Lost in Baldwin’s Book Barn


Baldwin’s Book Barn is off Route 52 in West Chester, Pa., in the Brandywine Valley.


There’s always a chair when you need it as you choose your books at Baldwin’s.

I’ve gotten lost.

I’ve gotten lost in a book.

Now I can say I’ve gotten lost going to a bookstore AND that I got lost in a bookstore.

But everybody ought to get lost here.

Baldwin’s Book Barn has 200,000 books spread over five rambling, creaky floors. Begun by William and Lilla Baldwin in 1934, they moved their business to this distinctive location in 1946. Set out in the country, among rolling farmlands and new tasteful subdivisions, it’s not easy to find but so wonderful to get lost in.

Need a copy of your favorite Nancy Drew? A romance novel from the early 1900s? A history of opera? Or the Civil War? Or Delaware? You just might find it here. Or maybe you just want some of those beautifully bound, gold leafed volumes that will finish your new bookshelf.


You never know what you’ll find when you look over the shelves at Baldwin’s Book Barn.

The place smells old and musty, but in a good way. Breathe in the aromas of old paper and glue, dust and history. There are so many classics on these shelves and so many books that have long been forgotten. But there here to be rediscovered.

I found a book by Sophie Kerr and when I saw she had signed it, I had to have it. Sophie who? This early 20th century author made a gift to Washington College years ago that has created an annual prize for a single graduating senior. I have known about the prize for years; now I have one of her books.



Two books with Maryland ties, Sort of. A novel by Sophie Kerr, who endowed a writing prize at Washington College and Toni Morrison’s Jazz, which Baltimore’s Center Stage will produce as a play next season. I had to have both.

The place is filled with treasures, books, maps and prints. The barn itself is a wonder. It was built in 1822 by a Quaker family. We spent hours here. With no the pressing engagements, we took our time, perusing the shelves, taking advantage of the occasional chair to see if the book in our hands was the one we really wanted. We patted the cat and spied a bird’s next tucked on a shelf. And we wondered when we would be able to come back.

ⓒ Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman


Take your time looking. You never know when you’ll find treasure.




2 responses to “Lost in Baldwin’s Book Barn

  1. I’ve been to many bookstores, but I haven’t been there. I must check it out. Thank you so much for letting us know about this interesting bookstore.

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