This article is presented in partnership with Visit Lexington

Wentworth Military Academy Museum in Lexington is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. When Wentworth Military Academy closed its doors in 2017, loyal alumni got to work making sure they saved the school’s history through the memorabilia. The Wentworth Military Academy Museum displays these items and tells the story of the school and the cadets who learned, and succeeded in life, throughout its 137-year history. 

Wentworth was founded in 1880, and was located close to the location of the 1861 Civil War Battle of the Hemp Bales. The school had a modest beginning as a boy’s preparatory, holding classes for the thirty-five students. Tuition was $35 per year. By 1882, the military training program began with an increase of students, and tuition jumped to $165 per year. By 1883, a permanent nine-acre location was secured. The historic buildings are still at this location, under a different school program, with the purchase of the grounds in 2020. 

Enrollment peaked at the beginning of WWI. Statues and memorials to fallen soldiers began to have a prominent place in the school’s identity. The Doughboy statue is one of 140 copies of the famous statue created by sculptor Ernest Moore Viquesney. Installed on the school grounds in 1922, it was dedicated to sixteen former Wentworth cadets who died in World War I. The statue eventually came to serve as a monument to Wentworth alumni who died in all wars. This statue currently sits on the Lafayette County Courthouse lawn, across the street from the museum.

Homecoming is celebrated each October for Wentworth alumni, known as “Old Boys.” Gathering with familiar artifacts, such as the stained-glass windows from the Wentworth Chapel, they celebrate the school’s history and the achievements of those who have had the direction of their lives changed due to the Wentworth education, discipline, and experience.

During non-Covid times, the meeting room with the stained-glass panels allows for community gathering, as well as for Old Boys Homecoming events. This artwork, which families dedicated to sons lost in military actions, remains a focal point of the museum tour.

Many in the Lexington area took advantage of having a nationally known school in the community. The late Ike Skelton is one. Skelton wanted a military career, but contracting polio at age fifteen meant using what he learned at Wentworth for a different life path. He overcame the paralyzing effects of the disease and became a college athlete, an attorney, a Missouri state senator, as well as serving as a US congressman for thirty-four years, rising to the rank of chair of the House Armed Services Committee. Skelton was well known as a bipartisan negotiator and maintained his focus on support for the US Armed Forces. 

Wentworth alumni include four-star generals, Medal of Honor recipients, businessmen, television personalities, and regular men and women who made the school motto, Achieve the Honorable, the guiding path of their lives. 

The unusual school mascot of a mythical Greek gryphon (griffin) gave the nickname, The Red Dragons, to the school. While the original statue is now at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, a full-sized replica is in the current museum. A local diner during the 1970s was named The Red Dragon and became a popular eating spot for both Wentworth cadets and Lexington residents. The experience has been recreated within the museum. 

The Wentworth Hotel occupies rooms above the street level museum, as a part of the small museum complex and can be rented through Airbnb. A pocket park is planned for the property behind the Main Street building and commemorative bricks are being sold to raise funds for completion. 

The Wentworth Military Academy Museum is located at 1128 Main Street in Lexington. It is open Fridays–Tuesdays and free to the public. For more information, visit​ or ​​. Audio driving tours are available to download from the Lexington Tourism website and include a drive through the original Wentworth campus buildings.