The End of an Era: The Fate of the Imagination Station
Think back to a simpler time, when life was no work and all play, when staying up late meant 10 pm. For many Packer students, that time was spent on the splintering steps and creaky bridge of the Imagination Station.
Starting this summer, a complete renovation of the Garden House and Garden will commence. The administration hopes that the renovation will allow the community to better use the annexed space. As a result of the renovation, the Garden House will be expanded from its current lot toward the main building. This added area will bring new offices and classrooms as well as a new student center and an innovative workspace. But, the Imagination Station, which has sentimental value for many, will be almost entirely destroyed. There will be a new Imagination Station-esque play structure along Livingston Street which is being built by the same architect as the Imagination Station in hopes to retain some of the charm, but it will be quite different. The Imagination Station, as put by Assistant Head of School and Middle School Division Head Noah Reinhardt, “[will be] a casualty of [the renovation].”
The Imagination Station is hailed as a core feature of Packer and central to the Packer community and experience by all who have been at Packer since Lower School. Current upper schoolers recall playing games with friends and exploring the unique structure. Sydney Green (‘21) reflected on her time at Packer and concluded that: “All big memories…tie back to the Imagination Station… [We played] manhunt, we made up this game called little girl tag, [and] so many [other] games I can’t even tell you all of them.”
Zach Redhead Laconte (‘20), like many others, loved playing on the tire swing, exploring the structure’s many hiding places during games of manhunt, and even coming up with new games. “We would all try to get on top of the monkey bars and do tricks and stuff, and whoever could do the best tricks and stay upside down the longest would be the best,” he said.
Just as Zach did many years ago, first graders Katherine Hurley, Eliza Haines, and Rhiannon Williams still enjoy those same activities. “I like playing on the monkey bars,” said Katherine. “I do flips.”
These connections between students in the Lower School and the Upper School help make Packer unique and special, and the Imagination Station plays a major role in that. The Imagination Station is not only a staple for lower schoolers, but as many Upper School students can attest to, the Imagination Station is used well after their Lower School days.
Khaja Daniel (‘21) came to Packer in seventh grade but still managed to make memories in the Imagination Station. “That little tire swing … used to be our hangout spot,” she said. “Even though we were big kids, like in 7th grade, we would still play tag there.” She jokingly added that that was “a little embarrassing.”
Many can agree that the Imagination Station is one of the most special places at Packer, a place that brings back memories of simpler times and pure joy. This is why the thought of the Imagination Station being physically taken down has elicited emotional responses from many longtime Packer students.
For upper schoolers reminiscing about their early days, no amount of cool and futuristic images of the new Garden can make up for the memories lost in the old one. Some feel betrayed that the location of their memories and their garden of the present is being sacrificed for a future that they will not be around to experience.
“It hurts!” said Sydney. “That’s like the one thing that makes us different from other schools. What schools do you see here in New York with big castles in their garden? Like, none. It’s sad.”
While this feeling is certainly a valid one, it is not shared by all first graders, who will reap the benefits of this change. Sam Press (‘28) is excited for the new modern jungle gym. “I am really happy that it’s changing,” he said. “I’ll be lost in goodness!” Some first graders are as enthusiastic about the change as Sam, but most are more ambivalent, like Teddy Saltoun (‘28) who explained that he “feel[s] happy and sad.”
Regardless of how one feels about the changes being made, it is undeniable that a central part of Packer’s identity will be lost. The Imagination Station has been one of the most important places to students while they have been here, and it will likely be one of the few places that they will remember from their Packer experience.