I noticed one of my favorite aromas five steps before I entered the store, Chicago’s oldest bookstore smells like aged paper and binding. O’Gara & Wilson has serious books. This is a haven for academics, anyone researching specific topics, or collectors of antique books. I noticed an extensive religion section, quite impressive actually. Also, significant collections of music books, German books, and other collections in various languages. As with all good used bookstores, the offerings may change over time as collections are purchased and added to the shelves. O’Gara & Wilson look for and buy significant book collections, if you have one to sell, this would be a good place to start. Not everything is serious, Keith found a stack of Popular Science magazines and bought two. Decades ago each cost 25 cents, we paid $7.50 and $12.50 for each – don’t automatically throw out those magazines in your garage, they may be worth something.
This store wins the prize for oddest decor. Immediately apparent is the buffalo head hanging over the center aisle. Further back is a stuffed monk. It’s a little creepy, but in an inviting way. I was immediately drawn into the back of the store to figure out if the statute was a witch, a monk, made out of wax or wood, was it holiday decor or permanent? The clerk explained that when the Museum of Science and Industry was refurbished, the inscribing monk didn’t make the cut and was headed for the trash heap. In swooped the owner to save the monk and give him a second life as guardian of the stacks.
Founded in 1882, the store has a nice history of passing from one owner to the next. Wilson was an apprentice to O’Gara and eventually became the owner of the store. I asked the clerk if he was next in line, he chuckled and refused to commit.
1448 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637