Packard Philanthropy


The people of Warren, Ohio and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA are well aware of the generosity of the Packard brothers. Packard Park has been a fixture in Warren, Ohio for over 100 years. The Packard Engineering Building at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA is still in use 90 years after the death of JW Packard. However, there is more to the Packard brother’s philanthropy than these instances; here is the rest of their story.

     In 1910 the committee to purchase land for a new “Normal” school chose Kent, Ohio instead of Warren, thus starting what became Kent State University. The Warren property proposed to the committee was the Kinsman farm, 47 acres in the northern portion of the city. This property was adjacent to WD’s River’s Court home on Mahoning Avenue. WD offered to purchase the property and donate it to the city for a park. There were provisions included in the gift, such as city funded lighting, utilities and other services. A bond was proposed and the citizens of Warren overwhelmingly voted to approve it. The land was donated in January 1911 and plans were started to create an extraordinary park. WD hired his brother in law, Carl Foster White, to design an overseer’s cottage and shelter house as well as, other buildings on the grounds. Landscape architect, George Rettig was also from Cleveland. Among the planned park spaces were tennis courts, football fields, croquet grounds, basketball courts and flower gardens.

   W.D. loved music, especially marches by John Philip Sousa. In his will he left money to build a music hall on the grounds of the park. Unfortunately, the funds were not available until after the death of Kitty Packard in 1940. Due to various circumstances, including WWII, the building was not built until the 1950’s, and dedicated in 1955. The WD Packard Band is still funded by the Packard Trust today and offers free monthly concerts at Packard Music Hall.

     The WD Packard Music Hall is an important entertainment venue in Warren and North East Ohio. In the late 1950’s John Kenley brought Broadway plays from New York City to Warren Ohio—a practice that is a staple of theaters today. It was commonplace for residents to dine next to Lucile Ball and Barbara Eden in local restaurants or see Paul Lynde in a downtown establishment. 

     Today, local high schools use the Music Hall for graduation ceremonies and thanks WD Packard, the community enjoys a variety of entertainment, music, theater and lectures of all sorts.

   WD Packard left money to two other organizations that are still vital today. He provided a Trust Fund for both the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts of America. Today, almost 80 years later, they each receive over $3000.00 on a quarterly basis. 

     Many institutions benefited from J.W.’s giving upon his passing in 1926. According to the November, 1926 edition of the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York’s magazine, “The Lookout”,  JW Packard gifted $115,000 toward the building fund for a new 13 story annex. To quote the magazine, “Mr. Packard expressed his tremendous admiration for the work of the Institute in sheltering, feeding and caring for the seaman” and indicated he intends to contribute to the Endowment Fund.(Shortly after this gift was announced, John D. Rockefeller gifted the institute $250,000.)

     Information from the archivist at the Institute indicates JW started with a $1100.00 donation in 1925. He also left a portion of a Trust to the Seaman’s Church Institute, which was dissolved about 1960. Today this distribution would be between $1,000,000-$15,592,000.   

     Two other organizations were beneficiaries of JW’s philanthropy. He donated the funds to purchase the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church on South Pine Street for use by the Salvation Army. In addition, JW funded the expansion of the Warren Public Library on High Street which doubled its size. The Trumbull County Law Library is located in the space today and includes a JW Packard reading room that houses the Law Library Collection. A fitting tribute for a man who loved books.

   Another illustration of JW Packards philanthropy is— according to the NY Times— the “finest engineering lab” in the country built at Lehigh University with funds donated by JW Packard, an 1884 Lehigh Alumni. Lehigh University also received funds from a Trust. Donations to Lehigh by 1961 were $5,176,040, approximately $44,000,000 in today’s dollars.

   Among other signs of Packard generosity in Warren, Ohio are the chimes gifted by JW to the Christ Episcopal Church in memory of his mother Mary Doud Packard, and stained-glass windows given in her memory by all 5 Packard children.

     JW also provided money in his will for the education and small bequests to 2 godsons in France, “war babies”.  

     James Ward Packard also made donations to Warren City Hospital and Cleveland Clinic.

     Elizabeth Gillmer Packard donated a suit of armor that resides on the second floor of the Warren Trumbull County Library and a beautiful tall clock located at the entrance of the library.

     As you can see, Warren, Ohio and Bethlehem, PA were not the only beneficiaries of Packard kindness. Their generosity helped people from all over the world and their impact continues today. 

     Consider what impact we may have