The Athenaeum: A Historic Landmark in Columbia, TN


The Athenaeum is a significant historic site located in Columbia, Tennessee. Established in 1837, it served as a girls’ school and is known for its distinctive architecture and educational contributions to the region. Information can be found here.

Architectural Significance

The Athenaeum is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture. The building features pointed arches, intricate woodwork, and steep gables, which set it apart from other structures in the area. Its design reflects the romanticism and attention to detail characteristic of the Gothic Revival style. See here for information about Woodland Park: A Community Haven in Columbia, TN.

Educational Heritage

Originally founded as the Athenaeum Rectory, the institution functioned as an elite girls’ school under the direction of Reverend Franklin Gillette Smith. The curriculum included subjects such as literature, languages, arts, and sciences, providing a comprehensive education for young women during a time when such opportunities were limited.

Historical Importance

Throughout its history, the Athenaeum played a crucial role in the community, serving as a center for education and cultural activities. During the Civil War, it remained an active educational institution and a symbol of resilience and commitment to learning.

Preservation and Public Access

Today, the Athenaeum is preserved as a historic site and museum. Efforts have been made to maintain its architectural integrity and historical significance. It is open to the public for tours, offering insights into its storied past and the educational practices of the 19th century.


The Athenaeum in Columbia, TN, stands as a testament to the region’s educational and architectural heritage. Its preservation allows visitors to explore an important chapter of local history and appreciate the legacy of 19th-century education.