The Cape Charles Memorial Library has just turned the page on a new century. 2019 marks the library’s 100th anniversary of existence. And what a story it’s been! It started in June of 1919 with thirty-two local women who gathered in earnest with the mission of creating a town library. They each brought a book to donate. Since there was no library proper, that is, no public building to house the collection as it grew, it was kept in private homes. Later, the collection moved to a department store, then a bank. Finally, the library found a home in the old Presbyterian Church building on Tazewell Avenue. It was on May 27, 1927, nearly ten years after its founding, that it officially became the first Memorial Library in Virginia. 

As the collection grew, so did the need for a new facility. In May of 2013, with the work of dedicated citizens, the library was rededicated at its new and present home, the former ‘Bank of America building’ on 201 Mason Avenue, right along Cape Charles’ historic waterfront.

Residents and visitors alike can walk off the beach (just shake the sand off your sandals) and enjoy a quiet moment searching for that next great read. 

A historic town with an exciting, youthful energy, the Cape Charles community relishes commemorating history and celebrating what’s to come. The 2013 rededication was appropriately marked by a procession of women carrying thirty-two books to honor the library’s original founders. Now, the 100th anniversary of the library has been observed by an enormous line up of community-wide events, big and small.

It took more than a year to plan the centennial celebration. Mary Beth Eye, a member of Friends of the Cape Charles Library, and co-chair of the 100th Anniversary Committee remembers, “It started back in the spring of 2017. We began talking about ideas for centennial events and how we’d like to include the community.” 

Together, Friends of the Cape Charles Library and the Library Board of Trustees formed the 100th Anniversary Committee to plan and carryout a commemoration that would honor the library’s long history and pay tribute to one of the library’s most important missions: inclusion and free access to information, ideas and knowledge.

“It’s important for us to be inclusive of the whole community, moving forward together,” says Mary Beth. 

The events were many and nearly all were free. Things kicked off last December with ‘Candlelight Children’s Christmas Stories’ read by a convincing Mrs. Claus (thank you, Trina Veber!) with more than 200 people attending. January 2019 saw the launch of a children’s essay contest, ‘What a Library Means to Me’. Then, a town-wide read of The Magnificent Ambersons, a novel which won a Pulitzer prize in our founding year of 1919, followed by a free showing of the movie adaptation of the book at the historic Palace Theatre. 

Roger Moyer, former chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, and Bay Creek resident, co-chaired the 100th Anniversary Committee with Mary Beth Eye. They met monthly with a group of dedicated people who shared the same goal and enjoyed helping bring the centennial celebration to life.

“We wanted great ideas that would involve the whole community,” says Roger. “We put together an excellent group of people from Friends of the Cape Charles Library and the Library Board and started thinking of events.”

Monthly ‘Celebration Fridays’ provided the community with a diverse lineup of events that constantly delighted

A few of our favorites:

• Local watercolor artist, singer and song writer Thelma Peterson performed her songs about the water and natural beauty of the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay.

• Life long Cape Charles resident, Etta Kaye Pruitt reminisced on what it was like to organize an all-volunteer line up of devoted citizens to staff and keep the library going for several years in the 1980’s.

From come-one-come-all gatherings to fundraisers like a quilt raffle, 100th Anniversary Tea and a wildly popular ‘Trivia and Tales’ with Eric Hack (where you could hear all kinds of little-known stories about our hometown), the centennial celebration, just like the library it honors, had something for everyone.

It all culminated in June with a proclamation by the Governor of Virginia and the quintessential old fashioned picnic in the park. Kids were delighted by pony rides and old fashioned games like the three-legged race. People from all across the community enjoyed cake, jazz music in the Gazebo and just relaxing among the charmed bay breezes of Cape Charles. 

What began with thirty-two civic-minded women has grown exponentially. And while some stories of the library’s past are lost to history, Mary Beth Eye, 100th Anniversary Committee

member assures us the future will be well documented. “We’re taking care to preserve all of the information about this centennial—the events, the people, the stories—so that in another hundred years, people will be able to find this and see what the community did.”

Bay Creek appreciates the tireless effort of all of the centennial committee members and friends who made this months-long celebration of the Cape Charles Memorial Library such a success. We encourage you to become a patron of the library and help support its vital role in our community.

For a full list of upcoming events that enrich and excite, visit the library’s facebook page here: Cape Charles Library

The library is located at 201 Mason Avenue.

(757) 331-1300

What’s coming up next? The Owl Prowl, a walk through a maritime forest out to the bluffs at sunset. October 4th and 18th.

The Friends of the Cape Charles Memorial Library are dedicated to making the Cape Charles Memorial Library a better place for everyone. The Friends is an all volunteer organization responsible for promoting the library, sponsoring cultural programs for the community, providing funds to enhance the library collection and visitor experience.

Let’s get the next hundred years started, shall we? 

We at Bay Creek love fall here on the Eastern Shore. That faint chill in the evening air, a return to the after-summer calm and wide-open beaches. And one of our favorite things to do is curl up under a beach blanket with a good book in the invigorating autumn air. 

Wondering what to read next?

Here are our team’s picks for ‘Year one’ of the next 100 years of our beloved Cape Charles Memorial Library.

Linda Buskey:  The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Wade Adler: Cantoras, Carolina De Robertis 

Joe Burbee: The Sand Trap  by D.G. Marshall

Shelly Cusmina: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivele

What’s on your fall reading list? We’re always looking for a good book!

Share it with us here:

Bay Creek