Pratt Institute

Pratt Through the Decades

From the first day of classes in October 1887 to the opening of Myrtle Hall in December 2011, Pratt Institute has offered students and faculty members the opportunity to make a tangible difference on a local, national, and international scale. While the Institute's curriculum and scope have evolved in the decades since its founding, its programs remain true to the founder's vision. Scroll through the timeline to learn about some of the significant moments in Pratt’s history.

First Classes Held at Pratt

1887

First Classes Held at Pratt

more
Thrift Assocation of Pratt Institute Established

1889

Thrift Assocation of Pratt Institute Established

more
Death of Charles Pratt

1891

Death of Charles Pratt

more
Library Opened to Pratt Community and Public

1896

Library Opened to Pratt Community and Public

more
Pratt Supported the War Effort

1914-1918

Pratt Supported the War Effort

more
First Fashion Show

1924

First Fashion Show

more
Foundation Curriculum Revolutionized

1939

Foundation Curriculum Revolutionized

more
End of the Grand Avenue El

1950

End of the Grand Avenue El

more
Nuclear Radiation Testing Partnership

1957

Nuclear Radiation Testing Partnership

more
Pratt Center Established

1963

Pratt Center Established

more
Higgins Hall Opened

1965

Higgins Hall Opened

more
Pratt Protested Vietnam War

1970

Pratt Protested Vietnam War

more
Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Launched

1987

Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Launched

more
Decision to Close Engineering School Announced

1991

Decision to Close Engineering School Announced

more
Thomas F. Schutte Became Pratt’s 11th President

1993

Thomas F. Schutte Became Pratt’s 11th President

more
Pratt Sculpture Park Opened

1998

Pratt Sculpture Park Opened

more
Pratt Manhattan Moves to 14th Street

2001

Pratt Manhattan Moves to 14th Street

more
Higgins Hall Center Section Unveiled

2005

Higgins Hall Center Section Unveiled

more
Design Center Named for Juliana Curran Terian

2007

Design Center Named for Juliana Curran Terian

more
Myrtle Hall Opened

2011

Myrtle Hall Opened

more
125th Anniversary of Pratt’s Founding

2012

125th Anniversary of Pratt’s Founding

more

DRAG THE SLIDER BELOW TO EXPLORE THE TIMELINE

1887

First Classes Held at Pratt

October 17, 1887 marked the first day of classes at Pratt Institute for the 12 students enrolled in its initial drawing classes. Of the 12, half requested freehand drawing and the others, mechanical drawing. Although Walter Scott Perry, one of the Institute’s first faculty members (all pictured here along with Charles Pratt’s son, Frederic, in the center), was worried Charles Pratt would be disappointed to hear there were only 12 students, the founder was confident that “if we do right by the 12, we may have 13 next week, and if we do right by 13, we may have 14 the week after, and that is the way to grow.” Indeed, just five months later, by March 1888, 307 students were enrolled in courses ranging from stenography to sewing and by fall 1888, that number had grown to 1,500.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

First Classes Held at Pratt

1889

Thrift Assocation of Pratt Institute Established

Charles Pratt believed that teaching people to save and manage their money was an important part of their education, as indicated by the Institute’s description of itself as having been “Founded by Charles Pratt for the promotion of Art, Science, Literature, Industry, and Thrift.” To that end, he established the Thrift Association of Pratt Institute, which was modeled on London’s Birbeck Building Society system that helped working class people set aside money for building or buying their own homes. By 1908, the Thrift had more than 6,000 depositors and 1,820 people had qualified for home mortgages. Originally located in the basement of Main Building, in 1917 it moved to the Thrift Building (now known as Thrift Hall, pictured here) designed by Shampan and Shampan to house the highly successful bank. By 1940, it appeared that the lesson of the Thrift, which then had approximately $5 million in deposits, had been learned. In 1946, the Thrift Association closed and its accounts were transferred to the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Thrift Assocation of Pratt Institute Established

