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Shelandra Y. Ford
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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Bridgewater School

Bridgewater School, formerly on this site, was founded in 1911 and existed continuously at this site until 1960. In 1921, with help from the community, the Shelby County school board, and the Rosenwald Fund, the Rosenwald school concept was instituted here and thereafter operated at the school. Rosenwald schools, unique for their time, were built with specific design guidelines such that the building was oriented to receive morning and afternoon sun. The windows were large to let in natural light and air. The foundation was raised to let air flow beneath the building, thus keeping it cooler in the hot humid southern summers. A community room was also a unique feature of the school, to be used not only by the students and teachers but also as a community gathering place. The Rosenwald Fund, which provided financial support for creation of these schools, was established by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears & Roebuck Department Stores. Rosenwald in conjunction with Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, developed this school concept to promote model schools for African Americans of the rural South. The Rosenwald funds, with matches from grassroots community efforts, created a movement that built schools in 15 southern states. From 1912 to 1932 over 5,300 schools and auxiliary buildings were raised. These schools, built by the community and for the community, created the educational foundation for many future civic leaders.