“10 of the Oldest Bookstores in the United States”
by K.T. Mehra
Is your town home to one of the oldest bookstores in the United States?
Whether you love browsing bookstores or are just a reading fanatic, you’ve come to the right blog post. I’ve gone ahead and done the research for you to show you beautiful and historic bookstores all across the United States.
During my research, I discovered one of the oldest bookstores in the country just two hours from my own hometown. Not too bad! Bookstores have a special place in history on American soil, paving the way for both classic and contemporary authors to sell their books, host events, and contribute to the literary landscape of each area.
Your town might be small, but did one of the oldest bookstores in America come from your state?
Moravian Book Shop, Founded 1745
Let’s start at the beginning! The Moravian Book Shop is the oldest bookstore in the United States of America, and it is even one of the oldest continually operating bookstores in the whole world. Not too shabby! They were even picked up by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers a little while ago.
As a part of the Moravian Church and College in Pennsylvania, it is a staple of student and spiritual life in Bethlehem, PA. No matter if you’re from the Keystone State or not, taking a trip over to the Moravian Book Shop will be well worth it. Not only is it full of history, but hey—they have BOOKS!
Andover Bookstore, Founded 1809
With Moravian partnering up with Barnes & Noble, The Andover Bookstore is now the oldest independent bookstore in the United States of America! The bookstore is a staple in the history of Andover, Massachusetts, and it is a beautiful icon for literary America. You can learn more about their history here.
During the pandemic, they opened up a GoFundMe campaign to help them continue to thrive during this inopportune time. If anything comes from this blog post, I’m hoping that we can get some love and donations sent their way to help The Andover Bookstore keep on being a beacon of long-lasting light in the world of indie bookstores. Here it is: GoFundMe campaign.
Brattle Book Shop, Founded 1825
A famous and historic bookstore right in the heart of downtown Boston! The Brattle Book Shop is a wonderful place to buy and even sell books. With a huge collection of antique and new books, the Brattle Book Shop in Boston is a must-see.
It is a huge bookstore that has a collection of over 250,000 books, maps, prints, postcards, and ephemeral items in all subjects. There is too much history and beauty to miss this book shop if you are in Boston or just outside of it. It’s even got a gorgeous outdoor browsing section with a classic mural of some of the world’s most influential writers looming over it, so if you’re in the area, make sure you check it out.
Old Corner Bookstore, Founded 1828
UPDATE: Old Corner Bookstore is no longer an operating bookstore. Because it’s still some fun history, we’re leaving the description of the store below.
Old Corner Bookstore is a historic, grassroots bookstore also in the heart of Boston–so impressive that it doesn’t even need a website! The bookstore is located in a lovely historic building made in 1718, and it was turned into a bookstore in 1828. It is a designated site on Boston’s Freedom Trail, Literary Trail, and Women’s Heritage Trail. You can read more about it here.
Whether you live in Boston or are just visiting, you cannot miss this piece of living history. Old Corner Bookstore is considered as a Boston landmark spot and is on the national registry of historic places, so consider it a history lesson while you browse their shelves.
Klindt’s Booksellers, Founded 1870
Klindt’s Books is the oldest bookstore in Oregon and a true staple in the literary landscape of the West. It is both an independent bookstore and a stationary store. Located in The Dalles, Oregon along the Columbia River, Klindt’s is a community-focused bookshop with a book club and events for many of the 150 years it has existed.
Klindt’s is full of staff recommendations, bestsellers, and offers a lovely browsing experience for book lovers and young readers. Learn more about their story here. It’s a great one.
Janke Book Store, Founded 1874
Janke is a great historic bookstore in Wisconsin! It’s got a large varied collection of books, stationary, fountain pens, and maps—a great destination if you are in Wisconsin or are planning a trip there.
It has been a bookstore that offers a variety of products since its founding in 1874. If you’re in the mood for an entertaining little story of their history, check out this history page from their website.
Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, Founded 1886
Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop is a beautiful historic building and bookstore in Damariscotta, Maine. Since it first came to being in 1886, they’ve also opened multiple locations in Maine. This historic bookshop would be a great stop on your way to the beautiful Acadia National Park. You can go ahead and watch the beautiful scenery on your way and then stop in for some classic book browsing. They have a location in Bar Harbor, too!
With a fascinating history and an extensive line of antique and intriguing titles, Sherman’s should be at the top of your list if you love checking out bookstores in New England.
Horton’s Books & Gifts, Founded 1891
This historic bookstore is one of my favorites on the list. This little historic bookstore is stored away in a small, rural town in Georgia called Carrollton. In the heart of downtown Carrollton is this refreshing and kindhearted little store that has an authentic collection of classics and new and antique books. It also has an eccentric history, as Mr. Horton originally sold books alongside caskets as an undertaker in the 1800s!
It’s not too far from Atlanta, so if you’re ever visiting the area, make sure to take the drive over to Horton’s for some unique literary history.
Vroman’s Bookstore, Founded 1894
Vroman’s is the last of the turn-of-the-century bookstores that are still around today. They have a huge collection at their independent bookstore in California, and they definitely fit the mold of awesome bookstores from history. It’s another community-focused bookstore that offers events and clubs for their city and that has a large local following because of it.
Vroman’s bookstore is a great place to check out if you live in or around Pasadena, California. To me, it sounds like a nice excuse for a vacation!
Argosy Book Store, Founded in 1925
Last but not least by any measure, Argosy Book Store is a pioneer in historic documents, books, maps, and other pieces of American history. Their bookstore is a beautiful place to be, read, and learn about the world. A true gem if you live in New York. It feels as if you are entering another world when you walk through its doors.
We hope one of the oldest bookstores in the United States catch your interest enough to stop by. It’s as important as ever to support small business, and I’d love for you to find some new literary gems at one of these shops.
But don’t forget to tell them Independent Book Review and Goldspot Fountain Pens sent you!
About the Author
K.T. Mehra is an entrepreneur and an expert on fountain pens and ink. She founded Goldspot Pens to sell fountain pens, high quality inks, and various other writing instruments. She loves beautiful handwriting, letter writing, and great literature. With a pen store located in New Jersey, K.T. has seen all kinds of writers come through and heard their stories and techniques. She wants to share what she’s learned to help writers explore their craft.
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What about Warwicks 1896? La Jolla California
Livingston, Montana’s Sax & Fryer Books has been in operation since 1883 — and it’s been in either the Sax or Fryer families for its entire history. Currently owned by John Fryer, grandson of the John Fryer who became a partner with John Sax in 1911. The store was here six years before Montana became a state!