Sunday, March 1, 2015

Baldwin's Book Barn

For additional pictures of Baldwin's Book Barn, check out my gallery HERE!

Today I braved all the elements in order to get to Baldwin’s Book Barn.  For anyone not local to Chester County, it hailed here today.  Luckily, I have a handy Jeep that gets me anywhere I need to go, so the 10-minute drive to the historic Brandywine Valley area was not too bad.  From the street, you might just drive past this gem of a bookstore; it looks like all the other historic barns in the area and has just one sign on the lawn.  I was lucky enough to hear of this bookstore back when I was much younger, so I’m a frequent visitor – it’s the perfect place to begin my journey.  For the sake of my review, I am going to give my first impressions of the Book Barn

Before I give you some insight as to what the inside of this barn holds, let me provide a little background information on the Book Barn, all of which can be found in further detail on their website, which I will provide at the end of the post for you.  Local Quakers originally constructed the barn in 1822.  It wasn’t until 1934 that William and Lilla Baldwin began their book collection, and it wasn’t until 1946 that they actually moved their business into the barn.  Ever since then, their collection has only grown to include not only rare and historic books, but also maps, paintings, sheet music, and many more types of treasures.  Today, they advertise that they have over 200,000 books.  And based on the layout on the inside, I believe it.

The barn is divided into 5 floors and two sides, utilizing pretty much the entire barn.  When you first walk in you are immediately surrounded by the smell of perfectly musky books and of old wood.  There’s a little chalkboard that says, “Read,” an old wooden desk and leather chair, and even a small wood burning chiminea.  Upon further investigation, this first room holds some of the rarest books they offer, located behind the counter in very neatly organized bookshelves.  There’s also a glass case with signed editions of Andrew Wyeth paintings.

The Front Room of the Book Barn

Every room I went into after this first one just kept amazing me at every turn.  Absolutely any type of book you were looking for – from books about Scandinavia to sexuality to World War II, they had a section for it.  The bookshelves went from the floor to the ceiling, with every shape, size, and color book in it.  I think that’s one of the biggest pros of an independent bookstore – they have much more variation in their books over a more generic bookseller like Barnes and Nobles. 

The first floor contained the maps of every different place in Chester County, military books, and children’s books.  The children’s room had a quaint little bench for kids to sit on, and had both newer books for them to read like The Fault in our Stars but also older books, like 1900’s Alice in Wonderland and 1969 Nancy Drew books.  Once you’re through these rooms, you go up a small wooden staircase to the second level, where books are laid out on tables, rather than bookshelves.  If you are lucky like I am, an adorable black cat that will meow and let you pet him will greet you at the top of the stairs.  I gotta tell you, this cat has the life – he gets to live in a bookstore, lay on books all day, explore when he feels his curiosity strike – I must say, I’m pretty jealous. 

A glimpse of the Children's Room

We kept travelling up and up, pretty amazed at the different categories of books we found.  On every level and in almost every aisle, there were at least one or two small wooden or leather chairs, encouraging you to take a seat and enjoy a book.  Because we went when it was so cold, it wasn’t crowded at all, and it had a real solitary feel to it, like it was just the books and myself.  By the time I got up to the fifth floor, I was pretty much in awe at the sheer quantity of books that I have seen.  200,000 might not seem like a lot of books for a large bookstore, but 200,000 in a small dairy barn-turned-bookstore does seem like a lot. 

After you get to the fifth floor, you find the exit to “side B,” which is the same as the first 4 floors that I just described but more.  I feel like this book barn is one of those game shows – “but wait, there’s more!”  That’s pretty much what it feels like to be in there for the first time.  This side of the barn even had doors that said “more books in these next few rooms,” as if the main area of the barn wasn’t enough. 

Books and comfy chairs were everywhere.

If it wasn’t so cold out, I could definitely see myself just sitting there in the barn, on a random level, reading a good book and maybe chilling with Mr. Cat from earlier.  I signed up for their email list, so if they ever change anything or have an event, you know I will be the first one there to see what’s up.  So, to recap: if you enjoy out of the ordinary appearances, and small nooks with a diverse selection of older books, Baldwin’s Book Barn is the place to go! 

The happiest cat ever & my new potential best friend.

Next week – University of Pennsylvania’s Libraries – Van Pelt & Franklin 

For more info on Baldwin's Book Barn, visit their website!

1 comment:

  1. I live nowhere near West Chester, but this makes me want to take a road trip just to see this bookstore. It looks amazing!