Bolivar Missouri North Ward School/Polk County Museum

Polk County Museum

Our first stop on this tour of Bolivar is a setting of both education and history that continues to tell many stories after over a century. Located at 201 W. Locust Street, the building was constructed in 1902 from a design by Henry Hohenschild, an architect and teacher from Rolla, Missouri. North Ward was the third school in Bolivar to be built on land donated by the Jamison Family. They designated the land to be used to construct a building that would be a “seminary of learning.” From 1903 to 1953, the school was used to educate elementary students living in Bolivar’s north ward. Until 1927, it also housed the central high school for Bolivar until a new building was constructed. Not only was it a primary and high school, but it also contained a teacher training school as well as offered teacher examinations for Polk County. Many students who graduated from this examination school would be hired at other schools in the region, which would impact Missouri students for years to come. The school was closed in 1953 when a new elementary school was built.

When the Bolivar Board of Education signed the lease agreement in 1875, the terms indicated that the land was to be used for educational purposes only…for the next 999 years of the agreement! Therefore, the building was turned into a county museum and opened on July 4, 1982. It has since expanded from two rooms and a hallway display to a meeting room, three large exhibit rooms, and an annex building for larger objects. The museum contains a listing of Polk County veterans, artifacts from every war and conflict, arrowheads, and Native American artifacts, exhibits from the county’s industries, and displays of vintage clothing and toys. The museum is operated by a curator and a dozen volunteers to maintain the artifacts and museum grounds for visitors when they are open from May to September.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, meeting the condition that it is a “property associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.” In addition to the collections inside, two buildings are present outside the building now. The first is a log cabin, built in 1867 elsewhere in Bolivar and was moved by the Historical Society in the 1980s. A gazebo is also present and was constructed by the Society in the 1980s. This 1.9-acre property is a superb place to begin your tour of Bolivar, as it is the greatest collection of Bolivar history in the community. It not only honors the original intention of the land donation to education but also honors the armed forces and those who served the local community. Visitors can be assured that they will learn a great deal from this place as they explore Bolivar.



201 W Locust St, Bolivar, MO 65613 ~ Located near the Bolivar Water Tower on W. Locust St. and the First Baptist Church on Locust St. and N. Main Ave.