Have you ever read a book that described what you thought sounded like a really cool place, only to discover that this place actually exists? It happened to me several years ago while reading Sheila Connolly’s Let’s Play Dead, which is one of seven books in her Museum Mystery series.
I love to read books, fiction or nonfiction, with settings in museums, libraries, or bookstores (not surprising!). In the Museum Mystery series, Nell Pratt is the president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, a fictional organization based in Philadelphia. In Let’s Play Dead, Nell is invited to a nearby children’s museum for a preview of a new exhibit. A murder at the museum causes Nell to search for the killer. While taking a break from her busy schedule, Nell takes a drive to Chester County to visit a bookstore she calls the Book Barn. As I was reading Connolly’s description of the Barn and its locale, I began to wonder if this place was real. I did a little research and happily discovered that, indeed, Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, Pennsylvania is an actual place!
The barn that houses the bookstore started its life as a dairy barn in 1822. In 1946, the original founders of Baldwin’s, William and Lilla Baldwin, moved their business into the barn. Today, Baldwin’s has four floors of treasures! This bookstore is so large that they provide visitors with a map to help you navigate each level, with categories clearly labeled. Items are not cataloged at Baldwin’s, so if you’re looking for something in particular, you will need to search the shelves for it.
As we made our visit in the winter on a very overcast and damp day, it was wonderful to be greeted by the warmth of the wood stove in the Rare Books room (this is where the main entrance is located). You’ll notice the obligatory scent of old books (a delight to many book lovers); and the creaking floorboards add to the ambiance of the rustic barn setting.
If you’d like to know more about Baldwin’s history or plan a visit, check out their website at http://www.bookbarn.com. We found our treasures – hope you will find yours!
Let’s Play Dead is published by Berkley Prime Crime (July 2011), ISBN 978-0-425-24220-9. For more information on this book and more, go to http://sheilaconnolly.com.