New York is home to many independent and secondhand bookstores. Though rising rents have shifted the locations of a lot of these stores, many are still open for business. Beyond the book stacks, though, lies hidden histories, interesting facts, or other things you might not know from passing by the bookshop on the street or a stop inside. We went to ten of our favorite bookstores to learn about some of the secrets and little known facts about each bookstore. Read on to learn more!
1. Argosy Bookstore’s Famous Customers
Argosy, whose doors have been open since 1925, is the oldest surviving independent bookstore in New York City. Founded by Louis Cohen, who reportedly called it Argosy partially because the letter “A” would appear first in telephone directories, it is an antiquarian bookshop specializing in first edition books, antique maps, and prints.
It was originally located on 4th Avenue’s infamous “Book Row“, a group of blocks containing dozens of secondhand bookstores. Climbing rent prices eventually forced many of Manhattan’s bookshops to close or relocate, as was the case with Argosy. Five years after it opened, it moved to 116 E. 59th Street. Since then, it has had a number of famous customers, employees, and merchandise in the six-story townhouse it calls home in Midtown at
Cohen became acquainted with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ordered books from the store via catalogue, and later helped First Lady Jackie Kennedy stocked the White House library with books from Argosy. President Bill Clinton is also a frequent customer, joining the ranks of other famous fans, such as singer Michael Jackson, musical theatre lyricist Stephen Sondheim, former actress Princess Grace Kelly, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, and fashion designer Donatella Versace. Writer and musician Patti Smith even worked at Argosy for a time, but was fired when she accidentally spilled rabbit glue on a nineteenth-century Bible.