Herndon Fortnightly Club – Herndon, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Herndon Fortnightly Club

In 1889, a small group of women began meeting to discuss literature, art, and other topics. Their every-other-week salon grew into a lending library that still exists today. 


Formed in 1889, the Herndon Fortnightly Club was comprised of 11 women interested in studying literature, science, art, and other interests. They initially met at Castlemen Seminary on Grace Street every two weeks. The bi-weekly meeting interval inspired the group’s name.

A legion of avid readers, the club formed Fairfax County’s first lending library. Forty books were collected during the initial year. By 1900, they had amassed more than 1,000 books. Virginia Castleman, who studied library science at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, took on the duty of cataloging books for the club and proposed the creation of a public library in Herndon.

The burgeoning library found a home in room #4 on the second floor of the Detwiler Office. Known as the Herndon Reading Room, it was supported by donations from local business owners. In 1909, a fund was started to move the library into its own space, as there were starting to outgrow the space they were inhabiting. By 1911, the club had enough money to move the library to a new location on Station Street.

Financial difficulties during the latter half of the decade were compounded by a massive fire in 1917. Numerous buildings and resources were destroyed, including the library’s entire collection of books. But the club showed remarkable resolve in rebuilding their collection, and within a year, their shelves were restocked with 1,000 books. 

By the 1920s, the library consisted of over 3,000 books and the club worked in earnest to secure the funding to make the library a permanent reality. On January 5, 1927, the fruits of their labor came to life as the building at 660 Spring Street was transformed into a new home for the collection of 4,250 books owned by the club. The club ran countless fundraising events and over the years, became involved in civic engagements within the town. In 1943, they finally paid off the deed for the library building.

As the collection and membership continued to grow, an addition was built in 1953 that was paid off by 1965. As the town continued to grow, the club offered its building up to be used as a county library in 1972. As the club was no longer operating the library, it became more engaged in civic activities.

In the 1990s, plans were underway for the construction of a new library in downtown Herndon. The club petitioned the county to keep the name “Herndon Fortnightly Library” which was approved by the county Library Board. When the library opened in 1995, the club gave permission to the Religious Society of Friends to use their property at 660 Spring Street and they moved their meetings to the new library downtown.

The club continues to be a major factor in Herndon’s civic activities and the Friends Society continues its meetings in the historic home of the Herndon Fortnightly Club.

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