1891

Death of Charles Pratt

At 6:52 PM on May 5, 1891, following a fatal heart attack, the founder of Pratt Institute (pictured here) died, just four years after realizing his dream of creating a school where artisans could learn the skills needed to make a living with their artistry. The New York Times article announcing his death noted that Pratt Institute was the “pride of Mr. Pratt’s life….” Following the founder’s death, the leadership of Pratt Institute passed to his sons, with Charles Millard Pratt serving as president, Frederic Bayley Pratt continuing as secretary, and George Dupont Pratt, who was still in college, becoming a member of the board. The sons recognized the importance of their work: “We are doing a national work and spreading ideas not only of new lines of study but, perhaps of greater importance, of new methods,” wrote Frederic Pratt in the June 1891 annual report.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Death of Charles Pratt

1896

Library Opened to Pratt Community and Public

In keeping with Charles Pratt’s vision, the Pratt Library designed by William Butler Tubby and constructed in 1896 served as Brooklyn’s first free public library until June 1940 when the new central library of the Brooklyn Public Library system was announced. The placard on the gate to Pratt Institute on the corner of DeKalb and Hall Streets states, "Pratt Institute Free Library for Public Circulation and Reference Open 9 AM to 9:30 PM."

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Library Opened to Pratt Community and Public

1914-1918

Pratt Supported the War Effort

With the start of World War I, Pratt students and faculty supported the war effort in a variety of ways, including making clothing, toilet articles, and blankets, and offering training through the Navy Electrical School (pictured here) held in the Department of Science and Technology at Pratt Institute. The Institute also organized a Students’ Army Training Corps, SATC, which conducted military drills. When the armistice was signed, Pratt returned to its regular activities and the SATC was demobilized but left is mark on the Institute, paving the way for the creation of the Student’s Council.

Photo: H.J. Paul & Co., courtesy of Gary Light

Pratt Supported the War Effort

1924

First Fashion Show

The Department of Household Arts held its first annual Fashion Show in 1924. The show was sponsored by the New York Federation of Women’s Clubs and held at Wanamaker’s Department Store, from which all materials used in making the entries were obtained. The dress shown here was made of pink organdie for a total cost, including findings, of $10.07. 

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

First Fashion Show

1939

Foundation Curriculum Revolutionized

In 1936, industrial design legends Alexander Kostellow and Rowena Reed joined the faculty of Pratt’s new industrial design program, which distinguished Westinghouse designer and educator Donald Dohner established in 1935 under the leadership of Dean James Boudreau (pictured here, right, with Kostellow). In 1939, Kostellow, Dohner, and Reed  revolutionized the foundation course that all first-year students were required to take by introducing a new curriculum of “Design and Structure” incorporating abstract elements that emulated the Bauhaus tradition.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Industrial Design Department

Foundation Curriculum Revolutionized

1950

End of the Grand Avenue El

On Friday, October 13, 1950, Brooklyn’s 65-year-old Lexington Avenue "El" had its last run from Eastern Parkway through Bedford-Stuyvesant. The line, which was closed due to steeply declining ridership, ran along Grand Avenue through the Pratt campus, its tracks darkening nearby classrooms such as those in the Chemistry and Engineering buildings (pictured here with the El tracks in the foreground). Among those crowding the train for its historic last run were four Pratt deans, whose instructors had been forced to halt lectures each time a train went by. On the day of the train’s final run, 500 students and instructors gathered under the El to celebrate and launch an “El razing party” in the student lounge.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

End of the Grand Avenue El

1957

Nuclear Radiation Testing Partnership

Pratt and the U.S. Naval Shipyard Material Laboratory operated a jointly sponsored program in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission in which students worked on tests measuring  nuclear radiation and the development of instruments for controlling nuclear reactors. Rona Lepine (pictured here), the only woman in a group of 58 engineering students who worked on the project, became a minor celebrity and her story was carried in dozens of newspapers.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Nuclear Radiation Testing Partnership

1963

Pratt Center Established

The Pratt Center for Community Development was established in 1963 with a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to help citizens become informed about the process for improving deteriorated urban neighborhood conditions. Known initially as the Pratt Center for Community Improvement (and later as PICCED), it was the first college-based program in the United States to provide planning and architectural assistance to communities on a sustained basis. The Pratt Center became a major force for bringing neighborhood constituencies together to press New York City to adopt urban renewal strategies that preserved the physical and social fabric of communities. In 1964, the Pratt Center, together with the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council, played a central role in developing the Bedford-Stuyvesant community development corporation (CDC), one of the country’s first such entities. Pictured here is Senator Robert F. Kennedy at the 1966 announcement of the creation of the Bedford-Stuyvesant CDC.

