The Holly Springs Female Institute was the first school founded in Holly Springs, and predated all the other educational facilities in the town, including Franklin Female College (1849), Chalmers Institute (1837) and St. Thomas Hall (1844). The Institute was founded in 1836, before a building was even constructed. In June 1838, construction was finished on the Institute’s grand new building, a Tuscan two-story brick structure located in the middle of a beautiful park-like city block. Today’s Park Street preserves the memory of this park.
When the Female Institute opened, it had enough room for 140 students, of which half of those lived on the campus. In 1850, tuition, room and board for one half-year session was $135, or about $4,000 in 2017 dollars. Female graduates from the Institute received a MPL Degree, or “Mistress of Polite Literature”.
The Reverend G. W. Sill was the principal of the Institute and also the Languages, Mathematics and Sciences teacher during the 1840s. In 1862, just prior to the Holly Springs’ Confederate regiments leaving town, a representative from the Female Institute gave the regiment a hand-sewn flag.
In March of 1862, the Female Institute was closed, and the abandoned school was used as a field hospital for infectious patients throughout the Civil War. After the end of the Civil War, in 1864, the City of Holly Springs decided to burn the buildings to the ground to avoid possible spread of infections.
After the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878, most of the town’s private schools were closed. William A. Anderson (1849-1926), the former headmaster of Chalmers Institute, realized there was a desperate need for a free, Public School for Holly Springs’ children. In 1879, Anderson organized the Holly Springs Public School, and built a new school building, with an interesting octagonal tower on the west facade, to house the new school (see 1902 Sanborn Map and historical photograph).
The Holly Springs Public School remained in the building for several decades. In 1915, a new square school building was constructed on the west side of the Public School, replacing the original tower (see 1915 Sanborn Map and historical photographs).
By 1925, the original Public School building was being used as a Grammar or Elementary School, whiles new High School was built just to the north of the Grammar School (see 1925 Sanborn Map). In 1928, the original Public School building was destroyed in a fire, and replaced with a new Holly Springs High School (see 1933 Sanborn Map) in 1929. Much later, in the 1990s, the 1920s Grammar and High Schools were razed and replaced with today’s modern high school buildings. Though the entire block has changed drastically over the last 180 years, it is still the center of secondary education in Holly Springs.