10 Awesome Bookstores Repurposed from Unused Structures


A few months ago, we showed you a collection of wonderful libraries repurposed from unused buildings, but we can’t let libraries have all the fun. Despite the media-fueled fear that they’ll all be abandoned buildings themselves someday soon, brick-and-mortar bookstores are also recycling spaces, cleaning out old factories, theaters and even boats, and filling them up with books. What could be better? Click through to check out our roundup of brilliant converted bookstores, and let us know if we’ve missed your local favorite in the comments!

When you stop by the Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a gorgeous converted 1920s movie palace, you can take a break in one of the theater boxes, now as reading rooms. But be quick about it — El Ateneo is one of the most famous (and popular) bookstores in Argentina. Photos via and via.

The maze-like, creaking John King Books in Detroit was built in an abandoned glove factory left over from the 1940’s, and much of the original signage has been preserved (not to mention that creepy factory feeling). You could get lost for days in here, but the major draw is the bookstore’s fine collection of rare books. Photos via and via.

Ler Devagar (Portugese for “Read Slowly”) is housed in the old LX factory in Lisbon, a massive building built in 1846 to manufacture thread and fabric. Now, the factory is home to a variety of creative companies, art galleries, artists’ spaces, and this wonderful bookstore, which as you can see, makes great use of all that vertical industrial space. Photo via.

Not only has The Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, NY landed on the best idea for a business ever (book and artisanal ales? Yes please), but they’re housed in a gorgeous old firehouse, which still boasts its original 1889 ceiling. There’s no pole (when the firehouse was in use, firemen generally didn’t sleep there, so there was no need for one), but given all the booze that’s floating around, that’s probably a good thing. Photos via.

The Alabama Theater, a historic cinema that opened in Houston in 1939, was repurposed as a wonderful bookstore in 1983. Unfortunately, the bookstore closed in 2009, and now the future of the space is uncertain, though we’re hearing rumors of Trader Joe’s. Photos via and via.

Wisconsin’s Castle Arkdale, home of thousands of books, was once a manure tank. But don’t worry — it smells like books. Partially because many of the books for sale here are of the old and musty (and scented) variety, dating from 1880 to 1935, with some newer tomes mixed in. It’s a cache worthy of protection. Photos via.

The excellent Barter Books in Alnwick, UK was converted from an old Victorian-era railway station, designed by William Bell, and has certainly kept the train theme alive, with a model railway linking the sections of books and open (engine?) fires in the winter to warm your toes as you read. Photos via and via.

Ahoy! The Book Barge is exactly what it sounds like — a bookstore in a canal boat that sails around the UK. Though it certainly is speedier than your average bookstore, owner Sarah Henshaw conceived of the shop as a way to encourage slower reading — as she told The Guardian , “we hope to promote a less hurried and harried lifestyle of idle pleasures, cups of tea, conversation, culture and, of course, curling up with an incomparably good Book Barge purchase.” We’re totally on board.

If you worship at the altar of your reading list, this one is for you: Selexyz Bookstore, a gorgeous converted Dominican church dating back to the 13th century in Maastricht, the Netherlands. But it wasn’t just church-to-bookstore: in 1794, it became a parish, and since then it has been a warehouse, an archive, and an enormous place to park your bicycle. Oh yes, and now a bookstore. Photos via.

This is another defunct bookstore (seeing as its a Borders and all) but we just couldn’t help including it anyway. In perfect Southern Gothic style, this Borders set up shop in an old funeral home in New Orleans. Since Borders went under, the space has been converted yet again, into a fresh food market. Photos via.