Photo: Courtesy of the Pratt Center for Community Development

Pratt Center Established

1965

Higgins Hall Opened

In 1965, the buildings on the corner of Lafayette Avenue and St. James Place (pictured here) that were part of Adelphi Academy, Brooklyn’s oldest private preparatory school, established in 1863, were acquired by Pratt Institute, thanks to an endowment from the family of John Higgins, an architect, Adelphi graduate, and Pratt alum of the class of 1896.  The complex, which was renamed Higgins Hall in honor of its benefactors, housed the School of Art and School of Architecture until 1996, when a four-alarm fire severely damaged its north and center sections. The north wing was restored by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, and the rest of the building, with the exception of the center section, was reconstructed by Rogers Marvel Architects and reopened in 1999 to house the School of Architecture. 

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Higgins Hall Opened

1970

Pratt Protested Vietnam War

On May 5, 1970, Pratt became one of several hundred schools in the U.S. to go on strike when Institute President Henry Saltzman excused students and faculty from classes following President Nixon’s announcement of the invasion of Cambodia and the May 4 Ohio National Guard shooting of 13 Kent State students who were protesting. Saltzman joined in opposition to Nixon’s policies, and sought to convene university presidents to create a program of dissent, while Pratt students voted to remove the ROTC from campus. Here, Saltzman, left, looks on while social science professor Bill Payne addresses students on the lawn of the Pratt campus in May 1970.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Pratt Protested Vietnam War

1987

Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Launched

Pratt became home to one of the first degree-granting programs in digital arts with the launch of the Department of Computer Graphics and Interactive Media. The department’s first chair was Isaac Victor Kerlow (pictured here), a pioneer in using digital and computer technology to produce creative content.

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Launched

1991

Decision to Close Engineering School Announced

In December 1991, Pratt Institute announced its decision to close the Engineering School, one of the oldest in the country, as a result of declining enrollment, which had dropped by 66 percent over the previous decade. At the time of the decision there were 254 students in Pratt’s civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering programs—down from 762 in 1982. Provisions were made for junior and senior engineering students to finish their graduation requirements at Pratt, while freshmen and sophomores transferred to Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. After the School closed in June 1993, many of its faculty members remained at Pratt, teaching in the School of Architecture and the School of Liberal Arts and Science’s math and science programs. Among the prominent alumni of the Engineering School  was Donald Hall, who designed Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis.”

 

Photo: Courtesy of Pratt Institute Archives

Decision to Close Engineering School Announced

1993

Thomas F. Schutte Became Pratt’s 11th President

In 1993, Dr. Thomas F. Schutte became the 11th president of Pratt Institute. Dr. Schutte, who came to Pratt after serving for a decade as president of the Rhode Island School of Design and, before that, as president of the Philadelphia College of Art, arrived at the Institute when it had fallen on difficult economic times, which was also true of the local environment. During Schutte's 18-year tenure, Pratt has become one of the largest and most selective colleges of art, design, and architecture in the world, and many of its programs now rank among the top 10 in major academic and industry surveys. Schutte has also made extraordinary improvements to the physical plant of Pratt's 125-acre Brooklyn campus, and oversaw the acquisition by Pratt of a landmark Manhattan building that now houses Pratt's School of Information and Library Science and the Pratt Manhattan Gallery. The area surrounding Pratt has been similarly revitalized, attracting locals and tourists alike, thanks in large part to Schutte's leading role with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project and the Brooklyn Arts Council.
 

