The Philadelphia suburb of Mt. Airy, near where I grew up, has no lack of beautiful and unique train stations. But only one has a bookstore. Walk A Crooked Mile Books sells used books out of one the most historically significant of these stations. The still busily operating train depot – Mount Airy Station on SEPTA’s R7 Chestnut East Line – was designed by gilded-age master, innovator/architect Frank Furness. Furness was an extraordinarily prolific Philadelphia architect, who as well as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Provident Institution, First Unitarian Church, Broad Street Station and some 600 other spectacular buildings, designed the rail stations on the Chestnut Hill line. Â The lion’s share of Furness’ staggeringly grand and beautiful buildings and homes have been demolished, making the still-standing SEPTA stations particularly significant. Mt. Airy Station was home to the railroad line that operated during the Civil War when the Chestnut Hill Railroad ran trains to Mower General Hospital. The bookstore was established in 1995 by former school teacher Greg Williams, who was a bookseller at Book Fairs (remember Book Fairs??). He opened his bookstore in this storybooky, Gothic/Victorian style train station – when it was vacant and down on it’s heels – with one room of books (he now has 80,000, piled in all 8 rooms of the shop, including the bathroom). He opened his doors every morning at 6 a.m. to sell coffee to commuters as a way to meet his neighbors and serve the community, a tradition he still continues. Economic conditions threatened to close the store last year, but the Mt. Airy community – a devoted, diverse and bookish one – rallied to raise funds to keep it open.
I really love these “bookstack” gift ideas: