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Celebrating 90 Years!

Ninety years ago, Katharine Riddle, chairwoman of the Library Committee, announced in the Farmer’s Advocate of October 6, 1927, that the new library building “given and furnished by Miss Elsie Murphy has been finished and the books already owned by the library have been moved.” Elsie Murphy, along with her sister, Lorraine Murphy Fletcher, donated an additional twelve hundred books, for a total of nearly three thousand volumes. The new library held an open house on 12 October for inspection of the building and opened for business on 19 October. Library hours were limited: 10:30 am to noon and from 4:00 to 5:00 pm; Saturday night from 7:00 to 8:30. “All those interested in books and reading are urged to come and see this beautiful gift as it is not only for Charles Town but for the whole county.”

Elsie Murphy purchased the property on East Washington Street in the spring of 1927 from the Jackson-Perks  Post of the American Legion. Between the spring and the fall, Miss Murphy had the house remodeled  and constructed an additional wing. The library was run by volunteers who bought books through proceeds from membership fees. But the building maintenance and operations, including a janitor, were paid for by Miss Murphy. She was the sole benefactor financially. She did this “to assure that the people of Charles Town and Jefferson County would have a public library” as Don Rentch wrote in the January 14, 1965 issue of the Spirit of Jefferson. The library was run at no cost to the city of Charles Town or to the County.

By 1961 the library had outgrown the little white house with its addition and a cultural center was proposed for Charles Town and Jefferson County. Miss Murphy once again stepped forward to provide additional land adjoining the library property stipulating that the property be used solely for cultural purposes. The public would plan and raise funds for the building. In 1965 the new Charles Town Library and Civic Center opened and shortly after that the board purchased additional land for expansion of the facility. In less than twenty years, the library was bursting at the seams and the addition opened October 2, 1983, adding the Thornton T. Perry Memorial Wing and the adult stacks, upstairs, and a new museum space triple the original size, downstairs. Thirty-four years since the last addition and the library is bursting at the seams once more!

Elsie Murphy and those who were involved with the development of the Charles Town Library considered a library as one of the most important assets of any community. We hope that you, our readers, consider the library as one of the most important assets of Jefferson County.

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