Photo: Sigrid Estrada

Thomas F. Schutte Became Pratt’s 11th President

1998

Pratt Sculpture Park Opened

The entire 25-acre Brooklyn campus is home to the Pratt Sculpture Park, the largest outdoor sculpture exhibition in New York City. Featuring works by such artists as Arman, Richard Serra, Donald Lipski, Mark di Suvero, and Hans Van de Bovenkamp (pictured here), the Pratt Sculpture Park was recognized as one of the 10 best college and university art collections in the country by Public Art Review in 2006.

Photo: Diana Pau

Pratt Sculpture Park Opened

2001

Pratt Manhattan Moves to 14th Street

In the late 90s, recognizing the need for expanded and consolidated facilities for its Manhattan programs, Pratt acquired 144 West 14th Street to house the School of Information and Library Science, Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, and several other programs including Construction and Facilities Management. The new Pratt Manhattan Campus opened in 2001.

Pratt Manhattan Moves to 14th Street

2005

Higgins Hall Center Section Unveiled

As part of the restoration of Higgins Hall following a four-alarm fire that severely damaged its north and center sections, world famous architect Steven Holl along with Rogers Marvel Architects designed the 26,000-square-foot Higgins Hall Center Section—Holl’s first New York City structure. The Center Section, opened in 2005, joins the School of Architecture’s north and south buildings, and is home to the Hazel and Robert H. Seigel Gallery and a state-of-the auditorium and lecture hall. Commenting on the frosted glass centerpiece, Holl said that he wanted it to have an “amazing glow” from within in the evening “because students of architecture always work at night because they are so dedicated.”  

Photo: Bob Handelman

Higgins Hall Center Section Unveiled

2007

Design Center Named for Juliana Curran Terian

In 2007, with the help of a generous gift from Pratt Trustee and alumna Juliana Terian (B. Arch. ’90), Pratt opened the Juliana Curran Terian Design Center—a multidisciplinary complex that brings all of Pratt’s design disciplines together under one roof, enhancing the interdisciplinary collaboration and exploration that are a hallmark of a Pratt education. The Design Center comprises 150,000 square feet among two historic loft buildings joined by a modern pavilion designed by hanrahanMyers Architects, the firm headed by Pratt School of Architecture Dean Tom Hanrahan and his partner, Victoria Meyers. Speaking at the Design Center’s opening (pictured here), Terian said, “The timeless designs—and the most successful—have embodied seamless relationships between disciplines. I believe the Design Center will  promote the adaptability and resourcefulness that Pratt’s students will need in a world in which the lines between disciplines are quickly fading.”

Photo: Carey Kirkella

Design Center Named for Juliana Curran Terian

2011

Myrtle Hall Opened

Pratt Institute opened a new six-story, 120,000-square-foot green academic and administrative facility named Myrtle Hall at 536 Myrtle Avenue between Grand Avenue and Steuben Street to house the college's Department of Digital Arts as well as several administrative offices. Designed by the New York City architecture firm WASA/Studio A, Myrtle Hall is the first higher education building in Brooklyn to meet the United States Green Building Council standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. The designation was based on such eco-features as exterior sun shades; a green roof that absorbs rainwater, reflects heat, and sequesters greenhouse gasses; and solar photovoltaic panels that generate on-site electricity.

Photo: Alexander Severin/RAZUMMEDIA

Myrtle Hall Opened

2012

125th Anniversary of Pratt’s Founding

In October 2012, Pratt will commemorate the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1887.  The 125th Anniversary celebration, which is being launched on October 1, 2011, will highlight the Institute's rich history of creativity and innovation.  

Photo: Diana Pau

125th Anniversary of Pratt’s Founding
FROM THE MEMORY PROJECT

FROM THE MEMORY PROJECT

Do you have a cherished memory of your time at Pratt? Share it with Pratt's Memory Project.

LEARN MORE >

JOIN THE CELEBRATION!

JOIN THE CELEBRATION!

To celebrate the Institute’s distinguished history and contributions to the world of art and design, we’re planning a variety of exciting activities and high-profile events. We invite you to be a part of this momentous occasion.

LEARN MORE >