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Tennessee Preparatory School: A Fine Legacy of E.W. & Anna Russell Cole

Updated: Jan 20

In 1873, a cholera epidemic hit Tennessee which killed many adults and left behind numerous orphaned children. Judge John C. Ferris made it his mission criss-crossing the state to build support to help those Tennessee orphans. Edmund W. "King" Cole and Anna Russell Cole contributed some money and then donated 92 acres of land off Murfreesboro Rd. for an eductation campus.

Sadly, the Cole's son, Randall, had perished in a recent railroad accident. The Coles put the money that would have been his inheritance into the new project, and the effort was named the Randall Cole Industrial School in 1885. In 1894, a larger building was erected and named the Anna Russell Cole Auditorium which remains standing on Foster Ave. and is a National Register of Historic Places site. A number of buildings were constructed over the years. Two years later, in 1887, the state of Tennessee took over operation under the name Tennessee Industrial School.

Over the years, the school went through various evolution and names including Tennessee Industrial School until 1955 when it was called Tennessee Preparatory School. The students and staff dwindled over the years until about 2002 when there were just over 10 students, and it was closed. Metro Schools opened the Nashville School of the Arts (NSA) in part of the campus, and it remains open. NSA started in Pearl-Cohn High School in 1993 for students focused on an arts program. About 2012, the NSA moved to a portion of the TN Preparatory campus.

See Colemere blog.


The Tennessean, George Zepp, 4/ 2009

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