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Polk County Museum

View of Polk County Museum, log cabin in background.

201 W. Locust St.
Bolivar, MO, 65613
(Corner of Locust and North Main streets)
Seasonal telephone: 417-326-6850

Open mid May through mid September
Closed all holidays except July 4 and Labor Day


1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday
1-4 p.m. 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month


$2.00 - adults
$1.00 - children 6-12 years
children under 5 free with adult only

National Register of Historic Places,
by Charlotte Marsch, published in the Bolivar Herald-Free Press, October 28, 2011

The Polk County North Ward Museum on Locust Street in Bolivar is now on the National Register of Historic places, just the second building in the county to be placed on the list.

Built in 1903, the building served as a school for many years. It was home to Bolivar High School from 1903 to 1917, when it became North Ward School and was used by first- and second-graders who lived in the north part of Bolivar.

The building was used as an elementary school until 1965 and then opened as a museum July 4, 1982. Someone who was interested in seeing the building restored purchased the building and donated it to the Polk County Historical Society for use as a museum.

Elsie Sitton, a member of the museum’s board of directors and volunteers, started working on the historic site application about a year ago.

After the initial application was approved, the state Office of Historic Preservation asked for more information about the building, including who designed it. But no one at the museum knew.

“It was based on historical significance, but then they wanted to know more about who designed it,” said Margaret Vest, museum curator. “The one thing that held us up on getting this was finding the architect. We read through all the newspapers from that time, and they didn’t say who designed the building.”

Finally, a state employee who had been assisting the museum board with the application process came across a list of buildings that had been designed by Henry H. Hohenschild that included “1903, North Ward School, W. Locust Street, Bolivar, MO.”

Hohenschild designed the courthouse in West Plains when he was just 19 and eventually designed at least 20 courthouses throughout the state, included the ones in Webster and Christian counties. He also designed buildings for college campuses, public schools, businesses and residences.

After being approved by the state Office of Historic Preservation, the National Park Service officially placed the building on the National Register of Historic Places July 14.

“Maybe we can get donations to get a plaque put up,” Vest said. “This will help this building to be preserved in the future, too. This is a good, solid building. It just needs some cosmetic repair, which is a continual process.”

The Museum makes its home in a former elementary school that was constructed in 1903. It was called the North Ward School. Hundreds of objects and documents touching on area history are on display and stored in the Museum's archives. Exhibits occupy thirteen rooms and areas on three floors of the old school building, which was donated for the purpose of a museum in 1983 after being vacant for several years.

On the grounds stand a two-story log cabin which was erected in 1867. Oral history suggests the cabin was designed as a country store. It was moved from its rural location to the museum grounds in the mid 1980s. A lovely gazebo also graces the grounds of the museum.

The most ancient man-made objects in the Museum's collections are arrowheads, tomahawk blades, and hide scrapers that date back as much as 10,000 years with the appearance here of the First Americans.

A horsehair chair and sofa from 1815 predate Polk County's formation in 1835 and a bed in the McCracken room was made the year the county was born.

Most of the old-time kitchen and farming implements still work, as does the rug loom.

See Pictures of the Museum

Directions to the Museum





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