly known as the Palo Alto Preparatory School for Boys. It was both a day and boarding school located in the home of Rev. W.D. Bishop on Waverley Street in Palo Alto. In 1892, the school was renamed Manzanita Hall.
Some years later, Cramer moved the school out to the town’s Alba Park “fringe area” of the late 1890s. By this time, the tiny campus was comprised of two buildings, Manzanita Hall and Madrone Hall.
J. Leroy Dixon, a well-known educator in the area, purchased the school from its founder in 1902, sold it, then bought it back it for a brief time. Dixon owned Manzanita Hall for a total of seven years. He once stated that while the school was under his ownership, “Manzanita Hall had students from all over the country and sent more boys to Stanford than any other school in the state.”
According to newspaper reporter Rosa Jensen, Manzanita Hall was not a military academy under Dixon’s ownership. Rather, the school “stressed cultural subjects, which he [Dixon] still feels make a good background for any career.”
In June 1919, ownership of Manzanita Hall once again changed hands, this time to Col. Richard P. Kelly. Under his leadership, the school altered its curriculum and was later moved to Parkinson Avenue. A boys’ camp was also established. In 1925, Manzanita Hall became known as the Palo Alto Military Academy.
—Compiled by the Harker History Committee