Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Best Bookstore, EVER!

Baldwin's Book Barn, located in Chester County, PA, is 4 stories of ruggedly-built shelves that support over 300,000 used and rare books.

The main portion of the store is a former dairy barn built in 1822. Original flooring, rafters, and doors remain, providing the proper setting for the collection.

A grassy embankment behind the barn slopes upward to the second floor, enabling the 19th c. farmer to easily move things to the upper levels. This embankment is characteristic of a Pennsylvania Bank Barn.

Inside is a catacomb of tomes.

Stacks and shelves and row after row of hard to find and out of print literature are a book-lover's dream.

I found the handmade lock on the door that leads from the lobby to the barn particularly interesting. The bowed piece of oak on the left, which was originally longer and has since snapped off, acted as a spring mechanism to slap the bolt shut as the farmer closed the door, thus keeping ol' Bessie from getting loose.

It's nearly impossible to leave the store without finding some must-have book. I purchased three.

One is a book on Pennsylvania Dutch furniture ($27) and one is about handtools ($4). You may notice a few loose papers sticking out of the handtool book. Baldwin's includes whatever papers were tucked within the book by the previous owner. Mine contains articles about woodworking that were clipped from local papers in the 1970's.

So, what's the unassuming little brown book? That is a 1952 reprint of The Village Carpenter, by Walter Rose ($12).

You never know what little treasure you'll find at Baldwin's, but no doubt, you will find one.


Joe Cottonwood said...

Oh wow. I've gotta go there.

Love your blog, by the way...

Dan said...


Cool! I would love to go there! Powell's in Portland OR is the best bookstore I've ever been in - but Baldwin's looks awesome! I love the "feel" of the place. Thanks for posting the great pictures and descriptions. Oh, and nice score on the books - especially the Rose!

R Francis said...

I believe that the embankment enabled a cart laden with hay to be driven into the barn and unloaded into the loft (3rd and fourth floors?)
Nice bookstore - quite a number similar in Maine - but yours has better stock.

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful place to get lost for a few hours at a time! Also, terrific finds - all three. Will keep in mind the Barn, in case we are passing by ;-)

Anonymous said...


What only 3 books out of 300,000? Blandford has several books and Shea also has a number of books, mostly about Penn. area furniture, with drawings.

Althought I hate to admit it, I have never read Village Carpenter, and I do ask your forgiveness. I hope to find a copy and redeem myself.


Kari Hultman said...

It's very easy to spend hours in the barn, that's for sure. They do not have a ton of woodworking books (but they have a bunch of old FWW mags), but there are number of books on antiques. They had a copy of "With Hammer in Hand" and I had seen a copy of the much-sought-after Chester County Spice Boxes book last time I was there ($275).

Stephen, I think you would like the VC book...and I forgive you. ; )

Anonymous said...

With Hammer in Hand is a great book, documents all of the stuff in the Shop at Winterthur.

And Charlie is one nice guy, I met him back in 1977 when I interviewed for a job there.


Kari Hultman said...

Stephen, I bought the book on ebay a year ago for $67 and a friend promptly borrowed it. I haven't actually seen it to read it yet!
: (

I went on a tour with Charles Hummel through Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe last year and he is definitely a very nice man. He gave our group a 2-hour lecture on period furniture. We also got a behind the scenes tour of the Dominy Workshop, which was a highlight for me.

Woodfired! said...

Chester County Spice Boxes! I must have that book! Kari, please pick it up for me if you ever see it again. Please.

Kari Hultman said...

Mark, I'd be happy to, but they don't have it there anymore. I'll keep my eyes open for you! : )

Shazza said...

Shhhhhh, don't tell M about this place. Anything with books and she'll be dragging me over there!

Ethan said...

Ooooohhhh... with bookstores like this, I could EASILY tempt the former-librarian perpetual-bookworm wife into a little PA vacation! Of course, we'd have to slyly weave some woodworking into the trip, as well.

Thanks for the great review/info, VC!