I was recently in Winchester, Virginia to attend the 17th International Willa Cather Seminar at Shenandoah University. Cather was born in nearby Gore / Back Creek which is about 12 miles from Winchester. This area was the setting for her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl. The conference organizers recommended The Handley Library as a place to visit and of course I heeded their advice.
This gorgeous Beaux Arts building was made possible by Judge John Handley (1835-1895) of Scranton, PA who left $250,000 in his will for a library to be built in Winchester. Apparently he was a regular visitor and loved the area.
The library was designed by architects J. Steward Barney and Henry Otis Chapman of New York. Construction began in 1908 and the library opened to white patrons on August 21, 1913. I’ve come across two final costs of construction, both of which included furnishings: $149,198 and $233,230. Perhaps one of these numbers also includes the cost of books. Either way, it came in under budget. In December 1953 the library was opened to all city residents regardless of “race, color, or creed” (per Kathryn Parker in her book, Images of America: Winchester. Arcadia, 2006).
If you’re anywhere near Winchester or driving through, a stop at The Hadley Library will be well worth your time. It is right in the heart of things in Old Town Winchester, just a couple blocks away from the walking mall which is full of great restaurants, shops (including the Winchester Book Gallery), museums, and historic architecture). I started fantasizing about going back for a vacation before I even left.