I almost passed it up driving south on Oak toward downtown Bartlett. Turning back, I pulled onto a blacktop drive and parked in front of the Bartlett Coin Shop.
At the entrance, I hesitated a bit before turning the knob. You see, I’m a sucker for bookstores and even though I couldn’t resist going in, there was this exciting apprehension surging through my body of discovering the unknown behind the steel-framed door.
When I pulled open the door, a long, brown staircase greeted me. To the right, stood a black rolling cart with numerous books, all organized by height. A colorful sign announced that the books were $1.00 each. On my left, there was a bronze stand with three rows of books. These were the free copies.
I placed my booted shoe on the first step. It creaked as I began my ascent up the stairs. The walls were painted an egg-shell white, and brightly colored sticky notes of testimonials and customer signatures, provided a warm accent in the vestibule.
At the first landing, hand-crafted fishing signs hung from the wall. And, when I reached the top floor, a small, dark brown and beige-topped wooden desk stood in front of crowded shelves of books, toy figurines, and store advertisements.
The surroundings felt familiar and homey to me. Having worked at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, the smell of wood, leather, and cardboard boxes filled my senses. A radio played light rock music in the background.
My heart began to beat with excitement. This was my territory. Books, books, and books.
A memory suddenly materialized in my mind. It was the summer of 2002, and my husband and I had taken a long weekend vacation to San Francisco. While exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, we ended up walking onto Columbus Ave. to experience the many Italian restaurants and sit “al fresco” for a double-shot of espresso. Dizzy from people-watching, we continued our trek further up Columbus where we happened to stumble upon a bookstore called City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.
Strolling into the retailer, it was as if I had been transported to another time period—a very different time. This bookstore has been a literary meeting place since 1953. City Lights is a landmark general bookstore, internationally known for its expert selection of books and for its commitment to free intellectual inquiry.
I later researched City Lights. It was founded by poet/author, Laurence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later). Mr. Ferlinghetti is the author of many works, including, poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, but his most famous written work was “A Coney Island of the Mind”—a collection of poetry published in 1958.
City Lights also became a famous hangout for many authors but especially Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs who frequented the establishment and started what became the “Beat Generation”. City Lights has also been named as one of the top ten independent bookstores in America.
The floors were worn and uneven, the air was dusty and I must have sneezed at least twenty times, but the place was filled with the most eccentric/eclectic books I have ever thumbed through. I shivered with pleasure.
Ah yes, when I close my eyes, I can still picture the dust particles dancing in the air.
But, I digress. Back at the Booklady’s Book Attic, my eyes glanced about, taking in this little book store in what resembled an oversized attic, hence the name.
There was so much to see, I didn’t know where to look first. And, I have to admit, I was the experiencing the same exhilaration of City Lights—beating heart and sweaty palms, and mind you, I hadn’t even browsed any of the books.
The cluttered hallway beckoned me. There were stacks of books: books on the floor, books in boxes, and books in different color bags.
Here we are pictured together…
She’s been at this location for about two years. Previously, this space was formerly occupied by accountants, contractors, a flooring business, and meeting room rentals. However, prior to the various businesses, this property has had some history of its own. According to Pam and a little investigating on my own (watch out Magnum P.I.), this “house” currently located at 138 S. Oak was once referred to as Block 2, lot 9-10.
Thanks to the Bartlett History Museum, here’s an abbreviated rundown of some its history…
- In 1874, the very first owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Carr bought the property and they build a home. This property was part of the original 40 acres that established Bartlett in 1873. Sometime later, Mr. Carr builds another home on the same lot. So, the house that stands there today is not the original one that the Carrs first built.
- The Carrs eventually move to Aurora.
- Lots 9-10 change ownership back and forth from 1883 to 1893.
- In 1893, the Carrs sell the lots 9-10 to Mr. Louis Stumpf for $1,800.
- In 1918, Mr. Stumpf sells his lot to Mr. August Schick for $3,600.
- In 1921, Mr. Schick sells lots 9-10 to Mr. Fred Brandt. No info on how much it was sold for. And, because house numbers didn’t exist at that time, it is still unclear if lots 9-10 is 138 S. Oak, where the bookstore and boutique are currently located.
- According to a 1930 census, it showed the Brandts are living elsewhere.
- In June of 1977, the property was zoned for commercial and since then, has been home to many businesses.
Caption: Here’s a picture of the Stumpf family. Historical information and image provided by the Bartlett History Museum, Bartlett, IL. To learn more about Bartlett history visit, go to: www.villageofbartlettmuseums.org.
But, now it is Pam’s book haven. She is a connoisseur of novel genres who is putting her imprint on her own history and preserving a dying brick and mortar business of bookselling.
The floor creaks; it’s pretty tight—watch for the angled/sloping ceilings. There are secret doors, and maybe even some ghosts lurking around—ask Pam about “Mr. Poe”.
Above all else, there are books for all ages with shelves overflowing with stories that defy time. So many classics; new and old, and forgotten books, to peruse and enjoy. This place is for the book enthusiast….
Just read what some of the patrons have said about the Booklady’s Book Attic from her Facebook page (see link below under References).
The testimonials themselves speak volumes as to the care that Ms. Pam has taken for every author’s written word.
This store is everything I would want and more! Great service, awesome selection, great prices, and Pam gives back and helps others. I will always support someone with a heart like hers!
I finally stopped in at the BookLady’s Book Attic after driving past it everyday on my way to work. What an amazing shop!! A great selection of books that should appeal to everyone! I was particularly impressed by the large and interesting collection of children’s and young adult books. Pam is super friendly and was really great to talk to. I can’t wait to visit again!
Truly a charming and must-see little shop in downtown Bartlett. There are a wide variety of books in all genres and for all-ages available, all in perfect shape and at rock-bottom prices. The owner is probably one of the most friendly people you will ever meet.
This place is amazing!! I feel in love from the moment I walked in, I was in book heaven!!! Pam is super friendly and so easy to approach. My girls loved getting all their new books and can’t wait to go back.”
I hope you get to visit this place. If so, tell Pam I sent you.
Booklady’s Book Attic
138 S. Oak Ave.
Until next time…
Be well. Be safe. Be happy.
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