Literary Hall is the historic former site of the Romney Literary Society and currently serves as a museum featuring local memorabilia in Romney, West Virginia, United States.
Romney Literary Society and the First Literary Hall
In 1819, the Romney Literary Society was organized with the purpose of advancing literature and science in the South Branch Potomac valley. The Society was the first of its kind in West Virginia and one of the first in the United States. The first Literary Hall, according to its cornerstone, was built in 1825. Prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Society had amassed a collection of over 3,000 books at its height making it the largest library west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1846, the Society completed construction of the campus for the Romney Classical Institute on East Main Street. During the Civil War, the Society disbanded and its collection dwindled to less than 400 books. Plundering by the both Union and Confederate armies during Romney's multiple occupations resulted in a similar fate for the county's 18th and 19th century records in the Hampshire County Courthouse. The first Literary Hall was destroyed during the conflict in 1862.
Second Literary Hall
The Society was revived on May 15, 1869 and construction of the second (and current) Literary Hall commenced later that year and was completed in 1870. It is a tall, two story red brick building with a gable roof. It sits on a sandstone, ashlar block foundation. While the Society reorganized and rebuilt its library, the Romney Classical Institute campus continued to lay unoccupied after the Civil War. In 1870, the institute was sold to the state of West Virginia for use as the grounds for the newly created West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Literary Hall remained the meeting place for the Society until its meetings again ceased on February 15, 1886. After the Society's final disbandment, Literary Hall served as Romney's Masonic Lodge.
Literary Hall was restored after its purchase by prominent local attorney Ralph W. Haines. Haines purchased and restored numerous historic properties throughout Hampshire County including the William Washington House, built by freed slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation. Under the custodianship of Haines, Literary Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 1979 and opened as a museum featuring local memorabilia from the Civil War era to the present. Literary Hall was featured on the Hampshire County Historical Society's first annual "Christmas in Old Hampshire" Christmas bulb in 1987.
- "Old Literary Hall". The Historical Marker Database website. The Historical Marker Database. 2008-02-03. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=462.
- "Some Historic Buildings of Hampshire County". www.historichampshire.org. Charles C. Hall. 2008-02-03. http://www.historichampshire.org/building/building.htm.
- "County Information: Historic buildings & sites". Hampshire County Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Hampshire County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2008-02-03. http://www.hampshirereview.com/Websites/HCCVB/countyinfo.htm#cibuildsite.
- Michael J. Pauley (January 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Literary Hall". State of West Virginia, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Historic Preservation. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/hampshire/79002577.pdf. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-02-03. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html.
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