History of Breck
Breck's Como Avenue campus in St. Paul (circa 1940s)
Breck School was named for a pioneer missionary, the Reverend James Lloyd Breck, and established in 1886.
The first Breck campus was in Wilder, Minnesota, with a goal of educating children under the auspices of the Episcopal Church, headed at the time by Bishop Henry Whipple. In its earliest years, Breck attracted students from a wide range of backgrounds, particularly children of local immigrant farmers. The single fee for tuition, room and board for an entire year was $110.
In 1916, Breck moved to St. Paul. Under the leadership of the Reverend Charles Haupt, the school opened at 2095 Commonwealth Avenue, near the University of Minnesota’s agricultural campus. In 1920, the school moved to 2102 Carter Avenue, and in 1921 the first five students received diplomas. In the fall of 1922, Breck moved to a new building at the intersection of Como Avenue and Herndon, a then-undeveloped site near the St. Paul city limits.
The Rev. Haupt retired in 1938, at the age of 81. He was succeeded by Chester DesRochers, who introduced a military and riding curriculum, and Breck became an all-boys school. In the early 1940s, Breck officially adopted the Mustang as its mascot and blue and gold as its school colors. After DesRochers’ departure in 1948, Breck headmasters included Morison Brigham, Warren Wadsworth, Daniel Cowling and the Reverend Canon Douglas F. Henderson, who assumed the role in 1952.
Under Canon Henderson, Breck reintroduced female students in grades one through three, strengthened the school’s academics, and worked hard to attract a diverse student body. Nevertheless, the school suffered from serious economic challenges. Breck nearly faced extinction until a Twin Cities plumbing contractor, Reuben Anderson, came to its rescue.
By 1956, Breck was flourishing, and it had outgrown its Como Avenue campus. The school’s trustees purchased land on the River Road in Minneapolis. Ground was broken in February, and the building was completed in time to be used in the second semester of the 1956-57 school year.
In 1959, Breck’s board of trustees formally voted to eliminate the military program. In 1964, the school broke ground for the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and took its first step toward full coeducation by allowing the third grade girls to move on to fourth grade. By 1967, those girls were ready for what was then the Upper School, and the transition was complete.
When Canon Henderson retired in 1974, he was succeeded by John Littleford, the youngest headmaster in Breck’s history. By 1979, Breck’s enrollment was at an all-time high of 716. That same year, however, there was a devastating fire that destroyed the Chapel. School leadership began to contemplate the need for a larger facility.
In 1981, Breck moved to its present location in Golden Valley, occupying the city’s former middle and high school, which had been closed due to a school district merger. Construction began on facilities, including a new Chapel of the Holy Spirit, which was dedicated on the third anniversary of the fire that devastated its River Road predecessor.
Breck celebrated its centennial in 1986 with enthusiasm. That same year, John Littleford was succeeded by interim headmaster Kathryn Harper. Sam Salas served as headmaster from 1987 and retired in June 2007. Edward Kim began his tenure as Breck's Head of School in July 2007.