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our historic library

A storied history


In 1815, the first Library Company was formed in West Chester to collect books that were loaned from shelves placed in local businesses. In 1872, that effort was re-organized into the West Chester Public Library.


With strong community support and land donated by Hannah Darlington, capital was raised for a permanent building to be used exclusively as a library. The outcome was a beautiful structure designed by T. Roney Williamson and constructed in 1888 at 415 North Church Street.


Constructed of West Chester brick and Avondale stone, with stucco-work and copper accents on the tower, its Queen Anne architecture makes it one of West Chester's most impressive public buildings.

More about the library. 

History of the WCPL, 1888 - 1939 (pamphlet) 

Postcard of West Chester Public Library

Postcard of the Public Library at West Chester in Pennsylvania. Circa 1908, The American Library Association Archives. Found in Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection, c. 1900-c. 2005.

1888 Photograph of the West Chester Library

Photo: 1888, C.E. Bradford (original photograph located in the library).

Photography by Laura A. Mikowychok for the West Chester Public Library

Art in Glass


The building contains five windows of Tiffany-style glass, three of them illustrating quotes by Bayard Taylor (1825- 1878), a Chester County native and noted poet, literary critic, translator and travel author.

Text in the windows (central and left-center window contain the same text):

"Dear is the Minstrel, even to hearts of prose

But he who sets all aspiration free

Is dearer to humanity . . . .

The man who, most of men,

Heeded the parable from lips divine

And made one talent ten."

"The healing of the world

is in its nameless saints. 

Each separate star

Seems nothing, but a myriad scattered stars

Break up the night and make it beautiful."

Photography by Laura A. Mikowychok for the West Chester Public Library

A Historic Annual Report from 1929


Thirtieth Annual Report 

January 7, 1929

WCPL's Rededication Sign

Evolving the Library


By 2000, it was clear that the library structure would need to expand to meet the needs of the community. It was agreed that a renovation and expansion of the current facility was preferable over relocating the library. The Board of Trustees began an ambitious capital campaign that drew support from public and private sources. In 2005, the $2.3 million renovation of the West Chester Public Library, designed by architects Frens & Frens was completed, doubling the usable space without disturbing the historic features of this remarkable structure.


In August, 2011, the West Chester Public Library was selected for a West Chester Downtown Foundation “Bricks & Mortar Preservation Award” in recognition of the meticulous restoration of the building while successfully addressing the need for more usable space.


Today, the West Chester Public Library receives over 110,000 visits annually and circulates over 150,000 items per year from a collection of 50,000 items. New media, such as internet access and digital and electronic materials have been expanded to meet contemporary needs and presentation events are a regular part of this vibrant library's programs.

WCPL's Historic Site Marker
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