100 East German Street / P.O. Box 278 / Shepherdstown,
Phone: 304.876.2783 / Fax: 304.876.6213
The Market House,
known today as the Shepherdstown Public Library,
was originally built in the 1800's and offered
local farmers a sheltered place to sell their
wares, and a centrally located spot for
residents to buy farm fresh products.
Throughout its long history, it has been home to
the fire department, the town council offices, a
butcher shop, a school, and the local jail.
A pigpen and a public whipping post were located
behind the building. Today, it is the home
of a thriving library that is literally and
figuratively the heart of
The building was originally a typical market
house -- single story with large doors front and
back. It stood in the center of King
Street which allowed traffic to pass on either
side and provided a drive in for sellers'
wagons. The sides were open to shoppers
and closed with wooden slats when not in use.
Measuring fifty-seven by twenty feet, it was an
imposing building in early Shepherdstown.
Independent Order of Odd
Fellows approached the town
about building a second story onto the Market
House. They required a meeting room, and
ritual demanded that it be located on the second
floor with opaque windows to preserve the
secrecy that surrounded their meetings.
The brick front of the building was extended
upwards and shaped to present a façade
similar to that of the German Reformed Church,
and a new roof was installed. A stairway
was constructed at the rear exterior of the
building to avoid interference with the market's
entrance. This work was completed in
exchange for a 999-year lease between the town
and the Order of Odd Fellows. The upper
level served as the Order's meeting room until
1962. To this day, the second story front
continues to feature the Order of Odd Fellows
symbols of the "All-Seeing Eye of God" in a
sunburst and the "Heart-in-Hand."
Battle of Antietam,
the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, was
fought at nearby Sharpsburg, Maryland in
September 1862. The Market House, like
many other town buildings, was used as a
makeshift hospital during the battle.
During the subsequent few years, the building
was used by the U.S. military as a holding area
for civil war soldiers. By the early
1900's, the Market House had fallen into
disrepair, and many of the townspeople suggested
"tearing down the eyesore." The Order of
Odd Fellows firmly resisted. They sued the
government for damages to the building and were
eventually awarded $115.00 in recompense for
rental of the building, thus effectively saving
this historic structure from demolition.
The Shepherdstown Women's Club took over the
bottom floor for a public library in 1922.
The library was operated by the club, funded by
donations, and staffed by dedicated volunteers
for about fifty years. Despite limited and
unpredictable funding, the library thrived and
gathered a reasonably balanced collection of
books. In 1948, the town was finally
persuaded to remove the jail cells. The
Women’s Club bought the building lease from the
Order of Odd Fellows in 1962 and took possession
of the upstairs for a children’s department.
In 1971, the Women's Club turned the library
over to the state. Since then, it has
continued to grow in programs, patrons and
popularity and is truly a cornerstone of the