Shepherdstown Public Library – Shepherdstown, West Virginia - Atlas Obscura

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Shepherdstown Public Library

The "All-Seeing Eye of God" symbol on this library is a clue to one of the many former lives of this building. 

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Though it is now a library, this small white building in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, has had a number of other uses over the last 200 years. Constructed in 1800, this building was originally a one-story farmer’s market known as the Market House.

In 1845, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) petitioned the town to build a second story to hold their meetings. The rituals of the IOOF required a room on the second floor with opaque windows in order to keep their gatherings secret. The request was agreed upon and a second floor with a stairway in the rear of the building to keep their portion separate from the market was added.

Other improvements included a façade resembling that of the German Reformed Church, a new roof, and the addition of their insignia on the front of the building. The work was completed in exchange for a 999-year lease on the space. Over the years, the market served as a hospital during the Civil War, home to the fire department, town council offices, a butcher shop, a school, a jail, and most recently, the public library.

The second story served as the meeting place for the IOOF until 1962, with the “All-Seeing Eye of God” and “Heart-In-Hand” symbols remaining to this day. That same year, the Shepherdstown Women’s Club expanded the library to the second floor by purchasing the lease from the IOOF and converting the upstairs meeting space into a children’s area. In 1971, the Women’s Club handed off stewardship of the library to the state of West Virginia.

Know Before You Go

Shepherdstown Public Library is the longest continuously occupied library building in the state of West Virginia. 

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