After the 1750s, the library in old Dorchester shut down. It wasn’t until the 1900s when you could check out a book in Summerville. A group of young Summerville women formed a “Chautauqua Reading Circle.” At certain times the ladies would meet and swap books with each other. This was a real love for reading. The women decided they wanted to start a library so they put all their books together. On April 23, 1908 they received a charter for a membership or pay library. At that time they changed their name from “Chautauqua Reading Circle” to the “Henry Timrod Literary and Library Society.” The name was changed to honor the South Carolina poet. His wartime poetry had a lasting impression. Henry Timrod became known as the laureate of the confederacy.
In 1908 the Timrod Library did not have its own building that would come seven years later. The town of Summerville was excited about getting its own library. A location on the corner of Central Avenue was given by the Village of Summerville. Jim Cooper, a local contractor, erected the library building on Central Avenue. Businesses all over took special interest in the building, giving discounts or special pricing. On April 15, 1915 the building was finished. The Timrod Library had its own home. Since that time the building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1986 an additional room was added on the back. Thanks goes to the generosity of Catherine Peterman Stewart, a long time librarian, friend and benefactor. And once again, local businesses got behind the construction with special prices and donated material. The room is used for the Summerville Garden Club, reading clubs and so many other events.
The building houses a valuable collection of books ranging from first editions to a creditable collection on South Carolina.
Today the Timrod Library houses in excess of 50,000 volumes. It is one of the best locations for books on Charleston, Summerville and South Carolina. The juvenile section contains Newberry and Caldecott Award titles. New titles are added regularly.
Years ago subscription libraries were all over the country. Today the United States has only 18 and two of these are in South Carolina. Summerville is very proud of the Timrod Library. The Timrod is funded entirely through memberships and gifts. A family membership is still only $15.00 per year.
Just think, in less than five years the building of the Timrod Library will be 100 years old.
Written by: Mark Woodard
- Hill, Barbara Lynch. Summerville, SC 1847-1997 Our History. Wentworth Printing, West Columbia, SC (1998)
- McIntosh, Beth. Beth’s Pineland Village. The R.L. Bryan Company, Columbia, SC (1988)
- Kwist, Margaret and others. Porch Rocker Recollections of Summerville, South Carolina. Linwood Press, Inc. Summerville, SC (1980)