Literary Hall, Romney West Virginia
Built in 1869, Literary Hall was home to the Romney Literary Society, which founded in 1818. The organization used the building to store their collection of books, numbering nearly 400 after the Civil War. Between 1886 and 1973, the building was also used as a meeting place for the local lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and Order of the Eastern Star. Following 1973, it was purchased and restored by Ralph Haines, a local lawyer, and turned into a law office and museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Backstory and Context
Founded January 30, 1819, the Romney Literary Society (initially called the Polemia Society of Romney) worked to provide books and literary resources to local citizens. Within a few years, the Society claimed thirty members. Membership fees raised funds for books, and the Society soon boasted "a considerably body of ancient and modern history and other useful works of literature."
Incorporated by the Virginia legislature, in eventually appealed to the Virginia General Assembly for funds to build a physical library and lecture hall. Once built, the library served as an intellectual hub in the community, and public lectures were given. In 1846, the Society also took control of the local Romney Classical Institute, which was a collegiate preparatory academy in town. The Society managed to the Institute through the Civil War.
By the beginning of the Civil War, the Romney Literary Society had established a collection of nearly 3000 books, housed in the building that now contains the administrative building of Romney's School for the Blind and Deaf. However, Union troops had either destroyed or stolen most of the collection by war's end, leaving only 400 volumes.
Literary Hall was built in 1869 to house the remaining books as the Romney Literary Society worked to reconstitute their collection. The Romney Literary Society held their last meeting in 1886. Following that, the building was used as a meeting place for both the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star.
In 1973, Literary Hall was purchased by Ralph Haines, a local lawyer. Under Haines, Literary Hall was restored and converted into a law office and museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
1. Historic Buildings of Hampshire County. Historic Hampshire County. http://www.historichampshire.org/building/building.htm.
2. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. National Park Service. https://web.archive.org/web/20151009004259/http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/hampshire/79002577.pdf.
3. Otis K. Rice. Allegheny Frontier: West Virginia Beginnings, 1730-1830. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.