History of Joseph T. Simpson Public Library


The Mechanicsburg Area Public Library was founded in 1961 and was located at 26 West Simpson Street in half of a double house.  In 1962, the Library purchased the former Church of the Brethren and moved to 51 West Simpson Street.  In 1965, the Children's Library opened in the lower level of the Simpson Street facility.  In 1969, the Library purchased the church's former parsonage at 209 South Frederick Street.


An addition was built in 1974 linking the church to the adjacent house.  This addition provided much needed space for the Library's collection and services.


The Friends of the Library were organized in 1980. Circulation figures for 1980 were 118,359 and at the end of 1989 reached 225,510.


In 1991, the house was renovated to provide a local history area and staff work spaces. In 1994, the Library purchased the former Home and Hearth Craft Store. A 1.2 million dollar capital campaign was launched in 1995 to fund the new Library and construction began in April 1996. On December 26, 1996 Mechanicsburg Area Public Library opened the doors to the newly renovated building and began a new era of providing quality library service to the Mechanicsburg Community.

The stone structure beside the Cumberland Valley Railroad which now houses the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library is believed to have been built as early as 1840 by Thomas B. Bryson. It is listed on an 1867 surveyor's map as a grain warehouse and is listed in the 1872 Cumberland County Atlas as a grain store.

On June 28, 1863, confederate soldiers entered Mechanicsburg and occupied the town for three days. During that time, Brigadier General J.B. Jenkins used the stone grain store as a hospital for his sick and ailing soldiers. When they left Mechanicsburg for Gettysburg on June 30th, they took from the granary ample grain for their horses.

Later, Mr. Bryson sold the stone structure to Abner B. Harnish who operated a business here until he sold the building to Jacob H. Koller. Years later, Mr. Koller sold the property to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Headquarters for an egg business for a time, in most recent years it was owned by the Walton's who operated their Home and Hearth craft store. The Walton's sold the building to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph E. Wax, Jr., from whom the Mechanicsburg Area Public Library purchased it in April, 1994.


Recognizing a need for additional parking, the Library purchased an adjacent parking lot from Wilcox Forging Company in August 2001 for $190,000. During the renovation project in 2003, this parking lot was paved, a connecting sidewalk created and parking lot lighting installed. This provided an additional 50 parking spaces. In 2002, the Library conducted a Feasibility Study for a capital campaign. The results of the study indicated a favorable response to the project and the library's ability to raise the funds at that time. A Steering Committee was assembled in October 2002 and the capital campaign was launched in early 2003. A naming gift of $500,000 was secured on January 7, 2003 from the Helen M. and Joseph T. Simpson Foundation which changed the name of the Mechanicsburg Area Public Library to the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library. At the end of 2003, just over $1.3M was raised with this capital campaign. In March 2004, the renovations to the library were completed.

This renovation enabled us to finish the Upper Level of the Library which now provides a quiet reading area with a variety of books for adults and teens along with several computers.

For a more in-depth look at the history of the library please view Paging Through Our Past: The History of the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania - 50th Anniversary Edition (PDF, 4.7MB, 23 pages)



Page Updated

September 12, 2019