I was recently visiting friends in Pennsylvania. I’m originally from PA, but I had never heard of Baldwin’s Book Barn until a friend of mine moved near West Chester. When I went to visit, she put a tour of this amazing bookstore on her list.
The smells of book glue and dust hit me the moment I walked in the door. The friendly staff greeted me, but I barely heard them. I was entranced by the sea of books in front of me.
Most of the books are old or rare, and a lot of them are in surprisingly good condition. Right off the bat, I found a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl. I’ve never read the book, but I’m a fan of LMA, mostly because I love her horror stories, so I snatched it up. Because I was flying (and therefore limited by luggage weight), I exercised some self-control, only leaving with five carefully chosen books.
The floors creaked, and the stairways were narrow and steep. As I walked upstairs, I hoped I wouldn’t fall to my death (this is more due to my clumsiness than any safety hazards). Each floor had a different theme, and I spent time exploring the titles and sections. Honestly, it was like a treasure hunt. I had no idea what I was going to find, but that was the fun of it.
There were some wooden bookshelves, and in other places, they used old fruit crates to hold the books. The fourth floor had a bunch of chairs for people to rest and enjoy the atmosphere.
No one tried to rush me as I browsed the shelves. There was no “helpful” staff hovering and interfering with my enjoyment. It was just me listening to the books whispering secrets.
I love my local bookstores in Austin, but they’re modern, clean, and efficient. Baldwin’s Book Barn has secrets, and I wish I could spend more time exploring them.
Do you have a favorite or unique bookstore?