The Boiling Spring Academy is a restored 1830 one room school house located in Primm Historic Park on Moores Lane. The park is the site of two National Register properties: Boiling Spring Academy established as a school in 1830, and a prehistoric Native American Mound Site, 900-1500 (A.D.). The site was excavated in the 1920’s by the Smithsonian and is known as the Fewkes Site.
Primm Historic Park contains some of the most important historical and cultural resources in Tennessee. As urban areas grow, historical sites are quickly disappearing. This park in particular is a microcosm of Tennessee history representing prehistoric Native American culture and education of the 1800’s.
On this site, prehistoric Native Americans lived and left their mounds as relics of the Mississippian Period. Many years later pioneer settlers carved their civilization out of this wilderness. They were followed by flourishing plantations where antebellum planters educated their children in the Boiling Spring Academy which also served as a church.
In 2003 the Primm family donated the 2 acres encompassing the academy and mounds to the City of Brentwood. To protect the site, the City obtained 30 acres around the academy and mounds to buffer the site from future encroachment. This additional land also preserves the pastoral farmland along Moores Lane and provides acreage along the Little Harpeth River for the City’s walking/bikeway system.
At that time, the Boiling Spring Academy was bequeathed to the Brentwood Historic Commission, an official board of the City of Brentwood. The Commission’s purpose is to promote awareness of, and an appreciation for, history and heritage of the community and to work toward preserving our historic sites.
The academy which had been used as a storage barn needed to be restored immediately to prevent further deterioration. The Historic Commission contacted experts in the field of restoration and preservation. Vic Hood, a respected restoration expert and an archaeologist was hired to restore the Boiling Spring Academy. The Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University researched and documented historic and prehistoric findings at the site. They provided a wealth of written information and catalogued over 4,600 artifacts. The entire procedure was photographed and videoed. Click here for photos of the restoration.
This early 19th century academic academy immediately adjacent to a prehistoric Native American mound site presented an excellent opportunity for the Historic Commission’s educational programming. The commission developed an excellent program that has become the center of a highly successful second grade historical program.
The Boiling Spring Academy, with no electricity or plumbing, opens each fall and spring to give Brentwood second grade students a chance to step back in time. A typical school day taught by retired teachers includes penmanship, arithmetic, spelling bee, etc. The interactive program gives students, dressed in pinafore skirts and suspenders, an opportunity to experience “A Day in 1845”. The Boiling Spring Academy Activity Book was developed to prepare the students for their ‘day’ at the Academy. For student copies of the activity book, contact the City of Brentwood, 615-371-0060.
It is estimated that a minimum of 900 students and their families are impacted by the onsite re-enactment classroom program.
The academy is open to the public the third Sunday of each month (April – October) from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation provided additional information about the site in the Primm Park Brochure.
- The Academy was constructed in 1832. In January, 1833, it opened as a private school for boys of wealthy landowners.
- Some students boarded with families in the area.
- The Academy offered classes at three levels, ranging in costs from $8 to $14 per term, with each term lasting five and one-half months. Studies included reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, Latin, Greek, and science.
- The two-story school had fireplaces at both ends of the building. The front door was originally on the side facing the largest mound.
- In January, 1887, the school changed from private to a Williamson County public school.
- The first teachers were male. Female teachers could not be married. Salary-$25 per year.
- Around 1900, the school was also used as a church and continued as a church and school until around 1918.
- To make the Academy appear more like a church, the original entrance was replaced by a window, and a door was constructed on the gable-end of the building. Both fireplaces were removed, and a pot-bellied stove was placed in the center of the downstairs room.
- One of the original blackboards is still located on the second floor of the structure.
- Names and initials of former students are carved in the entrance, upstairs and on the back of the building.
- By 1920, the Primm family was using the structure for storing hay and hanging tobacco.
- In 1980, the Fewkes Group Archaeological Site and Boiling Spring Academy were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- In 2003, the Primm Family donated the Boiling Spring Academy and Fewkes Site to the City of Brentwood to be developed as Primm Park.
- In 2004, restoration of the Academy was completed.
- In the spring of 2005, an interactive educational program began for second-graders from the Brentwood elementary schools.
- Since 2005 and forward, a minimum of 900 students and their families are annually impacted by the on-site historic classroom program.
The Historic Commission is self supporting receiving no city funds.
- The Boiling Spring Academy, (circa 1830), is a one-room school house located on Moores Lane. It serves as the center of an educational program developed by the Brentwood Historic Commission.
- The Academy, with no electricity or plumbing, opens each fall and spring to give Brentwood second-grade students a chance to step back in time to “A Day in 1845”.
- Students prepare for their historical experience by utilizing an activity book developed by the Brentwood Historic Commission.
- Students participate in an interactive program dressed in period clothing (pinafores for the girls, suspenders and bandannas for the boys).
- The typical school day taught by retired teachers includes penmanship and arithmetic (using slates and slate pencils), history, recitation, and a spelling bee.
- Students enjoy lunch and recess outside, playing games from the 1800’s.
Walking around the Academy and nearby Native American Mounds emphasizes the area and its history as one of the most important historical and cultural resources in Tennessee.
- From A.D. 900 to 1450, Middle Tennessee was home to Native Americans of the Mississippian culture known as Mound Builders.
- They lived in cane and clay structures, not teepees.
- They built ceremonial and burial mounds. There are five mounds in Primm Park.
- One of the towns where the Priest-Chief, his family and other important leaders lived was in Primm Park which was surrounded by a fort-like fence called a palisade.
- The chief lived on the top of the largest mound which would have been the tallest mound.
- Inside the palisade, they built four mounds, a town square, buildings, and a separate cemetery.
- Their homes were usually one room structures with a fire pit in the center for warmth in the winter and to keep insects out in the summer. They cooked outside their homes.
- They were an agricultural society planting corn, beans, squash and pumpkins.
- The Little Harpeth River would have supplied water for the village.
- They were hunters who ate mostly deer and wild turkeys because they were easier to kill with bow and arrows.
- During the 1600s this society disappeared from the area. It is not known whether they left because of disease, enemies or migration to another area due to the lack of food. The village was burned.
- Similar groups living at nearby sites (today's Brentwood Library and Meadowlake subdivision) left during the same period.
- In 1920, archaeologist William Myer conducted a scientific excavation of the mounds for the Smithsonian Institute.
- Artifacts such as arrowheads, prehistoric pottery, tools, cooking vessels, and animal bones were found at the site.