Beginnings from 1888Early History

Much of University School of Nashville’s legacy as a leader in independent school education can be traced to its history as Winthrop Model School and Peabody Demonstration School.

Founded in 1888 by the Peabody Board of Trustees on the University of Nashville campus, then home to the State Normal College for teachers, the Winthrop Model School was named for Robert Winthrop, the president of the Peabody Fund, which was created by George Peabody after the Civil War to improve education in the South. To quote Paul Conkin’s history Peabody College, “The Winthrop Model School did not allow practice teaching, only observation. [Peabody Normal College President W.H. Payne] wanted a level of artful instruction that far surpassed what a beginning student could offer.”

1915 FoundationsPeabody Demonstration School

But by 1913, the Winthrop School had lost the support of what had become George Peabody College for Teachers, which had left the old campus. The Winthrop School’s last graduating class numbered only 28. 

In 1915, planned and led by Dr. Thomas Alexander, Peabody Demonstration School was founded on Peabody's new campus on 21st Avenue, combining the old observational method favored by Payne and the new experimental methods of teacher training. At first the school was located in the basement of the Jesup Psychological Building. In 1925 the present building, designed in the classical style by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, was completed on Edgehill Avenue.

The colors of Peabody Demonstration School and its successor University School of Nashville are the same as those of its ancestor, the University of Nashville: garnet and Columbia blue.

Peabody Demonstration School quickly earned an excellent reputation for its curriculum and faculty. It also gained respect for its early commitment to diversity, which remains a defining strength of a USN education.

PDS to USN, 1975University School of Nashville

When Peabody College decided to close the Demonstration School in 1974, a group of parents, alumni, students, and teachers formed University School of Nashville on the Demonstration School campus with almost all of the demonstration school students and teachers, dedicating the new institution to continuing the school's historic legacy. Today, University School is the educational home of nearly 1,100 students and more than 200 full-time faculty and staff. 

USN’s legacy of excellence continues in its faculty, which is consistently listed by students, parents, and alumni as University School’s greatest strength. In addition to superb academic training, USN’s teachers bring to their classrooms an abiding belief in the importance of attention to the individual student.

PDS/USN Through the YearsExcerpts from the Archives

Read historical articles from 2000 Edgehill, the magazine of Peabody Demonstration School and University School of Nashville.

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Centennial Timeline100 Years of PDS/USN

Explore our school history in this interactive timeline created by our archival team in 2015 as part of our centennial celebrations.
USN Mission: 
University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.