Saturday, December 18, 2010

Baldwin's Book Barn

“No entertainment is so cheap as reading nor any pleasure so lasting.”
                                                           Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

In an age of, Borders, Barnes & Noble and the ever popular Kindle, Nook and Sony eBook readers there is still one bastion of books seemingly unfazed by the relatively new upstarts on the block. Probably because years ago they found their niche and are not threatened or necessarily governed by technology.

Baldwin’s Book Barn is a five-story antiquarian bookstore housed in a rustic dairy barn built in 1822 and calls the historical Brandywine Valley in Chester, Pennsylvania home.

In 1934, William and Lilla Baldwin established their used book and collective business nearby and then moved to “the Barn” in 1946. The old milking house was converted into a residence for the Baldwin Family and the stone barn became the bookshop.

Walking through Baldwin’s you feel like you’re in a library; it’s so quiet. I think you can actually hear yourself think! Even though there are no signs saying, “Quiet, please!” you automatically whisper when you see someone else in the stacks or pass on your way up or down to the next floor. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a cellphone go off or be privy to the ubiquitous, and often personal, cellphone conversation.

On the doors as you walk onto every floor there is a menu indicating the areas covered.

Mismatched comfy chairs of different shapes and sizes and a few benches are scattered through the stacks or near a window inviting browsers to sit and read.

 It’s one of the quietest places I’ve ever been in.

"Five huge floors of books and someone's discovered my secret cache of catnip!"

There are even a few user friendly cats who will accompany you if they’re in the mood. On a recent visit I finally saw one of the cats and he was my escort for most of my flights up the stairs. I sat down on a nearby bench and before I knew it he was in my lap trying not to look like he was begging for attention.

Baldwin’s is a treasure trove of 300,000 used and rare books, manuscripts, maps, fine paintings, prints, and estate antiques and other valued collectibles. For me, like nearby Longwood Gardens, it is one of my holy grails and I try to drop in whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Happy Reading in whatever format you choose!



Jaime said...

Oh my gosh, would I ever LOOOOVVVEEE to hang out in there for a while! That place looks too good to be and all!

Just popped in for a quick hello and to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! I leave town tomorrow morning to be with my family. I hope your holiday is truly magical!

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see The Barn is getting a bit of well-earned recognition. I am a regular customer at Baldwin's, and I was in fact a student at West Chester until I transfered to Mansfield University. My time at WCU was stressful and often unpleasant, but what kept me sane while there was my time spent in The Barn and with the owner. Mr. Baldwin is one of the most kind and interesting people I know. The day I met him, I intended to just say hello, but we ended up talking for three hours until he gave me a ride back to campus (he insisted the walk was too dangerous). If you have not spent a day with Mr. Baldwin, I suggest you do so. He could talk your ear off for hours with the best stories. I am proud to call him one of my best friends, and I hope you will find him as fascinating as you find his barn to be.

Anonymous said...

What a treasure! I'm totally jealous! Now, I want to come up there for a vacation just so I can visit this beautiful book shop.