Brumback Library – Van Wert, Ohio - Atlas Obscura

Brumback Library

Van Wert, Ohio

The oldest county library in the United States. 


The Brumback Library was the first library in America to be established and funded as a county library.

This system of libraries, rather than serving just its local town, is funded by and serves an entire county region. Brumback Library is notable for its unique Gothic and Romanesque architecture, giving it a fantastical presence comparable to a medieval castle.

The library is named for its sponsor, John Brumback. Brumback immigrated to Van Wert, Ohio in 1862 with $5,000 in gold, around $150,000 by today’s standard. He used the money to start a general store, which he later sold to buy controlling interest in the city bank. 

As Brumback accumulated his fortune, he took on a role as a philanthropist. He took a special interest in the city library that had bloomed out of a project by the Van Wert Ladies Library Association. That spur of inspiration drove him to put his money into a bigger library that could serve the entire county. Though he would not live to see his library finished, his son went on to ensure that the Ohio Legislature created a legal framework for this and all future county libraries. 

The library, completed in 1901, has grown to five branches in its county region. The castle-like main branch sees a peak circulation of almost a million items. The Library Journal has ranked Brumback as a Star Library, its classification for the best libraries in the country, around a dozen times. 

Know Before You Go

The library is open every day except Sunday

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