Designed specifically to be a public library, the Handley Library in Winchester Virginia is named for its benefactor, Judge John Handley of Scranton, Pennsylvania (1835-1895). Although Judge Handley never lived in Winchester, he became interested in the young city when he accepted a friend’s invitation to visit in 1869. He visited many times in the following years and upon his death left a bequest valued at more than a million dollars to the City of Winchester. Part of the bequest was designated to build a library. He is buried here in Winchester in the Mt. Hebron Cemetery.
Built in the Beaux Arts Style popular at the time, the library’s design was meant to represent an open book, the central rotunda being the spine and the two wings its open covers. The rotunda is crowned on the outside with a copper-clad dome and is lined with stained glass on the inside. With a project cost of approximately $150,000 (today $3,000,000) construction was completed in 1910. In 1913, after 3 years of purchasing and cataloging books, the library opened to the public with 2,300 books. Today, the library contains over 100,000 circulating items.
In 1979 an addition was completed that provided additional space for the adult collection and information services, as well as the creation of a children’s room and a dedicated archives room. This was followed by a major renovation project in 2001. Some of the work of the renovation included cleaning and repairing the 5,000 pieces of stained glass in the dome and restoring and rewiring all the original 1913 light fixtures, along with the 400 lb. brass chain holding up the rotunda chandelier. Among the items uncovered by the renovation were 16 ft. long pieces of heart pine flooring hidden under old carpeting, Thomas Edison patent numbers on the light fixtures, and matches trapped in the terrazzo flooring from the original workmen.
Open the images to learn more about what you're seeing! The tour includes photos of the library today, historical images, and artwork. On some pages, you may need to scroll left-right to see all images.
This tour will guide you through the first floor, lower level and the second floor of the library. The third floor contains administrative offices and is open to the public only during one of the library’s guided tours.
To reach the lower level use the elevator or new staircase in the 1979 addition connector. To reach the second floor use the original wooden staircases starting in the rotunda, or the new staircase and elevator in the 1979 addition connector.
Follow the directions labeled with "Walk-through navigation" as you make your way through the stops!
Interested in a particular stop? Tap the menu in the top right corner of your screen to skip around.