One of Carlisle's architectural jewels, Bosler Memorial Library was established by the heirs of J. Herman Bosler, a prominent member of an old Carlisle family who wanted to "give the young men in town something to do." When the Library was dedicated on January 19, 1900, a news article described it as "a palace of beauty which will be an endearing monument after generations pass earthly scenes."
The architectural style of the original building, now known as the East Wing, is colonial with Ionic columns at the main entrance. The front is built of Avondale marble and brick. Its impressive interior features include high ceilings, Georgia pine floors, a lobby floor with a mosaic in five colors, stained glass windows and marble footboards. The architect was Baldwin & Pennington of Baltimore, and the local contractor was A.H. Brindle.
The largest, most prominent stained glass window is located on the East Wing's back wall and is known as the "Lila Window." A memorial to Miss Lila McClellan Bosler, daughter of Mr. J. Herman Bosler, it is a reproduction of the painting "Hope" by the English artist Sir Edmund Burne-Jones. The image was executed in glass by the Maitland-Armstrong Company and placed by C.D. Rudy of Harrisburg.
Since Bosler Memorial Library opened in 1900, it has opened the doors to learning and adventure for generations of people in Cumberland and surrounding counties. Originally built to serve the residents of Carlisle "or vicinity," the population at the time consisted of just 9,626 people. Today the population of Bosler's eight municipality service area is 53,326 and still growing.
As Bosler's collections, programs, and patron traffic grew over the years, so did the need for more space. In 1987, the library was expanded to add 12,000 square feet in a two-story addition. In 1993, the first floor was remodeled, and the second floor was completed. Then in 2000, one room was remodeled to create the Teen Room and Computer Lab.
In 2004, the Cumberland County Library System commissioned a report by library consultants Himmel & Wilson to plan the next decade of service. The report concluded that, of the eight libraries in the county, Bosler Memorial Library was the one in greatest need of expansion. Patrons indicated strong interest in an improved facility, more space for collections, more programs and more services. In 2009, the leadership of Bosler Library hired The Franklin Consulting Group to conduct a feasibility study for a capital campaign, and the Building a Better Bosler campaign was launched the following year. The project raised $6.3 million and doubled the size of the library to more than 43,000 square feet. With R.S. Mowery & Sons as general contractor, the building project was designed by architect Stuart E. Christenson of Noelker and Hull Associates, Inc.
Building a Better Bosler was made possible by a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and contributions from thousands of individuals, corporations and foundations in the greater Carlisle area. The completion of the building expansion was celebrated with a grand re-opening celebration on June 2, 2013.
Because the Building a Better Bosler campaign focused on the building expansion and renovations, it did not include funds to restore the façade and roof of the century-old original building. To complete these additional projects, funds totaling $124,233 from a Keystone grant, a grant from the G.B. Stuart Charitable Foundation and the Library's Capital Improvement Fund were secured to pay for replacement of the metal roof and six skylights, and a separate capital improvement fund campaign was launched to raise the additional $200,000 needed to restore the East Wing façade. Donors who contributed $1,000 or more to this campaign during 2014 were invited to join the Heritage Society, and their donations were matched by longtime library supporters Donald and Marjorie Mowery, who offered a challenge gift of $100,000. The completion of the East Wing restoration project was celebrated with a grand re-opening on May 31, 2015 with a private reception for Heritage Society donors, followed by a public open house.
In addition to the original East Wing and the new building, Bosler Memorial Library has maintained and renovated the John Joseph Bosler Ashcraft House, located at 17-19 S. West Street, an old residence now attached to the main library building. The Ashcraft House is named for a grand nephew of J. Herman Bosler, the library’s namesake. John Joseph Bosler Ashcraft’s two aunts, Mary Hilt and Susan L. Bosler, had owned the property from 1923 to 1936.
The Library purchased the property in 1993 from Dr. William DeMuth, who had offered a gift of $50,000 toward the purchase. The Library used the house for several years as a rental property for a doctor’s office, Dickinson College offices and apartments. After the death of Mr. Ashcraft in 1998 and his wife Catherine Gavin Irvine Ashcraft in 2000, the couple left a bequest of $650,000, which was given to the Library along with a portrait of John’s mother Elida Bosler Ashcraft. (This portrait now hangs over the mantle in the Friends office in the East Wing.)
In 2000, Dickinson College moved out, and the Library began renovations of the house so that the Cumberland County Library System (CCLS) could move its headquarters into the space in 2001. CCLS remained in the Ashcraft house until the most recent building expansion, and Bosler Library moved its own administrative offices into the house in late 2012.
For the progress made over the years in building projects and annual campaigns to advance the Library's mission, the leadership of Bosler Memorial Library is grateful for the outpouring of generosity from the entire community!