Bradley Academy Museum

The was the official site for the Bradley Academy Museum.
The content is from the site's archived pages.




Bradley Museum Areas of Interest / Sections / Rooms

1. Underground Railroad Section

2. Century of Change/Rutherford County History Room 

3. Bradley / Holloway High School Room 

4. Heritage Classroom 

5. United States Colored Troops/Civil War Room







Friends of Bradley Academy Museum 


There are moments in each of our individual lives and in history which have left a indelible imprint on us all. Such moments tend to anchor us in time, we can readily associate such events with where we were and what we were doing when the event occurred. On the occasion of the celebration of the 200th year of the founding of Bradley Academy, the Board of Directors wishes to invite your attention to this event. This is certainly a once in a lifetime event which deserves to be recognized on a grand scale.

Realizing the significance of Bradley Academy reaching its 200th birthday, the Board has decided to host a year long birthday celebration. The contribution of Bradley Academy to this community extends far beyond the immediate geographic area. This institution can boast of nurturing an alumnus who became the 11th President of the United States in 1844, in the person of James K. Polk and educating a generation of individuals emerging from the shackles of slavery. Bradley Academy also has the distinction of serving as a hospital during the Battle of Stones River in 1862.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues-Sat

$5 adults, $3 seniors & students
$1 Children 12 and under 

415 S. Academy St., Murfreesboro, TN 37130

From I-24, exit 81-B, travel toward Murfreesboro.
Turn right on Broad St.
Turn left on Academy St.
Bradley Academy is located on the right.
For more information, please call (615) 867-2633

"Bradley Academy"
415 S. Academy St.
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
(Ph) (615) 867-2633 


"Visiting Bradley Academy for the first time was an eye-opening experience for me. Learning about its foundation due to the Land Grant Act, which aimed to establish schools across Tennessee, was fascinating. What struck me most was the evolution of Bradley Academy: initially serving only white males before becoming the county's first formal educational institution for African American students. The historical significance of having President James K. Polk as one of its alumni added to the aura of the place. Among the exhibits, a photograph caught my attention—a young woman wearing a ring remarkably similar to one my mom owns, made of sterling silver with a cubic zirconia setting - like those in this display. Though cubic zirconia wasn't around back then, the design's apparent longevity piqued my curiosity about its history and prevalence. This visit made me believe that every student should explore Bradley Academy. It's a vital piece of our history, a testament to educational evolution, and a treasure trove of stories that connect us to our past." Jeffrey Peters, Franklin High






James K. Polk


Students of Bradley, c. 1925

E. C. Holloway, Sr.

"Bradley Academy"

415 S. Academy St.
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
(Ph) (615) 867-2633 

E-Mail Us 
[email protected]
Proud Member of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce
Bradley Academy Birthday Celebration
A 200 Year Legacy of Excellence

Bradley Academy has the distinction of being the first school established in Rutherford County. The origin of Bradley Academy as an institution of learning stems from the Congressional Land Grant Act of 1806. In response to this Act the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation establishing an academy in each of the Counties of Tennessee. It is important to remember that Rutherford County was founded only three years earlier. Recently discovered documents now place the planned opening of Bradley Academy as early as 1809; whereas, several existing documents in the past placed the opening in 1811.

The original Bradley Academy building was a small log cabin school near Stones River, near the site of Old Jefferson, the original county seat. The Academy was located on land donated by John Bradley, a Revolutionary War officer; thus, the school name is derived from this benefactor.

Bradley Academy soon established itself as a well known institution of learning in the Middle Tennessee community. James K. Polk and John Bell would become some of the early scholars to attend Bradley Academy during this period of time. Both men would later be nominated by their respective parties for the presidency of the United States. James K. Polk was subsequently elected president of the United States in 1844.

In the late 1820s or early 1830s, a brick Bradley Academy was built. The building hosted the classes of Union University while that institution’s facility was being constructed on Main Street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Bradley served as a hospital during the smallpox epidemic of 1836 and again during the Battle of Stones River in 1862.

