The Jester family has been a pillar of the Chincoteague Island for nearly two centuries. Kendall Jester, who along with Robert Watson is said to have introduced the practice of pony penning to Chincoteague, owned 600 acres of land and a 1727 home at Wildcat Marsh, where his ponies roamed. Jester Street runs between Willow Street and Main Street.
At 4077 Main Street is the building which since July 4, 1995 has housed the Chincoteague Library. Before that, between 1908 and 1982, it housed the barber shop of Wallace Jester, and before that, it was a drugstore. The Chincoteague Library, in fact, is the oldest wooden frame structure in the town of Chincoteague!
When the old building was moved to the corner of Main and Mumford Streets in 1995, it was thanks to the efforts of a citizens' group (Chincoteague's citizens have always been blessed with abundant community spirit). They not only raised funds to convert the former barber shop to a library; they volunteered their time to staff it. Chincoteague Library today is managed by only two part-time employees and an amazing group of 26 volunteers!
Even when the library was in the planning stages, however, its Board of Directors realized that their renovated barbershop would not always be adequate to the task of keeping Chincoteague's population supplied with the collection of books and other library services it required. Expansion was always in the cards, and since 2006, efforts have been underway to enlarge the 750-foot library.
Those efforts have included a wide range of fund raising efforts, from things as simple as placing collection boxes in the shops of Chincoteague's merchants, and a donation from the profits from the sale of fresh blueberries at the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival and others, to qualifying for a $50,000 grant from the Argyle fund of Eastern Shore’s Norfolk Foundation. When the land adjacent to the existent library was donated, the expansion project’s success was guaranteed.
One of the most heartfelt fundraising efforts has come from a dozen of Chincoteague Island's talented musicians, who have combined to produce a "Music To Read By" CD. There's something for everyone on this CD, which includes bluegrass, classical, New Age, gospel, blues, and even Celtic offerings.
The performers themselves were as young as 21 and as old as 92, with professions which run the gamut from locksmith and auto mechanic to a retired college president and a NASA worker! Every penny of the Music To Read By CD goes directly into the library expansion fund!
A similar generous spirit from Chincoteague residents, ironically enough, was a major reason expansion became necessary! The book donations to the children's collection alone are so great that there is no longer enough room for them on the shelves. The two-story new facility will also provide room for both more Internet-connected computers, and for community programs.
On the second story of the Library addition, there'll be a section devoted to Chincoteague history. Somewhere in that section, the current members of Chincoteague’s oldest families will certainly find mention of the ancestors who had their hair cut at Wallace Jester's Barber Shop!