Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Mary Willis Library in Washington, Georgia

Travel Review of an historic library landmark

The Mary Willis Library in Washington, Georgia

In 2016, as Hurricane Matthew was approaching the coast of Georgia near where I lived just 10 miles from the ocean outside Savannah, GA, I evacuated to my friends' house in Washington, Georgia, a small town located 190 miles inland. If you live in a coastal area, hurricane evacuations are often mandatory and almost always a wise move. 

Storm damage from Hurricane Matthew on the Georgia coast
As it turned out, my area was without electricity for five days and suffered severe tree and structural damage, along with flooding. So I was safe & sound for the duration in charming little Washington, Georgia. 

The town of Washington, located about 100 miles east of Atlanta, has a population of only a bit over 3500 people, yet it is a delightful town with much to offer visitors, even those who had to arrive, as I did, on an unplanned expedition. 

Being a voracious reader, I told my friend I would love to be able to get a library book or two to read during my stay, so she took me to her town library. Turns out, Washington's library is more than just a public library; it is an historical site and a most charming place to visit. 

The Mary Willis Library

The Mary Willis Library was opened in 1889 and became the very first free public library in the state of Georgia. It was founded by Dr. Francis T. Willis in memory of his daughter Mary and as a gift to the people of his hometown. It was designed by Atlanta architect Edmund Lind and constructed with bricks in the picturesque profile of the high-Victorian style of Queen Anne. 

Mary Willis Library Stained Glass Windows

The interior has high beams and tall Tiffany stained-glass windows, with the central window commemorating Mary Willis. The original furnishings of the library are still in use.

In addition to the collection of current library materials, Mary Willis Library has an invaluable core collection of rare books on Wilkes County and Georgia history, books by local authors, family memorabilia and Washington newspapers

In 1972, the Mary Willis Library was listed with the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. A well-deserved recognition, as it is a most charming building and a delight to visit, not only for your reading pleasure, but for the history and beauty of this 100-plus year building. 


In addition to a lovely visit with my friends, who were kind enough to shelter me during my hurricane evacuation, having access to this library and books to read helped fill the anxious hours until I was able to return home. Discovering the beautiful and historic Mary Willis Library was a delightful bonus. 

Mary Willis Library, Washington, GA
Image by Jud McCranie, CC 4.0 on Wikipedia

*Travel Review by Wednesday Elf

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. How very interesting! Thanks for the review.

  2. What a beautiful library and I love the stained glass! Libraries are one of my favorite places to visit. Even the smell of a library is comforting. I do believe though that the Mary Willis Library may well be, architecturally, the most beautiful library I have ever seen. It is amazing that they are still using the original furnishing too. We will make a point to travel to Washington, GA to see this fabulous historical site in person.

    1. I love all libraries, Mouse, and have been to a lot of them in a lot of different places over the years. But none so beautiful as this one. From the outside, the building is almost reminiscent of a church. Just thinking about the visionary who planned it (Mr. Willis) and the talents of the architect in the late 1800s makes you appreciate it even more. No wonder it has become an historic site.

  3. What a beautiful library Pat. I love old historic buildings, thanks so much for the tour. Good thinking getting out of the path of the hurricane.

    1. Thanks, Sam. I love historic buildings, too, and saw a lot of them when I lived in the Savannah, Georgia area. So it was fun to find this one in Washington, GA. And, getting out of the path of Hurricane Matthew actually became a mandatory evacuation. If you looked closely at my hurricane debris image, that pile of debris was only a small part of what it looked like all over the area for weeks afterwards. This image was in my apartment parking lot!

  4. What an exquisite structure and a gorgeous place to lose oneself in books! I can easily envision myself browsing the shelves and curling up with a novel in one of those red armchairs by the stained glass windows for hours. Thank you for this vicarious visit to a most special library!

    1. I made more than one visit to this library in the five days I spent in Washington, GA. Not just for books to read, but to view the beauty of the building and talk to the librarians about the history. Truly a beautiful building.

  5. You do live in a beautiful area, but very sorry you had to go through the terrible stress of evacuation due to a hurricane. You have lovely friends to help out and to introduce you to this gorgeous library - love the stained glass windows! I sure hope your home was able to get through the hurricane unscathed - but being without power for five days takes some endurance!

  6. Don't you just love it when you find a treasure in the most unexpected places? This sounds like a wonderful little side trip to take! Next time I get into your neck of the woods, I'll have to check it out! Thanks for putting a new site on my list of places to go and people to see!

  7. What a really lovely Library and the stained glass window is so beautiful! It looks and sounds a beautiful place to visit, browse books and relax reading. I am so sorry that you had to evacuate due the hurricane but glad you were safe.


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