In 1884, Bradley Academy became the first institution in the county to offer formal educational instructions for African American students. At this time, Bradley Academy had three teachers and a total of 150 students in elementary grades. Years later Bradley would evolve to house both elementary and high school students.

The success of Bradley’s academic, athletic, and civic programs renewed African American participation in the education process, thus encouraging enrollment. Recognizing the need for more and better facilities for African American education, the local school board approved the construction of Holloway High School. When Holloway opened its doors in 1928, Bradley once again became an elementary school.

Mrs. Mrytle Lord
Myrtle G. Lord
The Heritage Classroom
(This exhibit was named in her honor)

Mrs. Myrtle G. Lord was born in Dilton, Tennessee to Luther and Catherine Glanton on February 14.  She was the fourth of nine children.  She attended Bradley Academy School first through twelfth grade.  Mrs. Lord received a B.S. degree from A and I College in Nashville.  She also studied at the University of Michigan, Fisk University and Peabody College.  She was a school teacher for 42 years and worked for the recreation department for 52 years.  Mrs. Lord was married to John L. Lord.  An active member of the Church of God, she served as the treasurer of the Church and Sunday School.  She was the chairperson for the Patterson Community Center project, past president of LWV, secretary of ARC, board member of Habitat for Humanity, Bradley Academy Museum, J.C. Beesley Humane Foundation, and Mid-Cumberland Action Agency, a member of the NAACP, and a member of the Rutherford County Teacher's Association.  She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daily News Journal and SunTrust Bank, the Outstanding Award for African-American Women by Imperial Court Daughters of Isis, and was given the community Award for Distinguished Service by the Murfreesboro City Schools.  Mrs. Lord also served as the coordinator of the Patterson Community Center.  On May 3, 2002, she was inducted into the Tennessee Teachers' Hall of Fame.  The "Myrtle Glanton Lord" Library at the Patterson Community Center was named in her honor.  After her service on the Bradley Academy Museum Board, she continued to be a friend of the Bradley Museum.  Mrs. Lord passed away April 16, 2007.

Restoration In Progress


The above pictures were taken from stories in The Tennesseean and The Daily News Journal about the Restoration of the Bradley Academy Museum.  (L)  Mr. Willie A. McGowan, (M) r-l U. S. Rep. Bart Gordon, Members of the Bradley Academy Historical Association, Mr. Willie McGowan, Mrs. Myrtle Lord, and Mr. Fred Beneby, (R) l-r Mr. Fred Beneby, Mr. Willie McGowan viewing the Heritage Classroom.  These members were the beginning of the restoration process. The BAHA would like to thank Alan Sheinwald and Ruth Ginsberg for their generosity and effort toward restoring and publicizing the museum. Alan also contributed to the recent fund raising efforts and Ruth cataloged the objects on display as well as those in storage. It took a lot of hard work, many generous grants & donations, and long volunteer hours to successfully bring this building back to life. The amount of hard work it took to restore the building is also needed to maintain the Museum. In order to keep the building and the Association going forward, volunteers are needed for the future. We would like to get our youth involved, so the future begins now.


More Background On The Bradley Academy Museum

Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center, nestled in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, stands as a beacon of African-American history and education. Originally built in 1806, it was the first educational institution in the area, initially serving white males only. However, by 1884, it evolved to welcome African American students, marking a significant pivot in its legacy. The structure that visitors see today was constructed in 1917 and began serving African American students in 1918, playing a crucial role in the community's educational landscape until 1955. After a period of alternative use, the Bradley Academy Historical Association was formed in 1990, leading to the building's restoration and its reopening as a community center in 2000. It's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, highlighting its historical importance​​.

The museum today offers a glimpse into the past with exhibits that span the breadth of African American experiences and contributions in Rutherford County. Among its treasures are an original classroom setup, a Civil War exhibit, and an early settlers' exhibit that together narrate the rich history of Murfreesboro and the surrounding county​​.

