3. The Mercantile Library (1820)
Successful merchant William Wood established the Mercantile Library in 1820 to create a place for young men — mainly merchants’ clerks — to spend time in lieu of bars or billiard rooms. By the early 1870s, The Mercantile Library, nicknamed “The Merc” had not only become the fourth largest library in the country, but also the largest lending library in the United States.
If you do not recognize the name “the Mercantile Library,” it is probably because it is now the Center for Fiction. The library is the only establishment dedicated solely to the art of fiction and prides itself on being “a home for readers and writers.” The Center for Fiction differs from the Mercantile Library in that it offers many more services such as a writer’s studio, author-led writing classes, a café, and more. Each year, the Center for Fiction presents authors with awards such as the “First Novel Prize”, which Tommy Orange won for his debut novel There There in 2018.