You know all those pins on Pinterest and those picture posts of amazing bookstores and libraries? And you know how you dream of actually setting foot in one of those places someday? Well, I did it! When we went to visit our daughter in Philadelphia a couple of weekends ago, we finally had time to drive to West Chester and experience Baldwin’s Book Barn. Oh. My. A bibliophile’s paradise! The experience was even better than I’d played it out in my head. Let me set the stage.
Late October. A hint of chill in the air. The leaves on the trees brilliant hues of orange and red and gold, interspersed with the deep green of pines and firs. We pulled into the small parking lot, and this was the view out from the book barn.
Perfect, right? Looks ready for you to take a book and sit down and read. After drinking in this view, we turned to the book barn itself. For a bit of history: it was a barn built in 1822 which houses a used and rare bookstore originally founded by William and Lilla Baldwin in 1934 in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. Here’s a couple of views of the outside.
The outside is charming, to be sure. But once you pass through the doors–it’s like passing through a time portal! Five floors of books accessed by wooden steps, some quite steep, until you literally reach the attic! Books crammed on shelves along stone walls and wood walls and in little cubby hole rooms. Low ceilings and beams. Curved doorways with hobbit-like doors. And every few feet among the shelves? A chair to sit in as you peruse a find. And oh, the finds! If I’d had an unlimited budget and unlimited luggage space, I could have done some serious damage. As is was, I restrained myself, bringing home a 19th century novel I’d never heard of that looked interesting as it was set during the American revolution years and written by someone who might have actually lived through that time–or at least definitely had access to those who remembered.
If you ever find yourself in the Philadelphia area, you should certainly visit this charming place for yourself. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek inside.