Rivaling the sessions house and Hood’s Tavern for antiquity is the library, the oldest in the county and the third oldest in Pennsylvania. It was established on August 3, 1784, by 28 members and an equal number of books, to “promise Knowledge and Literature in the Township of Oxford…,” according to the articles of incorporation of the Oxford Library Company.
It was a subscription library kept in private homes, having limited membership. In 1868 it was opened to the public (over 15 years old) for the purchase of a share of stock and an annual fee of one dollar, and was made a free public library in 1939, when it became a beneficiary of the Community Chest.
The library occupied rented space in various buildings – among them the second floor of McCullough’s Pharmacy Building, the People’s Bank building, and the Burn Building – until 1947, when it received $40,000 from the estate of Edith Rollins, enabling it to buy its own building, on the southeast corner of Lincoln Road and Fourth Street. In 1955 it moved from its last rented space, the lower floor of 13 North Third, the old Masonic building.
There were two other notable benefactors. Clyde Alexander, who died in 1966, left approximately a quarter of million dollars for the erection of colonial-style building in memory of his wife, Katherine B. Bicking Alexander, who died in 1954. Theirs was a childless marriage. Mr. Alexander was born in Oxford in 1885 and , when he was grown, worked with his father in the grocery store on Market Street that had been established in 1826 by his grandfather, Thomas Alexander.
The business was prosperous and his wife received a sizable legacy from the Bicking estate. Nine churches and six other health and civic agencies in the Oxford area also benefited from his estate. The commodious building constructed with Mr. Alexander’s bequest was competed in December 1970, at 48 S. Second Street. It has 54,000 items in its collection and a patronage of almost 9,500, and is an associate of the Chester County Library System.
More recently, in 1979, George W. Brown left $165,000 in trust for the library. Mr. Brown, who lived in Lancaster at the time of his death, had once owned the Delmonico Cafe and had been associated with the Imperial Hotel there, as well as having been employed in real estate and insurance.
Excerpt from Around the Oak Reprinted by the Friends of the Oxford Public Library, March 1999.