History of Charles Town Library

Founded in 1927, the Charles Town Library has provided library services to the citizens of Jefferson County, West Virginia for over 87 years.  Originally housed in the “little white house” in the 200 block of East Washington Street, the current building has evolved to include both the Charles Townelsie Library and the Jefferson County Museum. The Charles Town Library is located at the corner of Samuel and Washington Streets in downtown Charles Town.

Miss Elsie Murphy purchased the little white house in May 1927 and deeded it to a board of trustees for use as a library in 1928. As a tribute to Miss Murphy’s mother, the trustees named the library the Helen Platt Murphy Memorial Library.  In April 1958 a charter was issued by the Secretary of State of West Virginia to create the Old Charles Town Library, Inc. a non-stock, non-profit corporation to acquire, build and operate a facility for the community.  The plan for this new facility included a civic center, offices for the Chamber of Commerce, a library and a museum.

The first organizational meeting of the new corporation was held on May 14th, 1958 at the home of Miss Elsie Murphy.  The first Board of Directors, each elected to a one-year term, included: Elsie B. Murphy, President; Allen R. Marshall, Vice-President; Mary M. Porterfield, Secretary & Treasurer; and Directors John Alfriend, Mrs. Brooke Blackford, Sara Coe, Donald Eackles, Helen Martin, Thornton T. Perry, Virginia Rider, and Thomas Steptoe.

In June, 1961 members of the Chamber of Commerce were advised that Miss Murphy had purchased the land and the home adjacent to the Charles Town Library for the location of a cultural center in which the chamber, library, and museum would be housed. In 1963 plans for the cultural center were announced to the public, and a fund raising campaign was launched to build the facility.  Dedication of the completed facility was held on September 19th, 1965.

On December 9th, 1982 plans were announced for a 3,200 square foot addition to the Old Charles Town Library.  The building was expanded from the original T-shape to the present H-shape.  The grand opening and rededication ceremony was held on October 2nd, 1983.

Today the Old Charles Town Library continues to serve the citizens of Jefferson County by providing quality museum and library services.  Ever mindful of the vision of Miss Elsie Murphy, the Board of Directors continues to strive to meet the challenges posed by the twenty-first century.

Old Charles Town Library, Inc. operates the Charles Town Library and the Jefferson County Museum. Open to the public, the library provides a full range of library services that includes book borrowing privileges, a reading room, reference services, internet access, a local history room, audio-visual materials, specialized programs for children and adults. Since 1965 the museum has been acquiring, preserving and displaying many of the important artifacts of Jefferson County’s rich history.

Each of these services impacts the lives of all age groups by offering both educational and recreational opportunities.

The Old Charles Town Library, Inc. is a non-profit organization that is supported by the generosity of its many patrons through their gifts and donations. The library and museum also receives grants from the City of Charles Town, the City of Ranson, the Jefferson County Commission, and the State of West Virginia, and a significant annual contribution from the American Public University System.

Please contact the library director by telephone (304-725-2208) or by email (octldirector@frontier.com) for more information regarding donations and bequests.

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