Standing majestically on Capitol Street, the public library is one of Charleston’s important landmarks. It serves as a vital source of information in West Virginia. Though the present Charleston Public Library building has been its home since 1967, the library has been formed way back in June 3, 1909.
The Public Library was the brainchild of the Woman’s Kanawha Literary Club, who appointed a committee to organize action in support of a public library in Charleston. The library was first housed inside the YMCA building at the corners of Capitol and Washington street, under Miss Mabel Delle Jones, the Charleston’s first librarian. The Charleston Public Libary opened with 1,200 books.
The library moved several times since then. When the YMCA needed space for their expanding services in 1912, the public library moved into the pastor’s quarters at the First Presbyterian Church on Quarrier Street. It moved back into the YMCA building on Virginia street in 1913, but this time, paying rent. The public library moved twice more, to its quarters at the corner of Kanawha and McFarland streets, then to the Red Cross building on the levee near Capitol Street.
The former Capitol Annex Building on Lee Street was the library’s first permanent home. The building was purchased through the generous donations of Charleston’s citizens, led by Colonel Albert E. Humphreys who gifted the library with $100,000 for the $400,000 building. The Charleston library stayed in this building from 1926 until 1967, where it moved to its present location.
The Charleston Public Library is now permanently housed in the building that used to be the Federal Building. The library has outgrown the Capitol Annex in the sixties, and by then, the building was no longer structurally sound, so it was really time to move. They auctioned off the old building, raising a very unexpected sum of $711,000, which was “believed to have established the all-time high prices for downtown real estate,” as written by the Charleston Daily Mail. The building they have in sight to become the library’s new home was the Federal Building, which has been gutted by a fire, but its stone shell remained intact. The renovation of the building began shortly, costing approximately $1.5 million, and the public library moved into its current location in January 1967.
The Charleston Public Library’s mission has always been to become “the people’s premier source of information in a community where learning and reading are revered and being well informed is valued.” With over 600,000 items, a computerized catalog, Internet access, and a bookmobile, the library has achieved its goals.
Charleston Public Library
123 Capitol Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25301