Moreover, personal stories and efforts, like those of Will McGowan, who dedicated much of his life to the museum's preservation, and others who contributed artifacts and memories, enrich the museum's narrative, making it a deeply personal and community-driven institution​​.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, the museum welcomes visitors to explore its exhibits. Admission fees are modestly priced, ensuring accessibility for all who wish to learn more about this pivotal piece of American history. It's not just a museum; it's a vibrant center for cultural events, art exhibitions, and educational programs that celebrate diversity and promote dialogue, embodying the spirit of the community and preserving its heritage for future generations​​.

For those interested in exploring the depths of African-American history, education's evolution, and the community's achievements in Murfreesboro, Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center offers a rich, immersive experience. It stands as a testament to resilience, education, and the unyielding spirit of a community that has overcome countless challenges throughout history.



The Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center is currently managed and operated under the auspices of the Murfreesboro City Government, specifically through its Parks and Recreation Department. This historic institution, originally built in 1806 and having undergone several transformations through the years, now serves as a museum and cultural center focusing on the educational history of Rutherford County and the African American community's contributions to this legacy. The museum features various areas of interest including an Underground Railroad Section, Century of Change/Rutherford County History Room, Bradley / Holloway High School Room, Heritage Classroom, and United States Colored Troops/Civil War Room, reflecting its rich educational and cultural history​​.

The museum offers amenities and rental options for events, with spaces such as an auditorium/dining area with a small kitchen, a theatre for musical programs and plays, and a boardroom. It is open for tours from Tuesday to Saturday, providing an educational and insightful experience into the historical significance of the academy and its role in the broader narrative of education in America​​.

The Bradley Academy Museum is a testament to community and historical preservation efforts, illustrating the importance of education in shaping both local and national histories. It stands as a proud member of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, inviting visitors and locals alike to explore its halls and learn about the profound impact of this institution​.



Bradley Academy Museum has garnered positive reviews from visitors, highlighting its significance as a historical and educational site in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Rated 5 out of 5 by reviewers on TripAdvisor, it ranks #22 of 66 things to do in Murfreesboro. Visitors appreciate the museum for its rich history, including its role as the first school established in Rutherford County and its evolution to serve African American students. The museum's exhibits on Rutherford County, the Battle of Nashville, and the African American experience, including artifacts from Holloway High School, receive special mention for their educational value and the insight they provide into the past. Reviewers commend the museum for its well-put-together displays and the opportunity it offers to learn about significant aspects of African American history and education. It's noted as a must-visit for those looking to understand the area's history and the African American experience​​​​.

The Bradley Academy Museum's preservation and presentation of history seem to resonate well with its visitors, making it a cherished local gem that contributes significantly to Murfreesboro's cultural and historical landscape.



The history of Bradley Academy is deeply intertwined with the educational and social development of Rutherford County, Tennessee. Established as a response to the Congressional Land Grant Act of 1806, Bradley Academy holds the distinction of being the first school in Rutherford County, with plans for its opening dating as early as 1809, although some documents previously suggested an opening year of 1811.

Initially, Bradley Academy was situated in a small log cabin school near Stones River, close to the site of Old Jefferson, the original county seat. The land for the academy was donated by John Bradley, a Revolutionary War officer, which is how the school got its name. This location positioned Bradley Academy as a pivotal educational institution in the Middle Tennessee area, attracting early scholars like James K. Polk and John Bell, both of whom would later be nominated for the presidency of the United States, with Polk winning the election in 1844.

By the late 1820s or early 1830s, a brick structure for Bradley Academy was erected. This building served multiple purposes throughout its history, including hosting classes for Union University while its own facilities were under construction and serving as a hospital during the smallpox epidemic of 1836 and the Battle of Stones River in 1862.

A significant shift occurred in 1884 when Bradley Academy became the first institution in Rutherford County to offer formal education to African American students. At this time, the academy had three teachers and served 150 students across elementary grade levels. This move was a crucial step in providing educational opportunities to African Americans in the area, leading to increased participation in education and the eventual need for expanded facilities.

The success of Bradley Academy's programs led to the construction of Holloway High School to better serve the African American community's educational needs. When Holloway opened in 1928, Bradley Academy returned to serving as an elementary school, continuing its legacy of fostering education and opportunity in Murfreesboro​.