Bookstores in Odd Places

If you don’t know the amazing blog Book Patrol you should really check it out.  Today it features a really wonderful story on the London Library in St. James Square. It is a private lending library that I had never heard of and it looks like a brilliant place. And last week it had a post on the El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires which is in a splendid old opera house.

Well, that post put me in mind of a bookstore I recently came across in Rochester, Minnesota. It is a Barnes and Noble that has been retrofitted into an old cinema. It isn’t half as grand as El Ateneo, but with its mock medieval interior it sure makes for an interesting place to browse. (All photo credits except for the exterior shot go to J.M. Wetherington.)

How many Barnes & Noble have a lobby, let alone one that looks like this?

This old cinema was no doubt saved from the wrecking ball to become a bookstore.
The mock medieval interior makes for some interesting views.
The old proscenium arch provides a wonderful entrance to the fiction section.
The escaltors up to the second (more spectacular) floor.
All photo credits except for the exterior shot go to J.M. Wetherington.

20 thoughts on “Bookstores in Odd Places

  1. Cornflower March 24, 2010 / 9:32 am

    My husband is a member of the London Library and his oldest friend is a Trustee. Despite these connections, I have yet to visit it!


  2. Diane March 24, 2010 / 9:53 am

    These photos are so amazing. I so wish I could visit these someday.


  3. Jeane March 24, 2010 / 10:06 am

    That is a beautiful place! I would love to go into that bookstore.


  4. C.B. James March 24, 2010 / 10:10 am

    I heard of turning books into movies but this is a different ideal al together….

    Actually, there is one just like this, no where near as fancy, in an old theatre in downtown Santa Rosa, California. It's a good way to reuse the old theatres.

    I'll look for the website you mention. Sounds fun.


  5. skirmishofwit March 24, 2010 / 12:22 pm

    Ooh, I haven't yet visited the London Library, and looking at the lovely post about it, I realise how silly that is! Must go asap. That Barnes & Noble looks amazing!


  6. Tara March 24, 2010 / 1:51 pm

    Cool! And I could even go there!


  7. claire March 24, 2010 / 5:40 pm

    It's so whimsical! Love it!


  8. Margaret Evans Porter March 24, 2010 / 6:55 pm

    Love the bookstore pics! Magical!

    The London Library is heavenly. The renovations will be an improvement of sorts.

    Though I spend many hours in the St. Pancras replacement, and appreciate its amenities, I still miss the historic former British Library Reading Room when it was sited at the British Museum, and never shared Carlyle's opinion of it.

    The other great library in London is the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert. It's an experience in its own league, with an Invigilator watching over (and assisting) the researchers!


  9. Lorin March 24, 2010 / 8:09 pm


    Someone on LT posted a link to a bookstore in – I think? – Brazil in a theatre. Also gorgeous.

    I saw on Scouting New York recently photos of – of all things – a drugstore in an old theatre. No nearly as lovely but still interesting.


  10. Thomas at My Porch March 24, 2010 / 11:05 pm

    Cornflower: Oh you must visit it and then blog about it. I assume it is only open to members and visitors.

    Diane: They are great aren't they.

    Jeane: I felt kind of bad because we went there two nights in a row and didn't buy anything. It was right near our hotel and it gave us something to do after dinner.

    CB: It's always sad when one of these old movie palaces bites the dust so it is nice to see them live on as something else.

    Skirmish: It looks amazing. I can't believe I didn't know about it before.

    Tara: Well it certainly is the highlight of the rather depressing downtown Rochester.

    Steerforth: It is kind of vulgar, but must have been a fabulous place to see a movie in its hey day.

    Margaret: The thing that looks so amazing about this library is that the stacks are open. Living a hop, skip and jump from the Library of Congress is a mixed blessing. You kind of have to have a focused reason for going there and there isn't much to browse. But I have my researcher ID and have done a few things over the years.

    Lorin: That must be a big drugstore.


  11. JoAnn March 25, 2010 / 6:03 am

    I would love to spend a few hours browsing in that store!! Will also check out the Book Patrol blog. Thanks.


  12. Val March 25, 2010 / 8:46 am

    Lovely! The best historic preservation is often repurposing one type of building into another. I'm a big fan of old theatres (ever heard of the Fox Theatre is Detroit or St. Louis? my favorite!) and love to see them reused in creative ways. If I ever make it out to Minnesota, I'm going to have to check this one out.


  13. Kathleen March 25, 2010 / 3:27 pm

    I am in AWE of this Barnes and Noble!


  14. Daniel-Halifax March 25, 2010 / 4:36 pm

    Oh my! This blog is amazing, going straight to favorites, and this lobby is unbelievable! There are two movie theaters near where I live that are abandoned and would make great little book shops.


  15. Heavenly Housewife March 26, 2010 / 5:05 am

    Very cool. Here in England there are some unusuall bookstores too. Some of them are in some really old beautiful banks. My husband went to med school in London and his school library was the most beautiful old church with amazing ceilings. It was one of the most stunning buildings I've ever been in.
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
    p.s. please stop by my blog and enter my giveaway for £50 or $75 worth of Amazon vouchers :D I've just unveiled my new blog and am doing a give away to celebrate :D


  16. Thomas at My Porch March 26, 2010 / 7:52 am

    JoAnn: If like this post, you will definitely like Book Patrol.

    Val: It is a great reuse of that buildings.

    Kathleen: It certainly me gape a bit when I first saw it.

    Daniel: These old theaters have such potential but seem so challenging for developers.

    Heavenly Housewife: I've seen some really great adaptive reuse in England. Back in the 1990s I remember going to a wonderful coffee house/cafe in Oxford in an old church. Really wonderful.


  17. Jodie March 26, 2010 / 12:14 pm

    That is so cool. I bet as you're going up the escalators you can't help but have 'finally, Camelot' fantasies.


  18. madbibliophile March 27, 2010 / 12:13 am

    I think I just saw heaven. It's not just a place for book buying anymore but an entire experience! Thanks for sharing.


  19. Cornflower April 11, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    I can now say that I have visited the London Library, and very wonderful it is!


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