By Enid Davis
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 that opened in 1891.
The school was first and briefly called 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. It was renamed Manzanita Hall in 1892.
Some years later, Cramer moved the school out to the town’s Alba Park “fringe area” of the late 1890s. The illustration above shows two buildings on the small campus. The second building was named Madrono Hall. Hopkins Avenue now follows the photo’s fence line.
A Mr. J. Leroy Dixon purchased the school from its founder in 1902, sold it, then bought it back it for a brief time. In a Palo Alto newspaper interview dated July 21, 1949, Dixon’s career is detailed. He was a well known educator and a one-time owner of Manzanita Hall.
Dixon owned Manzanita Hall for seven years. During his time of ownership, Dixon states that “Manzanita Hall had students from all over the country and sent more boys to Stanford than any other school in the state.” (Go Harker!)
He recalls the time that one boy actually turned down Stanford, because his father and grandfather had gone to CAL, and he had to go there, too, in order to maintain family harmony. According to the 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 Col. Richard P. Kelly purchased the school. According to the Palo Alto Community Book, “Kelly revised the curriculum, moved the school to Parkinson Avenue, operated a boys’ camp in conjunction with the school and changed its name in 1925 to the Palo Alto Military Academy.”
The word “Manzanita” sounds like the name of a mighty Native American chief, but it is actually the word for a native American berry-bearing shrub of the genus Arctostaphylos found in the Western United States. The shrub has “leathery leaves and clusters of white to pink flowers.” The word for apple in Spanish is manzana. Manzanita is a little apple. The fruit is edible.
We do not know too much about Manzanita Hall at this time, but we can say that the little apple plant that Frank Cramer planted in 1892 is beautifully flourishing in 2002.