New School's Dedication Brings Memories of 1919

Dublin Core


New School's Dedication Brings Memories of 1919


The upcoming dedication of the new Madison Middle School, the completely renovated old Madison High School building, begins another chapter in the long history of education on that hilltop overlooking downtown Richmond. This occasion brings to mind another significant event concerning that site back in 1919. On July 5 of that year, a joint meeting of the board of trustees of Madison Female Institute and the board of education of the city of Richmond completed a transaction that would remain significant in the history of education in Madison County. The old Institute buildings and grounds "up on the hill" were turned over to the board of education for public school purposes. The Madison Female Institute had its beginning January 26, 1858, when it was incorporated as a girls finishing school by Thomas H. Barnes, Thomas S. Bronston, William Chenault, John A. Duncan, Clifton R. Estill, William Harris, William Holloway, Thomas S. Moberly, Robert R. Stone, Samuel Stone, William J. Walker, and William H. White. Several of these men had daughters who wished to go beyond their elementary level of education, but no secondary educational opportunities for girls existed here at that time. There had previously been a Richmond Female Academy in Richmond in 1839, but it either went out of existence by 1845 or was rechartered at that time as Richmond Female Institute. That school had its beginnings in small buildings on Third Street, but several years later a fire destroyed them. It was then that these progressive leaders organized Madison Female Institute and purchased the McClannahan property, the hill on which the wonderfully refurbished Madison Middle School now stands. The Madison Female Institute, which is described in Ellis, Everman and Sears Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect, published by the Madison County Historical Society, served well up until 1919, when it finally closed its doors, due to the increasing availability of free public secondary education for girls. The trustees then offered the buildings and grounds to the Richmond Board of Education. It was fortunate that the place was in the hands of the board, for in 1921 the Caldwell School, the public school on North Third Street, was destroyed by an arsonist. In 1923, the old female institute buildings were torn down and a large new two-story brick building was erected. Named Madison High School, it actually housed all 12 grades of white public school children. Richmond High School, the secondary education for black children in those days, had its building on East Main, now occupied by the Telford YMCA. As our readers know, It has been only a few years since the Richmond Independent Schools district had to "give up financially" and turn its assets over to the Madison County Board of Education, bringing on the reconstruction project of turning the old Madison High School building into this new Madison Middle School.


Dr. Robert Grise




Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.




Dr. Robert Grise, “New School's Dedication Brings Memories of 1919,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed April 13, 2024,